Top positive review
27 people found this helpful
THE AUTHOR HAS A WAY WITH WRITING. I'M WAITING FOR A MEAL
on February 3, 2014
In his illuminating book SOUS CHEF, Michael Gibney grabbed both of my vulnerables, reading and eating, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Who knew of the wild rumpus I created in the kitchen when I placed my food order. I didn’t know my arroser from hot pommes until I read this book that describes a busy night in a starred NYC restaurant. Bravo to a true artist and thanks for inviting me to dinner. Incidentally, an extensive glossary is included in the book to acquaint the reader with culinary terms in case you’re not familiar with your own pommes.
Behind that swinging door to the kitchen is a community of white clad lunatics. The only redeeming feature they all share is their dedication to providing quality food to the customers gathered out front. Unlike Denny’s, where a couple of gum chewers grill hamburgers, fry hash browns, and dip soggy spaghetti, the fine restaurant has a strict hierarchy of many employees with a myriad of complex tasks. The failure of a single duty spells disaster with the possible downgrading of the restaurant’s standing. But the back staff is highly individualistic and slightly paranoid about their presence, making cohesiveness a real challenge.
So the big time cooks and chefs start planning, prepping, chopping, and slicing early. Fragile fish, unwieldy raw meat, temperamental fruits and vegetables, and fragile herbs and fungi must all be prepped. Delicate pan sauces, complicated confits, and large quantities of house-made pastas must be concocted. This entire bee-like bustle is aimed at making the evening dining rush manageable and smoothly accommodated. On a busy Friday night five hundred people will receive their orders and gasp at the looks and taste of the specially prepared meal set in front of them. In spite of the wild scene behind the doors, the patron is served calmly and speedily in his or her haven of pleasure.
Behind the austere dining room there is shouting, arguing, crude commentary and fighting for position. Hung-over kitchen staff members have been known to puke in a trash can, an act that does not bode well for the unfortunate miscreant’s future. Occasional kindness and helpful assistance is offered through the veil of bad behavior. After the last order is sent to the dining room and clean up time has arrived, an atmosphere of brotherhood and togetherness descends and post trauma arrangements are made for drinks, a little snack, and reflective conversation. As staff members stumble home after an exhausting day and heavy drinking night, the new day soon arriving is ill-prepared for with the few hours sleep they will get. An occupational hazard, it seems.
Michael Gibney has been there. He has worked his way through the stations to the position of sous chef, second in command, of the restaurant he describes and also has a MFA in writing from Columbia University. He is an excellent writer with great instincts about what a reader likes and what details need to go into a readable memoir. He has parlayed all this knowledge and training into SOUS CHEF, a great book that will catch the reader’s attention. I loved it.
Schuyler T Wallace
Author of TIN LIZARD TALES