Four Kitchens: My Life Behind the Burner in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv, and Paris

Overview

At the French Culinary Institute, Lauren Shockey learned to salt food properly, cook fearlessly over high heat, and knock back beers like a pro. But she also discovered that her real culinary education wouldn't begin until she actually worked in a restaurant. After a somewhat disappointing apprenticeship in the French provinces, Shockey hatched a plan for her dream year: to apprentice in four high-end restaurants around the world. She started in her hometown of New York City under the famed chef Wylie Dufresne at...

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Four Kitchens: My Life Behind the Burner in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv, and Paris

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Overview

At the French Culinary Institute, Lauren Shockey learned to salt food properly, cook fearlessly over high heat, and knock back beers like a pro. But she also discovered that her real culinary education wouldn't begin until she actually worked in a restaurant. After a somewhat disappointing apprenticeship in the French provinces, Shockey hatched a plan for her dream year: to apprentice in four high-end restaurants around the world. She started in her hometown of New York City under the famed chef Wylie Dufresne at the molecular gastronomy hotspot wd-50, then traveled to Vietnam, Israel, and back to France. From the ribald kitchen humor to fiery-tempered workers to tasks ranging from the mundane (mincing cases of shallots) to the extraordinary (cooking seafood on the line), Shockey shows us what really happens behind the scenes in haute cuisine, and includes original recipes integrating the techniques and flavors she learned along the way. With the dramatic backdrop of restaurant life, readers will be delighted by the adventures of a bright and restless young woman looking for her place in the world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Food writer and French Culinary Institute graduate travels the globe as an unpaid kitchen apprentice, demystifying everything from haute cuisine at Senderens in Paris to molecular gastronomy at Manhattan's wd-50. In this entertainingly snarky memoir, Shockey chronicles the diffident curiosity of a female chef determined to learn, laugh, and cook in a professional kitchen. "Cooking in restaurants," she writes, "will teach you speed, precision, discipline and hard work. It's like the army: It can be tough, but you come out stronger." Along the way, she eats dog meat in Vietnam, fixes gnocchi in Israel, and cleans crab under a black light in France. Her bosses include such celebrated chefs as Wylie Dufresne and Didier Corlou. But amid the cooking tips, gourmet foods, and exotic techniques, she is driven by a simple question: do diners prefer meals that soothe with flavor or those that surprise with technique? With an insider's perspective shaped by the differing levels of trust and responsibility she earns, Shockey makes a reliable guide, as she illuminates the human elements of friendship and fatigue within the underpaid, unglamorous, and repetitive reality that is restaurant kitchen work. (July)
The Providence Journal
"Something hot to read this summer."
The Globe and Mail
"A charmer, an honest and good-humoured behind-the-scenes look at life in the kitchen, very much in the vein of Bill Buford's Heat or Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential."
Booklist
"Rich descriptions of coworkers and locales accompany her main theme of struggle and growth, and recipes inspired by items on the menus of the restaurants she worked further enhance it. . . . Just as her talent and skill earned Shockey respect in the kitchens in which she worked, her unique memoir will garner her favor from the world of food writing."
Jewish Book World
"What makes the book come alive are the stories. Shockey clearly understands what it takes to get along with the varied and often ego driven personalities. . . The four kitchen adventures are challenging and Shockey makes the most of each one. The smells and rhythms of the countries permeate her writing, as does her appreciation of what she is learning."
Cathy Erway
"An insider's ode to all the sweat, blood and tears that goes into the finest meals of the world, told with reverence, affection and honesty. Lauren Shockey is a fearless chef without borders, and her appetite is infectious."
Adam Roberts
"Kitchen Confidential meets Eat, Pray, Love; Shockey's book is full of heart and humor and is essential reading for anyone who plans to work in a restaurant kitchen."
Clotilde Dusoulier
"Aspiring cooks will love following Lauren's trials and tribulations as she immerses herself in each kitchen's microcosm, and shares the lessons she learns."
Robert Sietsema
"Kitchen memoirs are common enough, but how many are composed by actual writers? Four Kitchens by Lauren Shockey is one of them, well enough written that it can stand next to Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. The prose is smooth and free-flowing, exciting enough that you'll race to the end of each section. What's more, like any good travelogue, we learn more about these places than we would from a guidebook-and pick up a wealth of cooking tips along the way, along with valuable insights into why chefs go through what they do to become chefs."
Dorie Greenspan
"Four kitchens, four countries and four delicious adventures from a young cook with moxie. So many food lovers have dreamed of cooking their way around the world, Lauren actually did it! Luckily for readers, along with her knives, she traveled with a sense of humor and an ear for a good story."
Amanda Hesser
"With Four Kitchens, Lauren Shockey immediately establishes herself as an adventurer and raconteur-and as one of the most appealing food writers of her generation."
From the Publisher
"Something hot to read this summer."—The Providence Journal

