First things first: Gesine Bullock-Prado, author of “My Life From Scratch,” is the younger sister of Sandra Bullock. Yes, that Sandra Bullock. Funny woman, America’s Sweetheart, total babe. That Sandra. Or as Gesine calls her, “Sandy.” You learn this fun fact towards the beginning of the book, but it’s hardly the story.
As head of her celebrity sister’s production company, Gesine Bullock-Prado had a closet full of designer clothes and the ear of all the influential studio heads, but she was miserable. The only solace she found was in her secret hobby: baking.
With every sugary, buttery confection to emerge from her oven, Gesine took one step away from her glittery, empty existence—and one step closer to her true destiny. Before long, she and her husband left the trappings of their Hollywood lifestyle behind, ending up in Vermont, where they started the gem known as Gesine Confectionary. And they never looked back.
Confections of a Closet Master Baker follows Gesine’s journey from sugar-obsessed child to miserable, awkward Hollywood insider to reluctant master baker. Chock-full of eccentric characters, beautifully detailed descriptions of her baking process, ceaselessly funny renditions of Hollywood nonsense, and recipes, the ingredients of her story will appeal to anyone who has ever considered leaving the life they know and completely starting over.
The real story here is Gesine, who sells her soul to a Hollywood production company then decides, “Nah, I want to make cake instead.” And so she does. (there’s a lot more mental anguish, closeted baking, and taking candy from the devil, but you get the gist of it) She uproots and moves to Vermont with her uber-charming and tactful husband Ray, and the pair of them decide to open a bakery in a town smaller than mine, staffed by people I would like to know.
The flow of the story is as perfect as the best pastry you’ve ever had. Gesine starts with her childhood affair with sweets and then quickly moves to life at the bakery, starting at the (ridiculously early) beginning of her day and dragging you along for the ride. She fills in the hours with snappy bios of co-workers and regulars, flashbacks to life with her German mother and grandmother, and the occasional snippet about how Sandy is one of the best sisters in the world. You see Gesine’s relatable introversion, sass, and inability to act normal in front of a camera (be it for a write-up in the local paper, or a segment on Food Network). All the while, Gesine is sharing her recipes with the guarantee that she hasn’t changed a single ingredient or measurement. So, you know, if you can’t go to Montpelier, Vermont and visit her bakery in person, you can make some of her goodies at home.
Perhaps my favorite element of Gesine’s story is the continual presence of her health-nut mother. Living in a family of health-nuts myself, I shared Gesine’s pain as her mother insisted on quinoa and wheatgerm when all young!Gesine wanted was cake. Her mother subscribed to the belief that there’s a time and place for everything, especially dessert. But despite Gesine’s eye-rolling at her mom as a child, she grew up to understand and appreciate what her mother was trying to teach her: that you need to be conscientious about your indulgence. Have cake, but have a slice. Living in a society that is pushing acceptance of obesity, I feel this is a message that needs to be plastered all over the county. Everything in moderation, guys. Get that cupcake, but don’t eat the whole damn bakery.
So if you’re in need of a straight-forward, recipe filled, honest read about the power of pastry and the perks of a European upbringing (and how mom is great, no matter what gluten-free nonsense she feeds you), make “My Life From Scratch” that book.