Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain

Bloomsbury, 2000
Another thing the visit from my friend Phil turned me on to was Kitchen Confidential,
the autobiography/expose/rant from chef Anthony Bourdain. I found out that Phil and I had been talking about the same guy–I was telling him about this show called “Cook’s Tour” on the Food Network, and he was telling me about the book, yet neither of us could remember his name. When we browsed in Chaucer’s Books–and nothing made my friend happier than being in bookstores, so I certainly indulged him–I asked him for that title and–ah-ha–it’s the same bloke!
Turns out that I’m the last to read it–I’ve mentioned the book to several people and I get the “last on the bus” look.
I was going through a difficult chapter in the Will Durant book–the one devoted to Immanuel Kant, where even Durant suggests he has a bit of a problem reading the man (but not as much as Hegel)–so I eagerly turned to Mr. Bourdain’s down-and-dirty stories from behind the swinging kitchen door.
Bourdain obviously delights in revealing the kitchen of haut cuisine as roiling pits of raw testosterone, much as early on in his career he was shown the blistered and scarred hands of his boss after having the nerve to ask for a bandaid. Bourdain makes it sound like you could cut your own hand off and still be expected to come back to work a few hours later, stump at the ready.
He tells us when not to order fish (Monday), never to order beef well-done (they’ll pick out the worst cut for you, then throw it in the deep fryer), and the few simple ingredients to cook like a pro. In an amusing penultimate chapter, he visits a friend’s restaurant and has to retract all his hard, fast, and swinging-dick rules after seeing the gentlemanly behavior on display. There’s a nice chapter when he discusses his battle scars, and one section on a trip to Japan that made me quite hungry.
Bourdain swears like a sailor, has no fear in telling you what a smack-head he was in his early years, and successfully puts the fear of God into anybody half-thinking of owning a restaurant someday. Own one? I’m nervous now just to walk in one.
I read this in 3 1/2 days, so I don’t feel so guilty of leaving the Kant on hold (that chapter is now done, anyway).

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