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Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
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Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly [Kindle Edition]

Anthony Bourdain
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (322 customer reviews)

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From Amazon

Most diners 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 in Kitchen Confidential, 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. CIA-trained 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 favor 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

From Publishers Weekly

Chef at New York's Les Halles and author of Bone in the Throat, Bourdain pulls no punches in this memoir of his years in the restaurant business. His fast-lane personality and glee in recounting sophomoric kitchen pranks might be unbearable were it not for two things: Bourdain is as unsparingly acerbic with himself as he is with others, and he exhibits a sincere and profound love of good food. The latter was born on a family trip to France when young Bourdain tasted his first oyster, and his love has only grown since. He has attended culinary school, fallen prey to a drug habit and even established a restaurant in Tokyo, discovering along the way that the crazy, dirty, sometimes frightening world of the restaurant kitchen sustains him. Bourdain is no presentable TV version of a chef; he talks tough and dirty. His advice to aspiring chefs: "Show up at work on time six months in a row and we'll talk about red curry paste and lemon grass. Until then, I have four words for you: 'Shut the fuck up.' " He disdains vegetarians, warns against ordering food well done and cautions that restaurant brunches are a crapshoot. Gossipy chapters discuss the many restaurants where Bourdain has worked, while a single chapter on how to cook like a professional at home exhorts readers to buy a few simple gadgets, such as a metal ring for tall food. Most of the book, however, deals with Bourdain's own maturation as a chef, and the culmination, a litany describing the many scars and oddities that he has developed on his hands, is surprisingly beautiful. He'd probably hate to hear it, but Bourdain has a tender side, and when it peeks through his rough exterior and the wall of four-letter words he constructs, it elevates this book to something more than blustery memoir. (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Tony Bourdain's breakthrough book Kitchen Confidential invites readers into a world few have seen more than the tiniest hints of: the hectic, high-pressure world of the professional kitchen.
Written as an expose of sorts, many of the things Bourdain covers will shock the casual diner reading his book, from staff parties afterhours with lines of coke all down the bar to the reasons not to ever order the seafood special or get your steak cooked well-done. Primarily, the book covers Tony's life as a chef, from his drug-filled college days to stints at what must seem half the restaurants in NYC to his getting his life back on track and his success at his current job--yet the book is not a biography (unless of the industry itself); it instead offers on-the-mark observations on personalities, the business of restaurants, and the trials of achieving one's dreams.
While the book's subject matter is in itself interesting, what really makes Bourdain's book excel is his writing style: harsh, frank, and unapologetic yet still paced well and very readable. His descriptions leap out like something from a hard-boiled detective novel and make for an easy read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By efrex
Are you socially incorrigible, substance-dependent, able to curse fluently in multiple Spanish dialects, have a high tolerance for knife wounds, burns, cramped spaces, no sleep, and people looking to stab you in the back at every turn? Well, if you are, and you're not interested in a career in piracy in Latin America, you might want to try being a fancy chef.
Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" is a salty, rambling, rambunctious love letter to the world of a professional chef and to the insane people who inhabit it, interspersed with some advice to the general public (such as why you should never order your steak well-done or a fish frittata, and how many knives you REALLY need to make all those hoity-toity dishes you see on TV). Bourdain gleefully jumps from describing his falling in love with french cuisine as a boy, to his experience as a junior "know-nothing" in Cape Cod, to what a typical day at Les Halles is, to a full-blown food and alcohol orgy in Japan, all at a pace that will leave you gasping for breath.
Not necessarily for the faint-hearted, but if you want to know what life is like behind your fancy dishes, this is a must-read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Informative but Choppy Dec 1 2008
By P. Wang
Mr. Bourdain's bittersweet tale of being a chef rippled through the mass media in 2000 when it was first published. The candid account of his 25-plus years in the culinary industry outraged some (mostly restaurant owners), delighted some (mostly culinary professionals), and shocked many (the public).

Mr. Bourdain discovered his passion for food when he was ten, while on a family vacation to France. He stumbled into the restaurant business when he took a job as a dishwasher in Provincetown during his college years. This was when he discovered the dysfunctional yet fascinating world of the culinary profession. The eye-opening experience as a novice cook introduced him to the world of booze, drugs, power, and money. He knew by then there was no turning back.

Mr. Bourdain's tales are candid and raw. He starts as a ruthless punk and finishes as a professional chef. How the 25-plus years have changed him is remarkable, although Mr. Bourdain rarely dwells on retrospective analysis . Rather, he relies on his stories to lead the way.

