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Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line Hardcover – March 25, 2014

4.2 out of 5 stars 220 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, April 2014: Reading Michael Gibney's Sous Chef--a debut that plays at the outer bounds of memoir--may be the closest most of us will ever come to living a day as the second-in-command at a Michelin-starred New York City restaurant. Written in the second person, it's intense and immediately devourable. Sous Chef has all the drama, disaster, and triumph people have come to expect from reality restaurant TV, but far more intimate and nuanced. On every page, Gibney turns out phrases to savor: this is kitchen writing on par with Gabrielle Hamilton's Blood, Bones & Butter. No one who’s read Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential will be surprised by the more licentious elements, but the real thrills are those transcendent moments when every player is absorbed by their role, moving together to assemble a fantastic meal. In Gibney’s hands, the anonymous act of preparing and serving great food to ravenous multitudes feels authentically noble, verging on heroic. --Mari Malcolm

From Booklist

Trained both as a chef and a writer, Gibney leads readers on an excursion through the preparation and service of a single Friday night’s dinner in an upscale Manhattan French restaurant. The day starts early for the kitchen staff, who inventory goods on hand; await the chef’s decision on the evening’s specials; make sure all the arrangements meet requirements for the appetizers, entrées, and desserts to be served; deal with the state of mind and body of the cooking staff; coordinate with the waiters; and ultimately get the proper dishes, properly prepared, to the proper tables at the proper time. Such coordination of disparate activities is a restaurant’s stock-in-trade, and Gibney documents how the system works and what can go wrong as the complex process moves along. Cooks don’t always have mastery of English, some show up hungover or ill, and some may not show up at all. Culinary students can learn plenty here. --Mark Knoblauch

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (March 25, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804177872
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804177870
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (220 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #338,098 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Schuyler T Wallace VINE VOICE on February 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Although there have been an effusion of chef autobiography's as of late, Michael Gibney's fictionalized account of a single day in the life of a sous chef at a high end NYC restaurant is a fresh view of life in the kitchen. Gibney takes the reader into the tumultuous underbelly of the restaurant. Employing the uncommon the second person narrative style, Gibney places you, the reader, in the middle of the kitchen.

An amalgamation of people and restaurants, Sous Chef captures perfectly the stresses and triumphs of the eponymous role. Fortunately, for those of us not familiar with restaurant kitchens, Gibney maps out the landscape, people, and roles, both graphically (with diagrams), and with text descriptions. He also, helpfully includes an extensive glossary for equipment, people, food, and terms used in the kitchen, from cook to stagiaire and from LOI to Wondra flour.

This behind the scenes portrayal of a restaurant kitchen is both a fun and educating read.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I cut my earliest employment chops in a catering hall, doing every kind of support job in a kitchen you can imagine. It was one of the hardest physical jobs I ever had, but also, the feeling that came at the end of an event, or a dinner rush, was a satisfaction like no other. High fives all around for the team! The restaurant business is like that, and so much more, as detailed in this great memoir. The author Michael Gibney, is writing from the heart and from an incredible range of experience. He's also a gifted writer. Who knew that cheese could be so alarmingly sexy, or that knives could inspire such devotion? From a sequence of situations where he's called upon to not just execute amazing culinary dexterity, but incredible forbearance and courage, the pages just kept turning. I was taken on a riotous ride through the most amazing kitchens filled with every kind of co-conspirator, high technology equipment and doubtful raw materials, to watch from the sidelines (where it's much safer) while the collaborative efforts produced fine art. Highly recommended to anyone who eats food, wonders how to prepare a salad Nicoise, or what the heck a Santoku knife is used for. A glass of wine on the side table is recommended. This book is gonna make your mouth water!
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Unlike most memoirs I've read, or avoided, about restaurant life, Gibney's isn't self-centered. In fact by writing in the second person, he puts the reader firmly at the center of the kitchen.

That's just the most obvious thing that makes this book great. It depicts 24 hours in the life of a Sous Chef in a three-star New York restaurant. This gives the book that compactness in time of a great play as well as providing both a natural rhythm and climax to the book. Since you know it takes place in one day, you know it will build to the dinner service and then taper down. Built in, a perfect structure and focus for the book.

That's the second thing that makes it great. Unlike too much creative non-fiction, Sous Chef has elements of a great novel: a central character (you), compactness of time, and a real climax, all combining to give the book focus, lacking in so many other books.

There are so many other great qualities to Gibey's book. He does a fantastic job of describing the other workers in the kitchen, drawing them with quick strokes and small touches that bring them alive. They may be composites of many of the people he's worked with, but each is an individual, not a cardboard cut-out or placeholder.

Because he wants diners to be reading his book, not just people inside the industry, he does a great job of explaining this somewhat unknown world. Like a good teacher, he explains things as he goes along, deftly putting the definitions and explanations into the text.

His zeal for bringing you into this world goes even deeper, he wants the reader to be able both to picture and understand this place and it organization.
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