Rating:★★★★ (around 3.5-4.0)
Anthony Bourdain. He is living my dream life. He travels endlessly(for his job) and eats a lot of interesting and diverse foods around the world. But he was not doing this from beginning of career for sure. This book will give you a good idea of Bourdain’s life as a chef before Television personality. You will feel he is talking next to you about his life and impression of working in a restaurant since his writing style pretty much resembles his way of talking in his shows.
I figured out he has a broad range of vocabularies but I should say that he is surprisingly a decent writer. And of course, very honest about himself as usual. As a narrator, Bourdain is very entertaining. He is a no-nonsense, no-holding-back kind of writer, sarcastic and witty and, I assume, quite honest about his exploits. One does start to wonder however if he is laying the bad boy thing a little too thick. It is interesting that in spite of his years-long heroine, cocaine, and alcohol addictions and his bad behavior at work, he not only managed to line one chef job after another in decent places (no McDonald’s and Shoney’s on his resume) but maintained a marriage as well.
I have never been working at a restaurant so this book has some interesting revelations. Some parts of this book talk about fantastic food and will leave you drooling. As a result, you will want to hop the next flight and travel the world visiting as many restaurants and trying as many types of food as you can. Other parts will disgust you and leave you nauseous. You will never look a restaurant food the same way – and may not want to eat it at all unless you get a good look at the kitchen and the people preparing the food.
Bourdain definitely crushes all preconceived notions we might have about the industry. There is no such thing as a sophisticated cook, according to Bourdain. In his book, cooks are a dysfunctional lot – drug-addicted, unable to hold a “normal” job, people from the fringes of the society. Actually, Bourdain is one of these people himself. He supports this statement by numerous stories of his drug-, crime- and sex-infused culinary career. As for artistry in cooking, there is none. Cooking is all about mindless, unvarying repetition. Only a few executive chefs in high-end restaurants have a luxury of being creative with the food they make.
Besides the anecdotes about dysfunctional kitchen workers,Kitchen Confidential is a sort of biographical account of Bourdain’s cooking career. He talks about how his love for food came about. He takes us on his life journey – from a dishwasher in a seaside joint to an executive chef position in a swanky NYC restaurant. He describes his experiences in failed and successful businesses and offers practical advice about the industry and food. The morsels of wisdom I am taking away from this book are: don’t order specials and don’t attend brunch buffets (apparently, both are dumping grounds for old leftovers); don’t eat at places with dirty bathrooms; vegetarians are crazy and sickly people who can’t be trusted.
Those anecdotes and his writing style are definitely plus for me but after half of this book, I felt there are some parts that need to be improved for his next books. While I thought the book was entertaining, it needed some editing help. First, it is not very well structured, the narration is not cohesive in any shape or form. It reads like a bunch of anecdotes thrown together in no apparent order. The stories of debauchery become repetitive and redundant by the end where I started skipping chapters because none of it was new. Finally, seeing some pictures of people and places Bourdain talks about would have been great too.
Nevertheless, I would recommend this book to all food lovers and especially people who are toying with the idea of becoming restaurateurs or cooks. The author’s advice and warnings about the business are sound. Not only the practical side, this is a very human piece of literature that reveals its author to be a man who may have grown up a couple of decades too late, but isn’t too vain to admit that when he did it was in a large part because of those who took a chance on him and supported him when he was at his worse.