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on 21 November 2000
Anthony Bourdain, Executive Chef at Les Halles, New York, has written far more than yet another memoir. Within these pages you will find humour, tragedy, pathos, engaging wit and attention gripping story telling ability. Oh yes, and horror! Never before has the lid been fully lifted from the bubbling cauldron of a professional kitchen to reveal to a hitherto unsuspecting public the full contents therein. Drugs, sex, rock'n'roll and much worse in the sort of excesses which put Fellini and Ken Russell to shame! Gasp at the incredulous characters who appear, sometimes occasionally, in Mr Bourdain's kitchens. Be afraid - be very afraid - as Mr Bourdain tells us all those little tricks of the trade which go on behind closed - or swinging - doors. Having attended catering college and started a career as Sous Chef many years ago I admit that some of these tricks are fairly common knowledge. But there are still tales here which grabbed my attention and made me vow never to go near certain restaurants again! Being based in America gives this book a certain distance - the sort of 'it couldn't happen over here' attitude which predated the arrival of McDonalds - and eccentricity which may deter many from buying it. Their loss. They will be missing out on one of this year's surprise successes, one of the most entertaining food books on the market and the sort of brutal reality that seems to have been lost in this country. Quite possibly, though, it is not lost but just hidden under a glutinous sauce of celebrity chef and Deliaism!
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on 20 October 2010
First off, let me just say that this is a fantastic book. I had a lot of fun reading it, which is why I'm giving the book itself 4 stars.

However, I feel that I should warn people about the Kindle version. They seem to have used OCR or something, as there are LOTS of typos and mistakes. "I" (referring to Bourdain) often becomes "J", words are pushed together ("I did notthink that..."), and punctuation is often missed out entirely. It's very frustrating and often makes sentences hard to understand. I found myself having to re-read sections in order to make sense of them.

