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Kitchen Confidential Updated Edition: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (P.S.) Paperback – January 9, 2007
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Most diners believe that their sublime sliver of seared foie gras, topped with an ethereal buckwheat blini and a drizzle of piquant huckleberry sauce, was created by a culinary artist of the highest order, a sensitive, highly refined executive chef. The truth is more brutal. More likely, writes Anthony Bourdain in Kitchen Confidential, that elegant three-star concoction is the collaborative effort of a team of "wacked-out moral degenerates, dope fiends, refugees, a thuggish assortment of drunks, sneak thieves, sluts, and psychopaths," in all likelihood pierced or tattooed and incapable of uttering a sentence without an expletive or a foreign phrase. Such is the muscular view of the culinary trenches from one who's been groveling in them, with obvious sadomasochistic pleasure, for more than 20 years. CIA-trained Bourdain, currently the executive chef of the celebrated Les Halles, wrote two culinary mysteries before his first (and infamous) New Yorker essay launched this frank confessional about the lusty and larcenous real lives of cooks and restaurateurs. He is obscenely eloquent, unapologetically opinionated, and a damn fine storyteller--a Jack Kerouac of the kitchen. Those without the stomach for this kind of joyride should note his opening caveat: "There will be horror stories. Heavy drinking, drugs, screwing in the dry-goods area, unappetizing industry-wide practices. Talking about why you probably shouldn't order fish on a Monday, why those who favor well-done get the scrapings from the bottom of the barrel, and why seafood frittata is not a wise brunch selection.... But I'm simply not going to deceive anybody about the life as I've seen it." --Sumi Hahn --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Chef at New York's Les Halles and author of Bone in the Throat, Bourdain pulls no punches in this memoir of his years in the restaurant business. His fast-lane personality and glee in recounting sophomoric kitchen pranks might be unbearable were it not for two things: Bourdain is as unsparingly acerbic with himself as he is with others, and he exhibits a sincere and profound love of good food. The latter was born on a family trip to France when young Bourdain tasted his first oyster, and his love has only grown since. He has attended culinary school, fallen prey to a drug habit and even established a restaurant in Tokyo, discovering along the way that the crazy, dirty, sometimes frightening world of the restaurant kitchen sustains him. Bourdain is no presentable TV version of a chef; he talks tough and dirty. His advice to aspiring chefs: "Show up at work on time six months in a row and we'll talk about red curry paste and lemon grass. Until then, I have four words for you: 'Shut the fuck up.' " He disdains vegetarians, warns against ordering food well done and cautions that restaurant brunches are a crapshoot. Gossipy chapters discuss the many restaurants where Bourdain has worked, while a single chapter on how to cook like a professional at home exhorts readers to buy a few simple gadgets, such as a metal ring for tall food. Most of the book, however, deals with Bourdain's own maturation as a chef, and the culmination, a litany describing the many scars and oddities that he has developed on his hands, is surprisingly beautiful. He'd probably hate to hear it, but Bourdain has a tender side, and when it peeks through his rough exterior and the wall of four-letter words he constructs, it elevates this book to something more than blustery memoir. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
It is clear that Bourdain enjoys a true passion for both food and cooking, a passion he inherited from the French side of his family. He tells us he decided to become a chef during a trip to southwestern France when he was only ten years of age and it is a decision he stuck to, graduating from the Culinary Institute of America.
Kitchen Confidential is a surprisingly well-written account of what life is really like in the commercial kitchens of the United States; "the dark recesses of the restaurant underbelly." In describing these dark recesses, Bourdain refreshingly casts as many stones at himself as he does at others. In fact, he is brutally honest. There is nothing as tiresome as a "tell-all" book in which the author relentlessly paints himself as the unwitting victim. Bourdain, to his enormous credit, avoids this trap. Maybe he writes so convincingly about drugs and alcohol because drugs and alcohol have run their course through his veins as well as those of others.
The rather raunchy "pirate ship" stories contained in this fascinating but testosterone-rich book help to bring it vividly to life and add tremendous credibility. The book does tend to discourage any would-be female chefs who might read it, but that's not Bourdain's fault; he is simply telling it like it is and telling it hilariously as well.
In an entire chapter devoted to one of the lively and crude characters that populate this book, Bourdain describes a man named Adam: "Adam Real-Last-Name-Unknown, the psychotic bread-baker, alone in his small, filthy Upper West Side apartment, his eyes two different sizes after a 36-hour coke and liquor jag, white crust accumulated at the corners of his mouth, a two-day growh of whiskers--standing there in a shirt and no pants among the porno mags, the empty Chinese takeout containers, as the Spice channel flickers silently on the TV, throwing blue light on a can of Dinty Moore beef stew by an unmade bed." Apparently Bourdain made just as many mistakes at the beginning of his career as did Adam, but the book however, doesn't always paint and bleak picture.
Another chapter entitled "The Life of Bryan," talks about renowned chef Scott Bryan, a man, who, according to Bourdain, made all the right decisions. Bourdain describes Bryan's shining, immaculate kitchen, his well-organized and efficient staff. It's respectful homage, but somehow, we feel that Bourdain, himself, will never be quite as organized as is Bryan, for Bourdain is just too much of the rebel, the original, the maverick.
Kitchen Confidential can be informative as well as wickedly funny. Bourdain is hilarious as he tells us what to order in restaurants and when. For instance, we learn never to eat fish on Mondays, to avoid Sunday brunches and never to order any sort of meat well-done. And, if we ever see a sign that says, "Discount Sushi," we will, if we are smart, run the other way as fast as we possibly can.
Kitchen Confidential isn't undying literature but it's so funny and so well-written that no one should care. It made me hungry for Bourdain's black sea bass crusted in sel de Bretagne with frites. It also made me order his novel, Bone in the Throat. If it is only half as funny and wickedly well-written as is Kitchen Confidential it will certainly be a treat.
Everything he says about the business is spot-on and, once you read his book, which is written in the coarse language of a professional kitchen which adds color and authenticity, you will never look at a menu or see a restaurant the same way again.
I liked the muscular way he writes about food and I fully share his view that prissy concoctions of food with way too many ingredients that only stroke a chef's vanity have nothing to do with first class cooking. As he rightly points out, great cooking, as always, involves only the finest and freshest ingredients presented to their greatest advantage where less is more. As any artist will tell you, if you mix up all the colors of the pallet, the result will always be a muddy black.
The very best chapter, however, is about his going to Japan for the first time and seeing the famous Tokyo fish market which I remember seeing in the 1970's and feeling exactly the same way about. I also remember my first visit to Japan as the same hallucinatory experience which delighted every sense especially the quirky drinking habits of "salary men" or office workers after the day's work is done.
I suggest that you read the book and then visit his great restaurants...or the other way around. Both are a worthwhile experience.
Bourdain has put together a truly gonzo collection of restaurant tales that aren't all depraved...but, like his restaurateur/chef subjects, most of them are! Kudos to him for a book that is this honest while being this hysterical. If you have the, um, stomach for it, this is a book you'll remember fondly. Well worth digesting!