"This interesting blend of history, culture, cooking, and travel is highly recommended for any lover of literary travel writing. Those who enjoy cooking will learn through her experiences and be inspired to try Shockey's kitchen-friendly recipes featuring the spices and flavors she discovers along the way."—Jane Hebert, Orange Cty. Lib. Syst., Orlando, FL, Library Journal

"A charmer, an honest and good-humoured behind-the-scenes look at life in the kitchen, very much in the vein of Bill Buford's Heat or Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential.The Globe and Mail

"Rich descriptions of coworkers and locales accompany her main theme of struggle and growth, and recipes inspired by items on the menus of the restaurants she worked further enhance it. . . . Just as her talent and skill earned Shockey respect in the kitchens in which she worked, her unique memoir will garner her favor from the world of food writing."—Booklist

"An American woman's transcultural education and discovery that an unpaid culinary apprenticeship is 'not just a culinary experience' but 'a human experience' . . . reveals the pride and frustration of learning and mastering innovative as well as classical approaches. In her travels-which included enduring hierarchical, occasionally sexist commentary in New York and Paris, sampling challenging (to her Western palate) fare in Hanoi, or rediscovering casual dining in Tel Aviv-veteran foodies and Top Chef fans will recognize the tedious prepwork and the burden of performing over long hours . . . She provides convincing evidence that immersion can be the fastest, most effective route to learning. As she remarks at several points, culinary school did not prepare her for what she encountered. Realizing that few chefs actually spend time behind the burner and that the role is often managerial created disappointment, but led to the rewarding affirmation that home-cooking is a passionate, inspiring, valid outlet. Each section includes recipes, many of which translate to the average kitchen.

Cooking for clientele and friends alike, Shockey highlights the importance of hands-on, communal involvement-food as nourishment with 'soul' rather than high artistry."—Kirkus Reviews

"With Four Kitchens, Lauren Shockey immediately establishes herself as an adventurer and raconteur-and as one of the most appealing food writers of her generation."—Amanda Hesser, co-founder of food52.com and author of The Essential New York Times Cookbook

"Four kitchens, four countries and four delicious adventures from a young cook with moxie. So many food lovers have dreamed of cooking their way around the world, Lauren actually did it! Luckily for readers, along with her knives, she traveled with a sense of humor and an ear for a good story."—Dorie Greenspan, author of Around My French Table

"Aspiring cooks will love following Lauren's trials and tribulations as she immerses herself in each kitchen's microcosm, and shares the lessons she learns."—Clotilde Dusoulier, author of Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris and founder of Chocolate and Zucchini

"Kitchen Confidential meets Eat, Pray, Love; Shockey's book is full of heart and humor and is essential reading for anyone who plans to work in a restaurant kitchen."—Adam Roberts, creator of The Amateur Gourmet

"An insider's ode to all the sweat, blood and tears that goes into the finest meals of the world, told with reverence, affection and honesty. Lauren Shockey is a fearless chef without borders, and her appetite is infectious."—Cathy Erway, author of The Art of Eating In"Kitchen memoirs are common enough, but how many are composed by actual writers? Four Kitchens by Lauren Shockey is one of them, well enough written that it can stand next to Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. The prose is smooth and free-flowing, exciting enough that you'll race to the end of each section. What's more, like any good travelogue, we learn more about these places than we would from a guidebook-and pick up a wealth of cooking tips along the way, along with valuable insights into why chefs go through what they do to become chefs."—Robert Sietsema, author of The Food Lover's Guide to the Best Ethnic Eating in New York City

