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The Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness and the Making of a Great Chef Hardcover – May 1, 2007

4.4 out of 5 stars 157 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Significant Seven, May 2007: Marco Pierre White made history as the most decorated chef in the UK and still holds the honor as the youngest chef ever to win three Michelin stars. Billed as a "brooding Byron" of the kitchen, MPW brought a punk-rock sensibility to his craft, shattering centuries-old rules of fine-dining tradition (and bruising many egos in the process) in his pursuit for perfection. He remains a searing influence on a generation of chefs who survived tours-of-duty in his kitchen brigade and those inspired by White Heat, his modern-classic cookbook (and now high-priced collector's item). In his absorbing culinary memoir, The Devil in the Kitchen, MPW offers intimate insights into his storied career presenting a larger-than-life portrait of a living legend and a culinary genius. --Brad Thomas Parsons

From Publishers Weekly

[Signature]Reviewed by James OselandThe world's most celebrated chefs are divided into two opposing camps these days. In one, there are the do-gooder humanists like Alice Waters of Berkeley's Chez Panisse. In the other, there are the self-avowed holy terrors like Britain's Marco Pierre White, author of this plodding autobiography, co-written with James Steen and originally published in the U.K. in 2006 under the untoward title White Slave. An influential figure in English cooking in the 1980s and '90s, White built an empire of London restaurants that included Harveys (where he became the youngest chef—at age 28—to win two Michelin stars), Mirabelle and the Oak Room. Famous folks like Michael Caine and Prince Charles were admirers of White's smart, decadent interpretations of classic French dishes. But while White was widely lauded for his culinary skill, it was his flamboyant temper that most frequently earned him headlines. An avowed proponent of tongue lashings (White calls them "bollockings") toward kitchen staff for all manner of infractions, the chef claims that such harsh behavior is justified in the pursuit of excellent dining. "If you are not extreme then people will take short cuts because they don't fear you," White explains. What he dubbed his "theatre of cruelty" extended beyond his kitchen. During White's glory years, getting thrown out of one of his establishments by the enfant terrible himself was considered a badge of honor by some Londoners. White recounts in the book one such eviction, of a patron who had criticized his meal: "Staring at this dwarfish, patronizing man... I found myself saying, 'Why don't you just f— off?'" Scenes like this make up the lion's share of The Devil in the Kitchen; indeed, after a point, they become dirge-like in their predictability. Why, I asked myself midway through this book—right around the time that my discomfort at White's antics gave way to boredom—would readers, much less diners, want to be in the company of such a gregariously antisocial character? As is the case with virtually any autobiography, the answer is that we are seeking a window into the subject's soul, no matter how, well, unsavory that subject might be. His book, unfortunately, provides no such insights, offering readers little more than a continual, atonal concerto of scuffles with customers and insults to co-workers. Please, I wanted to say to White as I was reading, stifle all that alpha male stuff and just cook. (May)James Oseland is the editor-in-chief of Saveur magazine and the author of Cradle of Flavor: Home Cooking from the Spice Islands of Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia (Norton, 2006).
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition (1st printing), edition (May 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596913614
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596913615
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (157 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #271,914 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
There is a fascinating story in this book, but unfortunately it never emerges. Marco White has all the elements - talent, glamour, flamboyance, brilliant chef and restauranteur, and a real flair for drama and theatrics. In telling his own story, however, he settles for a recitation of all the bad-boy behavior told with a tedious lack of insight and an unattractively smug tone. How long can you go on tossing people out of your restaurant (customers, employees and business partners alike) and your life (friends, colleagues, mentors and wives) before it occurs to you that the problem isn't other people, but you? For White, it seems that the answer is "Forever."

