Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, is part memoir and part candid account of the restaurant business in America. Well, not the entire United States, but rather the parts the late Mr. Bourdain fraternized in. It is a no holes barred account of his evolution into a tall, handsome celebrity chef from a gangly, entitled kid - the many adventures (some very distasteful ones) he had, the incredible characters he met and the first hand account of what really goes on behind the scenes in a typical restaurant.
The book is very easy to read. You feel like the author is narrating the story to you directly. And if you are familiar with his voice, the imaginary narration is in his voice. Mr. Bourdain definitely had a flair for the written word apart from his culinary skills.
The book is quite fascinating to the individual interested in the culinary world. Even if you have a passing interest in how food actually gets to your table in any restaurant, you would be fascinated by how hard the business is and how certain unsavory practices take place behind the kitchen.
One of the most interesting things I learned was the striking similarity between a well run kitchen headed by an ass kicking chef and an army unit. The chef expects nothing less than a soldierly obedience from his staff, especially his line cooks. The staff need to be really tough - capable of handling abuse and withstanding pressure. The manner in which the kitchen must handle a growing stream of customers on a busy night in a restaurant with a 20 page menu is reminiscent of a soldiering unit defending their position in a steadfast manner against the onslaught of a ravenous enemy, no pun intended. As a student of business, the grim accounts of failures in the restaurant world reminded me of the Startup scene of today. If you remove the technology part, the struggles of a restaurant and the success rate in the Industry reminded me of the typical challenges of a tech start-up.
I have decided to read other books by the author, my appetite whetted by this one. I have been Anthony Bourdain's fan for a few hours, having watched No Reservations, A Cooks tour and Parts Unknown. It was quite a shock to learn of his demise, that too through a suicide. It felt like a personal loss. Reading this book was a nice way of remembering who he was and what he stood for. May his soul rest in peace.
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