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Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the…

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

by Anthony Bourdain

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Showing 1-5 of 179 (next | show all)
A memorable, hard hitting look into the life of a cook both inside and outside the kitchens of fine-dining restaurants. ( )
  nvenkataraman1 | Aug 31, 2015 |
Memoir that left me unsatisfied. I guess it was too self aggrandizing in a slumming sort of way. Too much sex, drugs, and food for me. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
In his book, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, Anthony Bourdain explores both his adventures and experiences within the culinary world, as well as the interesting details that readers might like to know about life in the kitchen. In the course of a full three course dinner, as the book is cleverly apportioned into, Bourdain delves deep into the nitty-gritty of his life, culminating in the reflections of a now physically scarred celebrity chef, spending most of his time traveling far away from any kitchen that could be considered as his. This is a book not only 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 also about a life experienced via food. While people today tend to immediately recognize Anthony Bourdain as the host of various food-related television shows, exploring unique tastes and creations from around the world, he was once an ignorant and inexperienced newcomer to the world of professional cooking, and even before that, he was a normal dumb kid with no concept or understanding of food beyond the wonders of the hamburger with ketchup. Mixing his course attitude and language with a selection of anecdotes from throughout the highs and lows of his earlier career prior to the fame, Bourdain opens a door to the public that few would have ever thought to look for. This is more than just a book for those who love food. This is a book with something to offer for anyone who has ever eaten out in a restaurant, had a passing interest in cooking, or even so much as momentarily wondered what goes on behind the curtain in the cooking world.

There are many strengths to the book, the most notable of which is likely the passion with which Bourdain is able to speak of his one great love. He “wants the readers to get a glimpse of the true joys of making really good food at a professional level,” and he shows this well, as even in the most run-down kitchens at the lowest point of his career and addictions, this is a career and life that he has loved, and he “wouldn’t have missed it for the world.” Every experience he had and many people he encountered, from Tyrone, who taught him a powerful lesson about pride and arrogance when he “reached slowly under the broiler and… picked up the glowing-hot sizzle-platter…and set it down in front of me,” through to Bigfoot, who taught him the essential skills of how to run a kitchen truly well, all shaped him into the chef he would one day become, and it is a fascinating journey. It is easy to love a job when one starts in a comfortable and successful position, but it takes true passion and dedication to do so when someone is required to start from the very bottom and fight every inch of the way up the ladder. While the seedy side of the profession, including the drugs, sex, and questionable professional behaviors by those responsible for making what we all consume when we sit down to eat at a restaurant, such as the recycled food placed on the buffet, might make one’s stomach slightly weak at the knees, there is also a sense of appreciation to be had for not only how cooking is done, but the work that goes into running a high-quality kitchen. The chapter “A Day in the Life” is particularly enlightening for what it reveals about how a chef proceeds through his day, even as other chapters that reveal the language, relationships, and perceptions that categorize the profession serve to supplement this understanding. By the time one finishes reading the book, they have learned more than it would likely ever have occurred to them to even wonder.

Of course, this is not to say that the book is without its flaws. For one, if a reader tends to prefer a chronological narrative to the memoirs that they decide to read, disappointment will be a short time coming, as Bourdain quickly begins to jump around quite freely as the mood suits him, following his own sense of organization. While this can make the text difficult to follow the timeline on at times, Bourdain has a clear concept in mind in regards to what he wishes to convey. On the other hand, some of the content, such as when Bourdain needs to “make his bones” by countering the sexual advances of another chef “as his drunken advances threatened to become actual penetration,” the subsequent stabbing as well as the context of the scene as a whole can feel downright disturbing. Overall, as much as Bourdain might love nothing more than cooking in a restaurant kitchen, anyone who does not share that same level of passion to such an extent so as to be willing to endure such an environment might well be turned off from the entire idea. Of course, this is exactly what makes professional chefs what they are, and why the reader recognizes that only a select few will ever be able to survive the pressure so as to lay claim to that illustrious status. The rest of us are left to merely live vicariously through the small glimpses that those few choose to share with us, and wonder if, perhaps, in another life, we might have had what it takes as well. ( )
  TiffanyAK | May 14, 2015 |
An enjoyable and informative book about a cook coming up in the restaurant industry. More fun than Marcus Samuelsson's Yes, Chef. Nearly every chapter can probably stand alone as a short- or long-form essay; they aren't necessarily in chronological order, and the content is kitchen-focused, with little emphasis on personal life, other than occasional mentions of his wife, Nancy. Bourdain has a great voice and a good story; anyone who likes to eat out would probably enjoy at least parts of this book.

Advice from "From Our Kitchen to Your Table"
-never order fish on Monday
-don't eat mussels in restaurants
-no "seafood frittata" (e.g.) at Sunday brunch
-no hollandaise sauce
-bread from bread baskets is recycled. Eat it anyway.
-don't eat in a restaurant with filthy bathrooms
-no swordfish
-"well done" will be worst pieces of meat
-chicken is "boring" and more likely to give you food poisoning (salmonella) than pork
-consider turnover; if a restaurant is selling a lot of something, it's probably fresh; if it's an unusual item at a slow restaurant, skip it
-"Observe the [waiter's] body language and take note"
-best nights to eat out are Tuesday through Saturday; Tues & Thurs are best for fish in NY
-"your body is not a temple, it's an amusement park"


I can't imagine a better example of Things to Be Wary Of in the food department than bargain sushi. (64)

Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance, as they say in the army. (102)

Having a sous-chef with excellent cooking skills and a criminal mind is one of God's great gifts. (205)

Steven, suddenly and inexplicably, became the sort of person who, when he says he's going to do a thing, does it. This, more than anything else, is the essence of sous-chefdom. (210) ( )
1 vote JennyArch | Feb 25, 2015 |
For anyone who enjoys cooking, this was fun to read. And horrible at times, if what he says about restaurants is true... There were parts of the book I found a bit less interesting, such as the author's relationships with some people, but overall I really liked it. But I'm a foodie. ( )
  KVHardy | Jan 2, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 179 (next | show all)
This is one bitter, nasty, searing, hard-to-swallow piece of work. But if you can choke the thing down, youll (sic) probably wake up grinning in the middle of the night. Bourdain is a force of unruly nature, a lifelong misanthrope and currently the executive chef at the Brasserie Les Halles, whose clientele, now that this book is out, must be accounted among the more courageous diners in New York.
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Don't get me wrong: I love the restaurant business. Hell, I'm still in the restaurant business -- a lifetime, classically trained chef who, an hour from now, will probably be roasting bones for demi-glace and butchering beef tenderloins in a cellar prep kitchen on lower Park Avenue.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060899220, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:05 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

New York chef and novelist Bourdain recounts his experiences in the restaurant business, and exposes abuses of power, sexual promiscuity, drug use, and other secrets of life behind kitchen doors.

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