You know you’ve watched too many episodes of “No Reservations” when reading Kitchen Confidential provides the experience of an audio book. I’ve wanted to read this for years, so was very excited when my book club picked it as an upcoming read. I was not disappointed.
In Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain discusses how he came to focus on food through seminal experiences in France such as eating freshly harvested oysters. He unflinchingly describes his early years as a grunt in various restaurants in Provincetown and NYC and his training at the CIA. Along the way, he acquired and overcame a drug addiction while developing a fondness for what many would consider unsavory characters. Readers who are offended by vulgarity might want to skip this one as Bourdain would make a sailor proud. Luckily, I am a sailor so I just enjoyed it.
I enjoyed this book a great deal for the humor, the brutal (no really, BRUTAL) honesty, and wide ranging knowledge shown. Frequently, I found myself reading sections aloud to my boyfriend – you gotta hear this! The book made me want to try all sorts of different dishes that I never have. At the same time, the descriptions of the sweaty, fetid, festering kitchens and the customary cuts and open sores on the hands of the people preparing the food makes me think twice about eating anything I haven’t prepared myself. Any momentary thoughts I ever had about how romantic it would be open a restaurant – gone. Never coming back.
One of my favorite parts was when Bourdain shipped out on a last minute trip to Japan to check up on a restaurant for his bosses. At the time, he had not been doing much travelling and was content as a New Yorker. His descriptions of Japan, jet lag and the process of familiarizing oneself in such a foreign land was fantastic. I also really appreciated the many mea culpas he included in the book – admitting to his youthful screw-ups, explaining why other people really are much better chefs than he is, and even saying that despite everything he has said about Emeril Lagasse, he now thinks Emeril really is a good chef who came up the hard way. This book is not only a great book about restaurants and love of food, it’s a master class in how to do humility right.