Starz, a channel that I only associate with the time-traveling bodice-ripper Outlander, will air a six-episode series based on Sweetbitter, a novel about the debauched, sordid lives of the employees of an upscale restaurant in New York City.
Sweetbitter, Stephanie Danler’s debut novel, is described by the Hollywood Reporter as “Kitchen Confidential meets Bridget Jones”—a fair but pat assessement of the source material. In Sweetbitter, Danler drew from her real life experience as a server at the Union Square Cafe in New York to write a novel that was a zippy, slightly dishy beach read that, in my opinion, had only its subject matter in common with Kitchen Confidential.
“Stephanie’s smart, sensory and genuine storytelling is set in the world of high-end dining, fueled by too much debauchery, drugs and French wine,” Starz CEO Chris Albrecht said in a statement. “Stephanie, Stu and Plan B have found an exciting way to translate the celebration of senses depicted in the book to the screen, and along the way, will post a love letter to New York City.” Where’s the Bridget Jones in that, I ask you?! Sounds more like Sex and the City to me—not a rude comment, just the truth—so let’s just call a duck confit a duck confit here and move on.
The novel follows Tess, a new-to-New York college graduate who falls into a job at a high-end restaurant and a messy love triangle with the staff of that restaurant, mostly at the same time. As littered as the television landscape is, it feels strange that there are so few scripted shows about the ins and outs of working in a restaurant— a workplace that is seemingly engineered for drama. Sweetbitter is a nice paean to youth and the glitter of a new city before its various inefficiencies drive you to madness.