If you can look past these faults then go for it, but be warned. I hope that all Kindle books haven't been reproduced as poorly as this (this is my first Kindle purchase).
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Anthony Bourdain is a very good writer. His style is that easy flow that seems like he's just talking to you - and it suits this book perfectly.
From his drug-hazed beginnings in chefdom to his (later) lucid appreciation of all things culinary, you do get a real sense of the chaos and artistry that takes place in most kitchens.
He changes tack about 3/4 of the way through and goes from being a hard-nosed old-hander, telling you like it is, to a more self-effacing well-rounded chef, explaining that his way is not always the best way.
It's a culinary roller-coaster ride, full of sharp little stories, and handy advice for people eating out in restaurants (what to avoid, specifically!) - as well as an open and honest assessment of his own career.
An easy read - quite rewarding, not particularly gripping, but worthwhile all the same.
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on 12 August 2001
This man can't just cook, he can write. That was my first surprise. The second surprise was realizing how interesting the world of cooking and behind-swinging-doors kitchen life seemed to me after reading this book. He makes what would seem, to me anyway, a mundane and even boring sub-world come very much alive for the reader. Mr. Bourdain obviously loves what he does, and he communicates that love with great joy and, quite often, with the bawdy relish of a teenager telling a dirty joke to his friends.
I couldn't put it down. I laughed out loud. I learned a ton of new information about food, cooking, and the restaurant business. I recommended it to a friend and he loved it. It made me want to meet the author and hang out in his kitchen. What more can you ask for from a book about being a chef?
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on 24 November 2001
Kitchen Confidential is a delightful read. The balance provided by Bourdain between gritty realism and anecdotal humour is fantastically enjoyable and fresh perspective of the culinary underbelly.
Bourdain takes you on an extraordinary journey through his life, and, through world that is located behind the double doors of restaurants. Though be warned some of the information given may cause you to shun the catering business for all eternity. Not only is the subject matter unbeknown to many folk, thus making it fascinating, but also the way in which Bourdain transmits his thoughts and experiences to the reader is utterly gleeful. His style makes the pages flow giving the read a very personal and stylised experience.
Recommended to me by relatives this book turned out to be a blinder. Sleep was lost; meals were left cold and work undone. The pages contained within the card cover are so easily readable, you will lose track of time.
The world of "Chefs", "Waiters", "Line Cooks" and "Runners" is not glamorised nor is it berated. It is simply presented for what it is. Myself having no prior knowledge as to the true nature of the backrooms in restaurants was surprised, amused and shocked at what goes on out of the publics view. Some of Bourdain's stories are truly horrific but at the same time strangely comforting. It is nice to know that the inhuman hours taken on by chefs are actually real people.
Aside from the realistic, humorous and eye-opening truths revealed in Kitchen Confidential, there are also some bits of highly useful information. Such as, one should not eat fish on a Tuesday, because the delivery was made six days ago, and has been left in a "stinking reach in." Also no customer should have the special on the Saturday, as it will contain the leftover scraps, which have been left to accumulate colonies of bacteria.
I can only urge you to buy this book, if you are looking for a brilliantly enjoyable light read then this is the book to buy.
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As fast and furious as a prep-cook working his way through a pound carrots needing dicing and only a butchers knife at hand and a minute to go. Bourdain lets it all hang out and confirms that cooks are one special breed indeed - when solemnly exercising their creative talents let alone when they're inebriated and/or intoxicated. Both happens a lot in the book but it all helps convey the gristy salty experience it must be to stand with a kitchen akin a bedlam and roomful of people waiting for the soufflé that just collapsed.
It also makes one wonder why we enjoy eating out - even the most unimaginative person can guess what shenanigans go on in the kitchen (and if not, read this book and you won't need any imaginative powers at all). They get up to all sorts and yet, we continually put our palates, stomachs and ultimately lives in the hands of cooks, chefs and kitchen porters.
- Why? Well, Anthony Bourdain has quite clearly survived 25 years in the trade with both tastebuds and narrative powers intact so why shouldn't we - when there is so much to gain. OK, so he does have some sensible advice, which he says he follows himself, including the no-seafood-on-Mondays rule.
Read the book and I think you'll find it as wholesome and satisfactory as four course meal with the one lingering thought it might just have been that one notch closer to perfection had there just been three.
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on 16 September 2001
Kitchen Confidential is Rock 'n' Roll. Set mainly in the New York, Bourdain's life story gives a compelling inside track into that cities restaurant business - a story that manages to be at times personal, at times practical, and at times shocking.
Part of the power of this book is the contrast - between the sophisticated, expensive and respectful dining on the outside, and the tough, base and desperate backdrop in the kitchen.
Bourdain skilfully introduces misfits, subcultures, norms, observances and rituals in a personal, narrative style. This book is so appealling and memorable because the central character - the author - is an engaging, honest and distinctive storyteller, and it's tale is one of real human interest.
The writer and his characters will remain with you after the book; expect to find yourself considering a trip to Les Halles Brassiere on your next trip to New York. Well Worth Buying.
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on 15 November 2003
Once I picked this up I could not put it down. It flows naturally like a good velote and hits you right in the face like a great wine. Whether you are a foody, chef or just looking for an entertaining read this is a must.
Anthony's travels through the underworld of chefdom confirm your worst fears and also build your appreciation of the hard slog that kitchen life really is for most non-TV chefs. From the characters he has met and shows fond affection for in his early years, to the intricacies of fighting to get the clean cloths at the start of a shift.
If your not a chef it is hard to believe at times, but speak to any chef who has read this book and they will tell you that it is very close to their reality. The ride goes from the very top of the souffle to the grimy bottom of the bowl. A must read.
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on 4 February 2003
I was given this book and instructed to read it. I was mildly interested in it as I do love food. What I wasn't prepared for was how much this book would cause me to love food (and be fascinated by it) even more. I loved everything about his book. Of course this doesn't mean that it's the greatest book ever written. What it does mean is that it was exactly what I like in a book.
I laughed out loud many many times. I was shocked in places, especially at Tony's stabbing of a fellow (though arguably deserving) cook's hand!
His love of food was great to read, as was his acid writing style. As a previous reviewer said, it makes me want to meet Tony.
I will be reading A Cook's Tour as soon as get my hands on it. Just read it.
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on 15 July 2014
I saw this title on a friend's bookshelf, read the sleeve and Kindled it up. What a ride!

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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