Friday, July 07, 2006

Review of Kitchen Confidential

Kitchen Confidential was written by Anthony Bourdain, the executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles in New York.

Let me preface this review by saying that I worked in a hospital from March 1999 until October 2003, which translates into the end of my senior year of high school until 5 months after I graduated from college. Granted, a hospital kitchen’s got nothing on a restaurant kitchen, but there are similarities, and I loved what I call the kitchen culture. Also, when I was in high school I wanted to work as a chef. I decided against this because my desire to work a Monday through Friday, 9-5 job outweighed my desire to have arms covered in burns, cuts, and scars. Both of these things, plus the fact that I enjoyed FOX’s short-lived television show by the same name (based on the book), made me pick this up.

Even though I’ve never worked in a restaurant, I can take the things that happened in the hospital kitchen, multiply them by 100, and get something similar to what Mr. Bourdain wrote about. The sexual debauchery, the vulgarity, the not-always-so-safe practices, the machismo; they were all there to a certain extent.

I generally hate biographies, but Mr. Bourdain has a way with words that made 95% of the book very interesting. He’s not the best writer in the world but he’s frank and uses vivid language, especially when describing the dishes of his and other restaurants. My favorite chapter was the one chronicling his visit to Tokyo to coach the chef of the Les Halles’s sister restaurant. When he described the streets, the people, the food, and the accommodations, I felt like I was right there with him, picturing how silly a white man who was over 6 feet tall looked amongst the Japanese.
I did have a beef with his description of Baltimore, where he apparently had (has?) a restaurant in Inner Harbor. How can you hate Charm City? Let me rephrase that: How can you hate Inner Harbor? There were also some times when he lost me while going on about some of the people he knew; I felt like the third wheel at a dinner party. Fortunately, these instances are few and far between.

If you’re interested in food, cooking, restaurants, or anything of that nature, I would definitely recommend picking this up. It’s a quick, humorous, light read that is perfect for summer.


Blogger Funky Smith said...

You can only hate Charm City if you're a snob. It tends to be a little gritty sometimes.

7/08/2006 10:57 AM  
Blogger defiant goddess said...

Kitchen culture ... That's cool. I've never heard anybody say they like kitchen culture. I worked in a Burger King when I was a teenager and couldn't wait to get out of there.

I like recording studio culture. A bunch of really cool, laid back people staying up way too late and just vibing on sounds. That's my speed. :)

7/08/2006 8:26 PM  
Blogger katiedid said...

Awesome review, thanks J!

7/09/2006 7:17 PM  
Blogger Rinn said...

How about when he was on the interview for the steakhouse and the man asked him, "What do you know about me?" That story was the best. I agree with you about his long descriptions about the people he knows.

7/09/2006 10:55 PM  
Blogger Jenny G said...

True, Funky.

Renee, I'm sure that's fun too!

Thanks, Katie.

Rinn, HAHA! I forgot about that. "Absolutely nothing."

7/10/2006 10:23 AM  

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