"What makes the book come alive are the stories. Shockey clearly understands what it takes to get along with the varied and often ego driven personalities. . . The four kitchen adventures are challenging and Shockey makes the most of each one. The smells and rhythms of the countries permeate her writing, as does her appreciation of what she is learning."—Jewish Book World

Library Journal
Shockey, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute and a food writer for theVillage Voice and other publications, has penned a memoir of her time working as an unpaid kitchen apprentice in four different countries. Even with college credentials, she quickly learns that real-life experience is an entirely different type of education. Despite meeting fascinating people, she finds that working in a restaurant is often hours of tedious chores, regardless of the establishment's reputation or cuisine. Also intriguing are her adventures exploring her surroundings, as she samples the native fare at out-of-the-way eateries that residents frequent. Most of these tales are pleasurable, an almost vicarious feast for the reader, but a few are a bit unsettling, such as Shockey's resolution to eat dog in Vietnam. VERDICT This interesting blend of history, culture, cooking, and travel is highly recommended for any lover of literary travel writing. Those who enjoy cooking will learn through her experiences and be inspired to try Shockey's kitchen-friendly recipes featuring the spices and flavors she discovers along the way. [See Prepub Alert, 1/10/11.]—Jane Hebert, Orange Cty. Lib. Syst., Orlando, FL
Library Journal
Shockey trained at the French Culinary Institute. Then she got out into the real world of restaurants and found she had more to learn, so she decided to apprentice at four upscale restaurants worldwide. With more and more chef memoirs appearing and everyone into food, this could, um, catch fire. And it's being pitched to the Eat Pray Love crowd.
Kirkus Reviews

An American woman's transcultural education and discovery that an unpaid culinary apprenticeship is "not just a culinary experience" but "a human experience."

Following employment in a leisurely restaurant in Toulouse, France, Shockey embarked on a personal excursion to practice in several renowned kitchens around the world. From haute cuisine to fusion cooking, and from emphasis on technique to taste, her episodic debut reveals the pride and frustration of learning and mastering innovative as well as classical approaches. In her travels—which included enduring hierarchical, occasionally sexist commentary in New York and Paris, sampling challenging (to her Western palate) fare in Hanoi, or rediscovering casual dining in Tel Aviv—veteran foodies and Top Cheffans will recognize the tedious prepwork and the burden of performing over long hours. Shockey attempts to enliven these familiar topics with anecdotes about her struggles to find relationships in ex-pat communities; the resulting patchwork reinforces the book as the tale of a 20-something in search of direction. The author does not glamorize her travels, candidly noting the awkwardness of financial privilege in Vietnam and half-joking that Parisians are "a clan of snobbish people." Shockey avoids esoteric, gastronomical musings or in-depth coverage of each city's history and offerings, but she provides convincing evidence that immersion can be the fastest, most effective route to learning. As she remarks at several points, culinary school did not prepare her for what she encountered. Realizing that few chefs actually spend time behind the burner and that the role is often managerial created disappointment, but led to the rewarding affirmation that home-cooking is a passionate, inspiring, valid outlet. Each section includes recipes, many of which translate to the average kitchen.

Cooking for clientele and friends alike, Shockey highlights the importance of hands-on, communal involvement—food as nourishment with "soul" rather than high artistry.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446559874
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 7/27/2011
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Lauren Shockey is a food writer whose articles have appeared in many print and online publications including the Village Voice, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Slate, and the Atlantic Food Channel, among many others. A graduate of The University of Chicago, Lauren also holds a diploma in classic culinary arts from The French Culinary Institute and a Master of Arts in food studies from New York University.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 13, 2011

    A must read!

    This book is great for food lovers of all ages! It is easy to read but not over simplified and is hard to put down once you start it. I would recommend this to anyone!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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