I'm delighted to present the first review by Reader for Life's new guest reviewer, Samantha. As Samantha herself admits, she isn't the voracious reader that I am, so I'm dubbing her the Occasional Reader. Her contributions will be irregular, but I'm happy to have her here. Please join me in welcoming Samantha to Reader for Life!
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain. Bloomsbury USA, 2000.
After seeing Anthony Bourdain on television’s Top Chef as a guest judge and his own series No Reservations, I found his persona charming and fascinating and every time I heard about his acclaimed book Kitchen Confidential, I thought “I need to read that book.” I kept watching him and thinking about the book and just never made the time to buy and read it…until recently. I was prodded by a public event with Bourdain and master chef Eric Ripert in Indianapolis. I wanted to see them and knew a book signing would ensue. Perfect opportunity to buy the book. It would have been nice if I’d read it before Mr. Bourdain signed it, but no such luck. Finally, after meeting him and having him sign a book, I decided to read it. A long lead-in for a review…I mainly want readers of this review to realize I am not an academic or bookworm. I like pop culture and a variety of art forms…so when I read and finish a book, it’s a good thing and it’s worth sharing with other like-minded, busy lifestyle, occasional readers. If a more prolific reader gets ahold of this and hasn’t read the book, then maybe I’m prodding someone else.
Kitchen Confidential is mainly a memoir, revolving around Anthony Bourdain’s culinary career, before television. One of the reasons the book was so attractive to me was what I’d already heard about it…how Bourdain “exposes” secrets of the restaurant world. When I read it, I was less shocked by some of the food handling and procuring methods, but more by realizing how difficult, if not grueling, food preparation really is for cooks. This book explains Bourdain’s journey from his youth and new found love of food, to culinary school and finally to the world of restaurant cooking in New York City.
While his writing is infused with humor and self-deprecation, I was drawn to the serious side of his career path, his addictions and his very deep passion and respect for the food. I enjoyed the toggling between descriptions of sociopathic kitchen antics, to restaurant planning 101 to his delight of new places or admiration for other chefs and/or restaurateurs. I am mainly amazed that this man who seemed to have lived such a full and often wreckless life wrote this book before his illustrious television career even started. In other words, this book describes a pretty full career and yet he was just getting started. Wow.
The walk away from this book speaks to so many folks. It’s like an anthropological look into the restaurant world as well as a beginner’s guide for foodies who want to learn some key terms. It also gives you insight into a man who we really enjoy watching and listening to. His chapter about his trip to Tokyo is a foreshadowing of his television series. I have his most recent book, Medium Raw, to read next, and I’m looking forward to it.