White's personal story is compelling - up from a working class background, raised by an emotionally distant father after his mother's early death, inspired by food and cooking to reach the pinnacle of British cuisine (stop snickering - it does exist and he did it) at a very young age and thereby gaining entry into the glitzy jet set that he both loves and is uncomfortable with. The problem is that he lists the facts ("This is how I got this job; this is where I worked under brutal conditions that would fell a lesser man and where I loved it until I hated it and was fired or quit; this was a cooking genius I deeply admired and learned enormously from until I stopped admiring and now we don't speak; and I did this all because I am driven by an unslakeable thirst to brag about what a pain-junkie I am") without conveying any of the excitement and enthusiasm that must have fueled this. Other than being self-congratulatory ad nauseum about what a tough bastard he is, White has nothing to offer a reader trying to understand how he became the culinary rock-star that he is - a phrase he cannot get enough of.
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Format: Paperback
I have only ever read three other autobiographies and that was enough to put me off the genre for good. However I picked this one up because Marco lived on the same estate as my grandparents whom I visited regularly as a child and I thought local references and memories might be interesting. I was intending to skim read it but I was engrossed from the first page.

The loss of his mother at such a young age was by far the most traumatic thing that ever happened to him and whilst he acknowledges this and recognises how the experience, amongst other things, might have shaped him, he doesn't use it as an excuse. In fact it's interesting to see how a persons attributes and failings can be traced to parents, upbringing and early experiences.

I enjoyed his tales of escaping to the Harewood estate to go fishing and his first jobs, his days on the Kings Road with the Chelsea crowd through to his success as a Michelin starred chef. Most of all I admired his hard work, determination and passion for creating which comes through almost obsessively. Even if you have no interest in fine dining or 'cheffing' you can't help but enjoy his mischievous streak as he describes people he worked with and stories of pranks both in the kitchen and out.

Interestingly the title of this book in Britain is simply 'The Devil In The Kitchen' which I feel is a better description as the book isn't about sex or madness and the additional title just isn't needed.
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Format: Hardcover
Marco Pierre White is the original rock and roll chef and the first person I'm aware of to consistently go into the dining room and tell people to shove off.

When I was on an ACF Jr. Culinary Olympic Team in the late 90s, this was not a fact we overlooked, and for it White was instantly a hero of ours. I grabbed up all his cookbooks; the best of which was the tough to find White Heat. Through it, we discovered strange foods like caul fat, that we, as young cooks, had never seen, had, or even heard of.

Needless to say, when I saw he was writing a biography, my interest was peaked.

There's a funny story in the book that sums it up for me. A Michelin 3 star chef dined at White's restaurant, and afterwards, came into the kitchen to say everything was great except the fish -- which was salty. White told the cook who prepared it to tell the chef to "F off".

White seems to tell everyone to "F" Off, and as interesting as this book was to me, a fan, I'm sad to say, overall, it is pretty poor. White has a tremendous ego, and comes off sounding like a real jerk that ruins every meaningful relationship he's ever been apart of both personally and in business.
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Format: Paperback
A touching and enduring love story between Mr. White and his temper tantrums, most of which happen to take place in a kitchen, which is as close as this book comes to being about food. Mr. White's father was mean to him as a child, and Mr. White as a supposed grown up is mean to others, told 100 times over. Insanely boring. Kitchen Confidential was infinitely better although yes, Mr. White was quite the hottie back in the day and looks great on the cover.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Marco Pierre White is a true chef. I have known of this man for a while, with only minor exposure. After watching the "Marco Cooks for..." television series from the 90s, I became very intrigued about this man and wanted to know more. With little arrogance, Marco writes about his life in this easy to read book. From very humble beginnings and his rise to a three star chef, as well as a combination of accolades that any chef has yet to duplicate.

I have so much respect for Marco after reading this. He really pushed himself at every moment he could to get into a new kitchen and cook. He may have gained a reputation for being a bully and extreme in his methods, but as a youth he was the one who took the bullying, he accepted criticisms and it made him strive to get better. A slough of coincidences got him jobs and put him in kitchens with people that propelled his career into ways he never imagined. What's more is that he, unlike other celebrity chefs, actually cared about the food. He always kept on an apron alongside his brigade, his hands burning on the stove with the others. After holding onto his three stars for five years, he decided to hand them back. He thought the system was corrupt. Why should restaurants hold onto stars that the chefs don't even cook at? How can stars be transferred from one place to another? Are the stars for the food, the restaurant, or the chef?

Along with a collection of amusing stories and events, as well as some actual insight into the methods of fine dining, you will gain a great respect for Marco, regardless of how much you may or may not know about him or cooking. A great read!
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