In a mere 300-some pages, Mr. Bourdain explains why readers should not order seafood on Mondays, why so many restaurants fail, why good cooking is not about creativity, how to get professional-grade cookware cheap, and how he keeps on top of things via his private intelligence network. As a result, his narrative is sometimes choppy.
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Tony Bourdain's work unpretentiously describes the world of cooking as seen by a cook. His gruff prose and semantic swagger match perfectly the world he describes, often reading like a collection of choice transcripts from kitchen conversations. If you want insight into a world you don't know, if you want the lowdown on what those immigrant are doing to your food while you enjoy candle light and conversation, or if you want information on how to become, yourself, a culinary master--this is not the book for you.
If, however, you've spent any time at all behind the swinging doors--as cook, expediter, dishwater, or even waitron--even for just a short time--you'll love it. You'll see a lot of people you know, you'll relive luxurious and painful experiences. You will laugh until you cry.
This insider-chic is not, however, Tony's one big flaw. That flaw, rather, is the foolish notion that his life outside of the restaurant is uninteresting. He left me hungry for more information on his drug problem (and, no, I do not consider this non-pertinent to his culinary career) and more about his wife, Nancy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Are you SURE you want to be a chef? May 6 2002
I admire Anthony Bourdain. Because I consider myself such a dilettante in so much of what I do, I have a lot of respect for people who are absolutely focused, to the point of monomania, on achieving greatness in what they do. Working in a Bourdain-run kitchen would be easy: all you have to do is be invariably punctual, absolutely reliable, committed to the same high standards he is ... and then work yourself to death to achieve them.
Bourdain's story is entertaining, fast-paced, profane, funny, iconoclastic (at least if you like celebrity TV chefs), revealing, occasionally nauseating, deeply personal ... and probably a lot more fun to read about than to have lived through. You won't look at restaurant food the same way again. Sure, you may be more suspicious about what it is you're really being served. But more importantly (to Bourdain anyway, I suspect), you'll have greater understanding and respect for the people who prepared it. The seamy underside of the restaurant world is the most headline-grabbing part of the book, but the real value comes from the author's own experiences, his revelation of the life of an NYC chef, and his obvious love of great food prepared well.
At the same time, though, it seemed to me like there's a little bit of bait-and-switch to it. Bourdain spends the whole book talking about the manic, hard-rock, drug-driven, frenetic, foul-mouthed, take-no-prisoners world of the professional chef, laying it all on the line for us: this is what it's really like. And then, in one chapter, he pulls the rug out from under himself with his profile of Scott Bryan, another New York chef who, Bourdain admits, is night-and-day different from our author, and also more knowledgeable, more respected, and more successful.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This book was fantastic!!
This book was fantastic!!! It was like he was talking to me while I was reading it. Really really cool.
Published 2 months ago by lauren langdon
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
I know it's been out for a long time but I never got around to reading it. I'm sorry I waited, straightforward, honest and clever. I can see why the man became a star.
Published 6 months ago by Degra
5.0 out of 5 stars So happy with this book
Great book. Funny and educational. Will read it again. Written with such sarcastic ype of humour. Will buy other of Mr. Boudain's books.

Published 7 months ago by Arthemize
5.0 out of 5 stars great read
Very funny and interesting read. I always love autobiographies where you can learn something--in this case the life of a chef.
Published 10 months ago by kcarter
5.0 out of 5 stars Bourdain is a star!
The altruistic poet-chef regales me with his wonderful tales of delight dans la cuisine. An enjoyable and hilarious read from cover to cover, Anthony Bourdain is a delightful and... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Ilsa von Earnhardt
5.0 out of 5 stars Unvarnished account of the life of a chef
I found this book to be well written, very entertaining and a very informative account of his motivation to become a chef, and of the day to day life of a professional chef.
Published 15 months ago by Peter Weltman
5.0 out of 5 stars ahhhh Tony
I am a classically trained chef myself and having read the book and nodding, laughing and reliving the anecdotes in my head, minus the hard drug use it could have been my life in... Read more
Published 15 months ago by eric
2.0 out of 5 stars french canadian
Not sure whether its my heritage or experiences but i was frustrated and disappointed.
Probably more at the readers than the writer. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Andre Therien
5.0 out of 5 stars Paired with Medium Raw, it's a great story
I read Kitchen Confidential a few years ago and recently re-read it just prior to reading Medium Raw. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Patrick Lister
5.0 out of 5 stars great read
I love watching Bourdain's show. This book was a hilarious read, showcasing the behind the scenes world of 70's and 80's kitchens across new york. Read more
Published 23 months ago by ryan chornick
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