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Kitchen Confidential Hardcover – 21 Aug 2000
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|Hardcover, 21 Aug 2000||
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Kitchen Confidential is for diners who believe that their sublime sliver of seared foie gras, topped with an ethereal buckwheat blini and a drizzle of piquant huckleberry sauce, was created by a culinary artist of the highest order, a sensitive, highly refined executive chef. The truth is more brutal. More likely, writes Anthony Bourdain, that elegant three-star concoction is the collaborative effort of a team of "wacked-out moral degenerates, dope fiends, refugees, a thuggish assortment of drunks, sneak thieves, sluts and psychopaths," in all likelihood pierced or tattooed and incapable of uttering a sentence without an expletive or a foreign phrase. Such is the muscular view of the culinary trenches from one who's been groveling in them, with obvious sadomasochistic pleasure, for more than 20 years.
Bourdain, currently the executive chef of the celebrated Les Halles, wrote two culinary mysteries before his first (and infamous) New Yorker essay launched this frank confessional about the lusty and larcenous real lives of cooks and restaurateurs. He is obscenely eloquent, unapologetically opinionated, and a damn fine storyteller--a Jack Kerouac of the kitchen. Those without the stomach for this kind of joyride should note his opening caveat: "There will be horror stories. Heavy drinking, drugs, screwing in the dry-goods area, unappetizing industry-wide practices. Talking about why you probably shouldn't order fish on a Monday, why those who favour well-done get the scrapings from the bottom of the barrel, and why seafood frittata is not a wise brunch selection.... But I'm simply not going to deceive anybody about the life as I've seen it." --Sumi Hahn
'Elizabeth David written by Quentin Tarantino.' -- A.A. Gill
'Extraordinary...written with a clarity and a clear-eyed wit to put the professional food-writing fraternity to shame.' -- Observer
'It's not exactly Delia.' -- Guardian
'Just reading it I felt sated...real, fast and frantic, this book conveys the buzz of the kitchen in a way that only a real cook will be able to understand.' -- The Times
'More gripping than a Stephen King novel.' -- Sunday Times
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Everything is big in New York from the buildings, automobiles, mass of humanity, size in general of restaurants, and meal portions. Miss Piggy gave excellent advice on the food size front when she pouted out "Never eat more than you can carry." Another factor in New York eating is that the percentage of those cooking meals at home must surely be the smallest anywhere in the world which is evident in the relative sparsity of large grocery retailers. To cope with a large concentrated population, many living in tiny apartments barely big enough for a bed and armchair, eat out for much of the time, and restaurants are plentiful and larger than the average.
It is in these commercial, busy, large and almost round the clock, 7/24 eating establishments that Anthony Bourdain learnt and perfected his culinary skills which this excellent book interestingly details. His passion for food is obvious as he once mused "To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese, is a life not worth living."
You probably (though not absolutely) have to enjoy food, to enjoy eating out, to get the most from this. Food luddites can let this one pass by. But for anyone with an interest in what goes down our throats, stomachs and intestinal passages this book is a gem.
It is pacy - think "noir" - in the depictions of the shady characters and shadier scenes behind that amuse bouche you are wolfing down. It is also a reminder of how organised restaurants have to be, in back-of-house. The workload, hours and pressure are monumental: As Bourdain states, good cooking really is a labour of love, of old-fashioned craftwork. It certainly ain't art.
If you like food then buy this and devour it. Pun intended.
Note: Avoid the Monday fish specials at all costs.
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