From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Sheehan, a James Beard award–winning food writer at Westword
, Denver's alternative weekly newspaper, knows the tradition he's working in: he walked up to the editor at one of his first writing gigs and introduced himself as your Anthony Bourdain motherfucker. Before that, he'd spent years bouncing around from one restaurant kitchen to the next—first in upstate New York, then in a disastrous move to Florida, and back to New York before heading out west to reunite with the woman he met during his failed one year of college. Sheehan's memoir is emphatically not about the glam end of cooking or celebrity chefs, but about a straight blue-collar gig, where the kitchens are staffed by the kind of guys who get off on the fact that the work is insanely grueling. As Sheehan puts it, I was being paid to play with knives and fire. The war stories are as profane and outrageous as you'd expect, and Sheehan finds just the right balance between bravado and humility. There's a subtle shift in emphasis once his personal life (and, eventually, writing career) gains traction, but the kitchens where the best stories take place are never far from sight. (July)
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“The best of [the new chef memoirs] by a mile . . . by a former chef of no particular distinction named Jason Sheehan, now an extraordinarily good food writer . . . Cooking Dirty is his account of a career spent largely at what he calls 'the low end of the culinary world': late-night shifts at diners, bars and neighborhood joints. Some of it is pure drudgery—like prepping a ‘literal ton of corned-beef briskets’ at an Irish pub the week before St. Patrick’s Day—but when the orders start pouring in, the pace and chaos and heat in even a low-end kitchen somehow fuse into a kind of mass lunatic joy. ‘I am God of the box,’ he writes, ‘the brain-damaged Lord Commander of a kingdom of fifty feet by five and made entirely of stainless steel, industrial tile, knives, sweat and fire.’” --Time
“If chefs are the new rock stars, Jason Sheehan is like a grunge guitarist of the old school. Sheehan cut his teeth in Buffalo and Tampa in the full-contact arena of line prep. The cooking venues were dingy; his hair long and stringy; and his path from the deep fryer to foodie journalist, as described in this hilarious memoir, featured more smoke breaks than your average AA meeting.” —John Freeman, NPR.org
“‘Cooking Dirty,’ a broad, prickly, affecting memoir chronicling his recollections of his first 30-odd years . . . Young and ambitious and in full voice, Sheehan no doubt has many adventures ahead to gather for his next memoir (or three). I’d expect them.” —Tucker Shaw, Denver Post
"Kitchen Confidential meets gonzo journalism in this memoir of life as a cook.
'If you're looking for some four-star confessional, for the cooking secrets of master chefs or some effervescent, champagne-and-twinkle-lights twaddle about bright knives, foie gras and sweaty loe among the white jackets, go find another book,' Sheehan advises readers at the beginning. Far from the behind-the-scenes tell-alls of peons in the country's finest dining establishments, the author offers a gritty, sludge-filled account of his decade in a succession of restaurants. From humble beginnings scraping pizza crust off pans in the local pizzeria as a teenager, to a stint bartending at a Chinese joint that secretly doubled as a swinger's club, to his eventual rise to fame as a James Beard Award-winning food critic, Sheehan recounts the ungarnished truth of millions of restaurant workers--severed digits, delirious nights on the line and easy access to sex, drugs and gourmet food products. Crisp dialogue, vivid descriptions and the urgent pace of the text create the air of a soldier's tale of a long-ago war . . . [an] intriguing account of life behind the kitchen doors."
“It was bound to happen. After the publication of Kitchen Confidential and Anthony Bourdain’s meteoric rise from self-described journeyman chef/heroin addict to bestselling author and traveling TV host, it comes as no surprise that a new generation would be inspired to write about following Bourdain’s often-dissipated career path. Jason Sheehan is one of those guys. In Cooking Dirty, Sheehan chronicles his alcohol-soaked and drug-fueled journey from dishwasher in a Rochester, N.Y., pizza joint to jobs as line cook, bartender, ‘wheel man,’ and sous chef at a succession of diners, Waffle Houses, Chinese restaurants, grocery store delis, and other midlevel eateries to his current career as a restaurant critic for Denver alternative weekly Westword . . . [Sheehan] knows how to weave a good story while still being brutally honest about himself—‘a blue-collar, rust belt diner kid, a beans-and-weenies, steak-and-potatoes simpleton’ at the beginning of his cooking career. The two best laughs I had involved Sheehan’s description of surreptitious purchases of Gourmet magazine as a high school kid and his one failed attempt to ‘translate the language of baking into cook-ese’ (‘like trying to teach long division to a hamster’).”
—Virginia B. Wood, The Austin Chronicle