A cook called in sick. The kitchen was beyond slammed. And, naturally, the phone was ringing. The restaurant’s proprietress barely answered in time. But she knew the voice on the line, though mostly by reputation within Seattle’s small food community. Rich Komen cut to the chase: “Hey Jerilyn, how’d you like to make the world’s greatest cinnamon roll?”
The year was 1985, and Jerilyn Brusseau had built a reputation of her own over the years. She sourced the ingredients for her eponymous restaurant in Edmonds, just north of Seattle, the way she’d learned on her parents’ dairy farm—from the people who grow them. Her VW bus crisscrossed the Snohomish, Skagit, and Whatcom Valleys to collect salad greens, shellfish, and 300 pounds of unsalted butter made every other week just for Brusseau’s. A few months before the phone rang, The New York Times had included Jerilyn in a lengthy, photo-splashed write-up about this revolutionary idea of eating local.
There was another reason she was on Rich Komen’s mind. Jerilyn Brusseau grew up making cinnamon rolls with her grandmother, who baked pies for the restaurants in her small Montana town. When Jerilyn and her then husband transformed a former Shell station—piles of rubble out front, windows blackened over with gunpowder from a stint as a firearms shop—into Brusseau’s in 1978, she originally feared her grandmother’s cinnamon rolls would seem too ordinary among the croissants and danishes and brioche. However those “ordinary” fragrant pinwheels of dough and dark, sticky filling built a fan base that stretched down to Seattle.
What endures after reading “Leonardo da Vinci” is just how indifferent to glory the man was. He lived in a world of his private obsessions. He often despaired over his failure to get anything done. (“Tell me if ever I did a thing,” he wrote in his notebooks.) What a gift that he did; what a gift that we know him at all.
The early 80s were a feverish time in Britain for new things, from youth cultures to design companies to political ideologies, and the Face – which tried to feature all of them in a fresh way, both glossy and gritty, while operating on a shoestring – remains one of the era’s most mythologised products. It never sold more than 130,000 copies, modest for a magazine distributed internationally, and it was published for 24 years – a good but not outstanding run. Yet it was consumed and is remembered with intensity. I was a Face reader from the mid-80s until near the end, and the feel of its best issues – forbiddingly stylish, but full of exciting information; insidery, but open to the world – was already loitering in my memory before I opened this elaborate history.
The book is a behind-the-stage-door dive into the ephemera of a woman who ritualistically kept virtually everything — every ticket stub, every dry cleaning receipt, every Polaroid from a wardrobe fitting — from her half-century-long career.
Affectionately compiled by her screen-sharing daughter, Melissa Rivers, and her onetime producer and longtime pal Scott Currie the book also charts her love of fashion, evident from the very start.