Books·How I Wrote It

Why restaurateur Jen Agg wrote a memoir that leaves everything on the table

In I Hear She's a Real Bitch, the restaurateur takes on the feminist revolution and running a business.
Restaurateur Jen Agg opens up about being the boss in a male-dominated industry in her memoir. (Nick Koza/Doubleday)

You can't mention Canadian dining without the name Jen Agg. She's a star in the restaurant world, running the popular restaurants The Black Hoof, Cocktail Bar and Rhum Corner. While she is widely considered a key player in the industry she has also built a reputation for being, well, prickly. Never one for pulling punches, Jen Agg reveals all (and all includes a nude portrait) in her memoir, I Hear She's a Real Bitch

In her own words, Jen Agg explains why she wrote such a revealing memoir.

Choosing the title

"The book title was a deal breaker. I wanted something that evoked the idea of a double standard as well as the idea that people are talking about you, maybe just not to you. I was with friends at dinner a few years ago and asked 'Is it "I hear she's a real bitch" or "I heard she's a real bitch"?' and we started debating past versus the present tense. One of my friends said, 'It's I hear — there's an urgency.' It stuck and I didn't want to call it anything else."

Living up to the reputation

"My personality was formed a long time ago. It is what it is. I'm somebody who is a direct person. I don't suffer fools. I like to say what I think. I like to make decisions and I like to be in charge. Those are all things that are maybe traditionally seen as male leadership qualities. Being a person with those qualities has been difficult because you're ostracized or you're told to be quiet. These are ideas that are interesting to me and I felt that I needed to talk about."

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth

"I've been asked why is there so much sex in the book. I understand why some people would leave it out, but I'm an all-or-nothing person. Of course, I understand that we need the oil of small talk. To get to know each other, we need to have things to talk about that aren't just our vaginas. But it was important to tell my story the way I saw fit. I think, as women, we're not allowed to own our stories. I feel like you can't win no matter what you do. That's why I took the full dive and decided I'm just going to tell everything, and then no one can ever use that against me. If you don't like it, at least told my truth."

The poster girl for feminism

"The moment you have any kind of public platform or public persona, people have preconceived notions about you. That's really uncomfortable. It's weird when you meet someone and they have this idea about who you are and you can't always circumvent or change that. With this book, I definitely take a step off that cliff about exposing my personal life. I hope it moves young women to feel comfortable saying what they think. It's just the simplest things, saying words, saying the words that are in your head, say them. It's okay." 

Jen Agg's comments have been edited and condensed.

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