2000, 312 pages
In Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain takes the reader through his career in the restaurant industry, from his days as a dishwasher to running his own kitchen in New York City. I finished this one a couple of weeks ago and never quite got around to reviewing it, so this is going to be a short review since it's not as fresh in my memory anymore...
Writing and making television, no matter what some whining dipshits may tell you, is easy. Cooking is hard. Any author who gripes about the "pressures" of celebrity, the "difficulty" of being "on" all the time, or the travails of "the road" has clearly never worked a busy grill station. (p307)Bourdain's writing is really entertaining, and his adventures in the food industry are very interesting to read about. The foodie in me loved reading about the inner workings of a restaurant, and I loved reading about different aspects of working as the kitchen as Bourdain moves of the ladder from lowly dishwasher to, eventually, having his own kitchen. Sometimes I was a little disoriented because the book isn't always told in chronological order, and towards the end it felt like the book was rambling a little rather than coming to closure, but overall it was a very enjoyable read. I'd recommend this book for Bourdain's entertaining writing and for the behind the scenes look at what it's like to work in a restaurant. Here's an excerpt from one of my favorite sections of the book, when Bourdain works for "Bigfoot" at a restaurant in New York:
Bigfoot understood--as I came to understand--that character is far more important than skills or employment history. And he recognized character--good and bad--brilliantly. He understood, and taught me, that a guy who shows up every day on time, never calls in sick an does what he said he was going to do is less likely to fuck you in the end than a guy who has an incredible resume but is less than reliable about arrival time. Skills can be taught. Character you either have or don't have. (p96)As a side note, not long after finishing this, some friends and I went out to a nice dinner in Boston's North End, and I definitely had this book in the back of my mind... as I read the menu I remembered Bourdain's statements, such as chicken is on the menu for people who don't know what they want, vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent, etc., and I was definitely thinking about what might be going on in the kitchen during our meal.