High Season: A Memoir by Jim Hearn.


Hedonism, heroin and humour, High Season: A Memoir by Jim Hearn gives readers a front seat view into the world of excessive appetites.

High Season is a rollicking story of food, heroin, prostitution and celebrity. Jim Hearn cleverly weaves his life story around cooking an unscheduled 5-star lunch for Paris Hilton and friends on New Years Day at the peak of the high season in Byron Bay.  Hearn provides his readers with a degustation meal on hospitality: its meaning, its limits and its excesses.  This book could well have been entitled ‘When enough is enough’.

The story leaps from the surprisingly large appetites of the Hilton party to the unexpected shortage of heroin at Kings Cross on New Years Eve. Hearn draws attention to the balance of pleasure and pain in the hedonism of those that stay at Rae’s Boutique Guesthouse, Byron Bay and it is hard to not draw a parallel with the hedonistic life of a heroin user – both seeking that elusive fix.

Jim Hearn is thrown into the chaotic world of excess when his father decides to give everything away leaving the family with nothing.  The family dissolves and at age fifteen Jim’s mother organises him into a cooking apprenticeship where he begins to learn a new perspective on hospitality. His mother moves to Sydney and turns to prostitution.

Jim struggles to get a foothold into life at restaurant after restaurant to no avail. Despite continuing to develop his culinary craft at each new venture, his life seems to go nowhere. With admirable honesty and a generous portion of good humour,  Hearn owns up to a seemingly endless series of disastrous life choices which will make you cry, laugh out loud, wince with pain and sometimes all three at once.

Interspersed with Jim’s formative struggles, we hear how lunch for Paris and crew is proceeding back at Rae’s.  Hearn’s depiction of the tension, heat and adrenalin in the 5-star kitchen during the New Years Day service is captivating.  However, his portrayal of the associated personal relationships and dynamics is what sets this book apart – endearing, challenging and heartwrenching.

High Season may be mistaken for a story about a working class kid succeeding to overcome his troubled roots but it is much more than that.  Hearn offers us a front seat view into the world of excessive appetite. He does not preach, moralise or patronise.

Instead we are given a taste of what this world is like from the inside.High Season is the real deal – raw, uncompromising and entertaining.

High Season reviewed by John Mitchell.

John Mitchell is a Clinical Psychologist and Psycho-analyst who currently owns Mary Ryan’s Books in Byron Bay.


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