Book Review: Kitchen Confidential

“Don’t eat fish on Mondays.” Have you ever heard that before? If so, you have already learned something from Anthony Bourdain’sKitchen Confidential. Bourdain’s newest book, The Nasty Bits, which is a compilation of essays, has received a great deal of media attention. More specifically, there has been a great deal of attention devoted to all the outrageous, controversial and possibly offensive things he has been saying while promoting his newest book. The usual targets are vegans, Rachael Ray and obese people. Bourdain has written several other books and was the executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles in New York City.

In a move that seems a little too cute to be chosen by Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential is organized in chapters labeled Appetizers, First Course, Second Course, Third Course, Dessert and Coffee and a Cigarette. The introduction includes some serious bravado and blustering: “Of course, there is every possibility this book could finish me in the business.” But, once you read the book, you see that statements like this are true – it really could have finished him. Instead, Kitchen Confidential helped Bourdain reach the celebrity chef status that he so artfully ridicules in Kitchen Confidential (Emeril Lagasse is the target for that rant).

If you have never read any of Bourdain’s books, I would recommend starting with Kitchen Confidential. This recommendation is based in part on the succinct introduction to the life and times of Anthony Bourdain that is included in the book. You will learn about his drug addiction in one chapter and about how he fell in love with French food in another. This dichotomy of sleaziness and sophistication is a running theme throughout Kitchen Confidential.

In addition to giving information about Bourdain himself, this book also provides a “behind the scenes” look into the restaurant business. You learn about when fish is delivered (hence, don’t eat fish on Mondays, they usually haven’t had a delivery since Thursday), the horrors of the buffet, and the ins and outs of the “underbelly of the culinary world” as Bourdain describes it. Kitchen Confidential gives you and I a peek into an entirely different culture – a little world that the people sitting in the dining room never see.

Kitchen Confidential was also the subject of a short-lived TV show. Don’t let the failure of the TV show prevent you from reading this book. It is one that you will think of every time you eat Sunday brunch, which may or may not be a good thing.

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