Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Book Review: Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Confession: I first read more than 2/3rds of Kitchen Confidential about 2 years ago when I was giving the book away for World Book Night 2013. I didn't finish in time, and then other books caught my interest and I never managed to finish this one in spite of how much I enjoyed it. I finally thought to just get the audio book in September and re-read/finish, and I did not regret this decision.

Kitchen Confidential is Anthony Bourdain's life story of his experience in the restaurant business. The book was first released in 2000, and served as quite the exposé for the raunchy lives of the employees of big name operations in the 1980s and 90s. Bourdain talks about how he came to embark on his career (mostly just to prove he could to a hot shot cook who wouldn't hire him as a college student), what he learned from the numerous places he worked at (what spelled disaster and what succeeded for the owners and management), all mixed with tips and advice about how to be a better cook at home and why you should never enter this seedy industry yourself. He talks quite a lot about his problems with drugs and how this industry enabled him to do pretty much whatever he wanted. Eventually he decided that he was not going to be a statistic and managed to get his problems in check as he climbed the ladder to become a successful head chef in a hot restaurant of the time - no easy feat.

I love how open and raw this book presented Bourdain's life and opinions. I'm not a big fan of him personally, but I can't help but appreciate his insight into the restaurant industry. The book is filled with bad language (I feel like I must warn friends of more sensitive tastes), but it feels so natural and truthful in his stories because of the scene in which they occur. I particularly love the section where he describes all the kitchen lingo in detail and then recounts a plausible conversation that would happen in one of his kitchens. It was hilarious to hear him read it himself. While this book caused a lot of stir in the world at the time of its release, all these goings on are much more widely known now so it didn't feel shocking (though I probably learned about all the back room dealings vicariously through this book in some way or another down the line). Even if you don't love Anthony Bourdain, this book is a real life look into what it takes to climb in this strange business, and I enjoyed finally getting to finish it :) I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

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