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Review of Kitchen Confidential

Book 4 in my first 52 books challenge.
Originally published in several parts on February 16-21, 2004.

Part 1:

Author: Anthony Bourdain
Published: 2000
Where got: Public library
Genre: Autobiography

I first got wind of this book shortly after it was published in 2000, when, browsing on Salon.com, I came across an excerpt from it. I liked the style which is refreshingly honest and has great descriptions of people, and I immediately decided I wanted to read it. Below is a link to that excerpt:

Kitchen god


Parts 2-3:

Kitchen Confidential extract

Interview with Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain’s top 10 books about food


Part 4:

Kitchen Confidential is for the most part a memoir, but one which is interspersed with anecdotes and advise and littered with profanity. This funny and entertaining account of Anthony Bourdain's progress from dishwasher to chef is written in a tough and macho tone and sprinkled with inventive vulgarisms that might offend some readers and make others laugh out loud. In between the autobiographical stuff and accounts of people he's met is useful information about kitchen tools, what foods to avoid in restaurants and even a chapter on kitchen jargon.

Bourdain freely admits to having been a drug addict for many years, but somehow you never feel sorry for him, maybe because he obviously doesn't feel sorry for himself. One of the things you catch onto quickly is that he obviously loves food. Right from his childhood experiences with raw oysters in France and all the way to his visit to the sushi place in Tokyo, you sense that here is a man who first and foremost does what he does because he loves food.

I'm not going to go into the "don't order fish on Mondays" thing, as it has already been discussed to extremes (it was the thing most media latched onto when the book became a hit), but I am going to mention one chapter that will be useful to anyone who thinks they need a kitchen full of gadgets to be able to cook like a professional. To condense it somewhat: You don't!

As if the excerpts weren't enough to give an idea of the writing style, here is a quote that made me laugh. Bourdain has reached the bottom, is recovering from heroin addiction and still doing other drugs, is thin as a rake, nervous and generally not in good shape, when he gets a call from Bigfoot, an old employer. To begin with, the guy lends him 200 $:

"Looking at me, and hearing the edited-for-television version of what I'd been up to in recent years, he must have had every reason to believe I'd disappear with the two bills, spend it on crack and never show up for my first shift. And if he'd given me the twenty-five instead two hundred, that might well have happened. But as so often happens with Bigfoot, his trust was rewarded. I was so shaken by his baseless trust in me - that such a cynical bastard as Bigfoot would make such a gesture - that I determined I'd sooner gnaw my own fingers off, gouge my eyes out with a shellfish fork and run naked down Seventh Avenue than ever betray that trust."

Rating: Recommended read for anyone who is interested in the restaurant business, and especially what happens on the other side of the kitchen doors. 4 stars.

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