Wednesday, February 24, 2010

REVIEW: Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, by Anthony Bourdain. P.S. edition published 2007 by Harper Perennial. Nonfiction. Memoir.

What is there really to say about Anthony Bourdain's immensely entertaining memoir Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly that hasn't been said a thousand time before?

Celebrity chef Bourdain writes in a distinctive, catchy style about his days as a culinary acolyte, from working in a seafood shack in Provincetown as a teenager to cooking school in New York to days and nights slaving in kitchens large and small, dishing the dirt and ladling out the behind-the-scenes antics of restaurants famous and infamous. He writes with loving detail about the culture of the kitchen, including its seamy side and changes in the business over the years. And he includes lots of little tidbits that will make you think twice the next time you're eating out:
Chilean sea bass? Trendy. Expensive. More than likely frozen. This came as a surprise to me when I visited the market recently. Apparently the great majority of the stuff arrives frozen solid, still on the bone. In fact, as I said earlier, the whole Fulton Street fish market is not an inspiring sight. Fish left to sit, un-iced, in leaking crates, in the middle of August, right out in the open. What isn't bought early is sold for cheap later.
He'll also make you reconsider the wisdom of Sunday brunch and ordering your meat well-done. He heaps abuse on the French, but not on French cuisine, and he writes candidly about his own shortcomings and strengths. He'll make you laugh and wince- but mostly laugh. I tore through Kitchen Confidential in about three days, laughing all the while. I watch his Travel Channel show, "No Reservations," whenever I get the chance and I'll admit to being somewhat smitten with his unpretentious persona- on display in abundance in his sparkly memoir- so I'm not exactly objective. And what I like the most about Kitchen Confidential is what I also like best about his show- his relentless passion and enthusiasm for food and his love for the restaurant business.

It's just such a fun book. Obviously, if you like foodie books or restaurant memoirs, Kitchen Confidential is a must-read. If you enjoy garrulous, high-energy personal stories and down-and-dirty, roll-up-your-sleeves narratives, it's the book for you, too.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review from the publisher.