“I’d learned something. Viscerally, instinctively, spiritually–even in some small, precursive way, sexually–and there was no turning back. The genie was out of the bottle. My life as a cook, and as a chef, had begun.
Food had power.”
“Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly” by Anthony Bourdain.
Certain books, I believe, are probably more effective when explored during a certain time, at a certain place, or in a certain context. Kitchen Confidential is a little book that apparently shook a few people up, written by a brash, no-holds-barred chef to related his adventures in the “culinary underbelly,” an underbelly that some people might have found a little shocking. I’ve been a fan of Anthony Bourdain’s TV program on the Travel Channel, No Reservations, for some time now. Rather, my roommate is a big fan and watches the reruns fairly regularly, to the point where I can recognize almost all the episodes. The point is, I was familiar with Bourdain, his work, and his voice before picking up Kitchen Confidential, so I felt I’m being pretty accurate when I said I knew what to expect. Reading the book, you hear the words distinctly in Bourdain’s precise, almost bored drawl, as he turns a phrase or an insult as deftly as his chopping knives, taking us with him on his journey to discover his love of food and his love of the crazy life that chefs live.
I can assure you, though, if there was one thing I did learn in this book, it was the “no fish on Monday” thing. I don’t know if it was just the irony of the world or an actual result of what Bourdain talks about, but I’d just read about no fish on Monday, and then realized I had ordered fish on Monday and, sure enough, the next day, I felt like hell. I still wonder if that was some sort of psychosomatic result, or if the fish really was a really bad idea.
Despite the lack of surprise for much of the content of the book, I still immediately enjoyed it. Bourdain is an extremely charasmatic man, in a rough sort of way, and his adventures and exploits are not only interesting, but also informative. Having worked in fast food and retail for a long time, I understand the crush of being a worker mule, of the little tricks and politics hidden from the unassuming public, and really appreciated seeing it at work in another field. It was a little inspiring, actually; I learned a little bit about the culinary underworld, with some insights on how it could related to my own underworld. Bourdain’s world is one where hard work and dedication pay off, where loyalty is extremely valued and it doesn’t matter if you’re busting your ass of for fourteen hours every day with only five hours to sleep. You do it, because that’s how it’s done, and you love it and that’s how you succeed. Not for the faint of heart, but definitely something that could carry over toward any sort of thankless job that, even though you know it sucks, you still, somehow, love it anyway.
I really enjoyed Kitchen Confidential, as a foodie, as a slight addict to food television and personalities, as a hard worker, and as an artist with a passion with something. It was a lot of fun to see how the voice I knew so well from television translated so completely into prose, too. And even as Bourdain talks of recycling bread, burning fingers, bleeding cuts, and sex at the prep station, it made me really want to go out to a great restaurant and enjoy a really great meal.
Books read: 59/100.