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Cooking Dirty: A Story of Life, Sex, Love and Death in the Kitchen

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2009

    Cooking Dirty by Jason Sheehan

    I'm a 50 years+ veteran in the food service industry and have not read a book since The Forsythe Saga, but bought this book and read it. It tells a very honest story of the real lifestyle of a cook robot who lives, breathes, sleeps, eats and drinks food. It portrays the back of the house a less glamourous view away from the front of the house and all of the players. It's not always pretty, hence the title, but it is realistic. I remet everyone I've ever known and every experience of my career.

    I recommend it to anyone in the industry.

    Jan A. Lovell
    Retired Restauranteur/College Department Chair-Hotel/Restaurant Mgt.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 5, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Loved it. I was rolling with laughter when he described his early years with his Mom. However, this book had brutal reality of hard times working in the kitchens and then the sensitivity of a young man coming of age.

    This book isn't for the faint of heart. Jason certainly did a good job describing how kitchens work. You certainly felt you were with Jason on whatever adventure he was in whether it was at the pizza parlor, the Chinese bar, the back of a kitchen or in his childhood home.

    Jason is an excellent writer and I can't wait to read something from him again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2012


    Cute and scary

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  • Posted August 22, 2009

    This is real life!

    I loved it! This is a must have book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 6, 2009

    Delicious and Malicious Dish

    By Bill Marsano. Before Jason Sheehan became a food writer for an alternative Denver paper called Westword, before he won a James beard award for his writing, before he finally managed to semi-settle down with Laura the Love of His Life, he was not what you would call a chef but what you would call a cook. Maybe even a MERE cook, the kind of guy you'll find in an inferno kitchen in Tampa, cooking for Early Birds. Let this be clear: Sheehan's rowdy, cheerfully profane story is not about becoming the sort of clean-apron, tall-toque star of a Food Network series but about starting at the blue-collar bottom and mostly staying there. So if you're a chef-worshiper, a doctrinaire foodie, a devotee of Food Arts magazine, maybe this book isn't for you.

    He throws you right into the madness; It's Tampa, all right, and the Crab Shack's kitchen has a barely competent FNG ["F'ing New Guy"], is a man short because of a poorly timed murder) and soon is another man short when moronic foolery renders the owner unconscious. "As was only to be expected," Sheehan writes, "that was when the real dinner hit finally came tumbling in." The palce is packed and the staff goes crazy in a weirdly competent way: "Sturgis and I sang along with the radio, bouncing on our toes, burning energy while we had it and twirling tongs on our fingers like gunslingers before dropping them onto the steamer's bar handles. We shouted callbacks to Floyd with the strange, exaggerated politeness and house slang of the line: 'Firing tables fifty-five, thirty, sixty-eight, thank you. Going on eight filet. Four well, three middy, one rare. Working fourteen all day, hold six. Five strip up and down. Temps rare, rare, middy waiting on po fries, two well going baker, thank you. Wheel, new fires, please. We've got space.' We yelled at Roberto, at Floyd, at the radio and each other. We yelled at the runners . . . and when we weren't yelling, we were muttering, cursing, talking to the meat, the fire; begging and yelling and cajoling more heat out of the grills, bricking the steaks with iron weights, throwing them in the microwave to speed them along to temp, constantly poking and prodding and plating them to the rail, waiting for po--for starch--and veg and wrap . . . . Then the FNG passed out from the heat."

    All is chaos. Little is understood and the rest barely seen; all you have is the hope that, like the FNG, you'll regain consciousness, catch on and catch up during this long wild ride. And in time you will as you follow Sheehan from one job (and confrontation and firing or walkout) to the next in several states with various pals; tune in as Laura gets (mysteriously) kicked out of Mexico; get the lowdown on hotel cooking (good for pay and benefits, but it crushes creativity) and stand amazed when Sheehan is hired as a corporate chef by Wegman's ("I would . . get looks like I was there to rob the place.").

    All in all, this book is like a bacon sandwich: A delicious greasy pleasure. Dig in!--Bill Marsano is a James Beard Award-winning writer; he specializes in wine, spirits and travel. He served time as a waiter in his youth but was never invited into the kitchen to "play with knives and fire."

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  • Posted June 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Raw, honest writing.

    Sheehan's a good, good writer. He's not great, not quite yet, but he conveys emotion very well, and is capable of being sentimental without being sappy. The book covers his life as a cook, but Sheehan takes pains to express that he's not one of those "fancy Food Network" types with perfectly sterilized kitchens and charming good attitude. Sheehan fits more into the Anthony Bourdain school of thought: real kitchens are messy, often filthy places, real cooks are flawed, vibrant people, and real cooking is a lot like giving birth (somehow beautiful and disgusting at the same time).
    I first became aware of Sheehan through his restaurant reviews in the Westword, a local newspaper. His columns are scathingly (and hilariously) angry when a place isn't up to his standards, and warmly amused when he find a place he's fond of. He prefers cozy neighborhood bars to expensive "in" restaurants, considers the actual food more important than the presentation, and seems to personally know every cook in the city. All of which makes him the most interesting and open reviewer I've ever read.

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  • Posted June 28, 2009

    A Steaming Plate of Life in the Kitchen makes "Cooking Dirty" a Winner!

    Readers of Tom McGuane will immediately recognize Jason Sheehan. They'll recognize his obvious character flaws, bad decisions, self destructive behavior, and stretches of poor personal hygiene. And if they're comfortable switching from the blue sky expanses of the modern West to the tight quarters of the kitchen, they'll enjoy reading "Cooking Dirty" far more than they expect!

    A decade spent waiting tables brought me into contact with a wide range of whacked out rebels in the kitchen. Most were dregs, the kind of people I'd hoped my mom would never know I worked with. But some were real people with compelling stories and a love for their craft. Sheehan most assuredly falls into the latter category.

    Maybe it's the jumps from one self indulgent escapade to the next, or the delayed-yet-ultimately-evident personal growth, but I can't help liking Jason Sheehan. His writing displays the sharp wit and sardonic humor I'd expect from a line guy, but is far more satisfying given the added dimensions of self awareness and introspection. I imagine his writing style to be similar to his spoken word, and that this tale could have just as easily been told over an evening of Marlboros and Wild Turkey.

    Sheehan's prose is solid, and he is a compelling storyteller. With decent marketing and publicity, "Cooking Dirty" should be the first of many offerings from this cook-turned-author. And while he will undoubtedly be compared with other celebrity writers of kitchen nonfiction, Sheehan deserves better. On a road trip or as an escape from the corporate rat-race, "Cooking Dirty" is a first rate read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 27, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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