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Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

4.2 646
by Anthony Bourdain

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Last summer, The New Yorker published Chef Bourdain's shocking, "Don't Eat Before Reading This". Bourdain spared no one's appetite when he told all about what happens behind the kitchen door. Bourdain uses the same "take-no-prisoners" attitude in his deliciously funny and shockingly delectable book, sure to delight gourmands and philistines alike. From Bourdain's


Last summer, The New Yorker published Chef Bourdain's shocking, "Don't Eat Before Reading This". Bourdain spared no one's appetite when he told all about what happens behind the kitchen door. Bourdain uses the same "take-no-prisoners" attitude in his deliciously funny and shockingly delectable book, sure to delight gourmands and philistines alike. From Bourdain's first oyster in the Gironde, to his lowly position as dishwasher in a honky--tonk fish restaurant in Provincetown (where he witnesses for the first time the real delights of being a chef); from the kitchen of the Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center, to drug dealers in the East Village, from Tokyo to Paris and back to New York again, Bourdain's tales of the kitchen are as passionate as they are unpredictable. Kitchen Confidential will make your mouth water while your belly aches with laughter. You'll beg the chef for more, please.

Editorial Reviews

If you've ever been curious about just what goes on in the kitchen of your favorite eatery, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly is just the book you've been waiting for. Anthony Bourdain, acclaimed executive chef of Les Halles restaurants in New York, Washington, D.C., Miami, and Tokyo, spills the beans, so to speak, on "what it feels like, looks like, and smells like in the clutter and hiss of a big-city restaurant kitchen."
Joseph Klein
Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential has already turned a few stomachs with its frank discussions of what goes on in the kitchens of America's favorite restaurants. He revels in anecdotes that would make an Ozzy Osbourne roadie question the catered stuff on his plate. Sex, drugs, sex near food while on drugs: Bourdain gleefully dishes the dirt on some of his former haunts, from the fish houses of New England to the elegant-on-the-outside eateries of New York. Yet the tone he takes with his joyously muckraking expose/memoir follows a distinctive rhythm, a blunt, boastful swagger that recalls some accounts of organized crime. Bourdain is just as likely to tantalize with his descriptions of food as disgust with his descriptions of the people and actions swirling around it, the activities disgusting yet somehow funny at the same time. It's an exhilarating combination often invoked in mobster tell-alls, but while there's more than a little goodfella in Bourdain -- he dices, dresses, and dishes with trash-talking braggadocio -- he clearly loves what he does. While he admits early on that the call of the kitchen often comes only after every other option has failed, he clearly enjoys working in such terrible conditions. It's like he has the key to the ultimate backroom club, a place of privilege where everyone operates with a different set of rules and gets off on a different set of thrills. Eat to live, don't live to eat, the saying goes, and for Bourdain, life is never better than when he's the one doing the cooking.
Onion A.V. Club
Restaurant Business
With equal parts wit and wickedness, Bourdain [does] the unthinkable by revealing trade secrest that chefs and restauranteers cringe to read.
USA Today
...the kind of book you read in one sitting, then rush about annoying your coworkers by declaiming whole passages.
New York Magazine
Utterly riveting, swaggering with stylish machismo and precise ear for kitchen patois.
Denver Post
You'll laugh, you'll cry...you're gonna love it.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's 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.
The New York Times
[A] literary chef, as appreciated for quips as for steak frites.
New York Daily News
Funny, irreverent, scandalous.
The Denver Post
You'll laugh, you'll cry…you're gonna love it.
The New York Times Book Review
The guy is hysterical…in a style partaking of Hunter S. Thompson, Iggy Pop and a little Jonathan Swift, Bourdain gleefully rips through the scenery to reveal private backstage horrors.
Joseph Epstein
...the best book I have ever read about the nuts and bolts mechanics of running serious restaurant kitchens...brilliant on the tumult of running a kitchen that might turn out anywhere from two hundred to four hundred serious meals a night...Bourdain is a wild old boy and a bit of a lost soul, and, being strongly anti-malarkey, utterly believable.
The Weekly Standard
Morse Partners
From that magical boyhood visit, when he became a "foodie" in France, to today, when he is executive chef of the chic New York bistro, Les Halles, Tony Bourdain has experienced it all. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, he learned his trade, as he puts it, "knocking around" Europe and toiling in some famous multi-starred restaurants in New York and cities north, west, east, and south. He has served as dishwasher, prep-drone, fry-cook, grillardin, saucier, and sous-chef along the way, and the strange and exotic and horrendous subculture of the professional kitchen is as familiar to him as the meals he and his fellow "lifers" turn out, noon and night, in the great -- and sometimes not so great -- restaurants of our world.

Now, in this astonishingly frank, often outrageous, more-often hilarious romp of a book, Bourdain opens up the swinging, clattering kitchen doors to show vividly, pungently, "what it feels like, looks like, and smells like in the clutter and hiss of a big-city restaurant kitchen."

Woven in are the stories of some of the great and less than great characters he has known--Howard, the "revered elder statesman of Cape Cod cookery," with wild, unruly white hair and a gin-blossomed face, who had a lifelong love affair with seafood and wrote two books about it; Tyrone, the broilerman, "big, black, hugely muscled, with a prominent silver-capped front tooth, a fist-sized gold-hooped earring, and a size 56 chef's coat stretched across his back like a drumhead;" "Bigfoot," the giant Jewish restaurateur of Greenwich Village who remains beloved and/or despised by generations of waiters, bartenders, cooks and chefs but who taught Bourdain how to wring the last penny from this hugely difficult business; Nando, the famous pastry chef of the Rainbow Room, who found time to hurl profiteroles at the skaters in the Rockefeller Center rink, sixty-four floors down; Pino Luongo, the "Prince of Restaurant Darkness," who ran a string of Tuscan restaurants in high-priced New York venues; and all the zany, beleaguered, unpredictable talents, many of them immigrants and the self-styled marginals, who have worked for and with Bourdain in his 25 years in the business.

Woven in too are the secrets of the trade and their consequences, sometimes nefarious, for diners: Why Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are the only truly good nights to eat in a restaurant, why chefs rub their hands over customers who want their beef well-done; why seafood frittata is a definite no-no at a weekend brunch.

And with no nonsense clarity, Bourdain spells out in a few pages what it takes to bring your kitchen up to par with the pros. It is not as difficult as you might think. It may take as little as a new Global chef's knife and the right kind of bottle to spritz your serving plates like a pro…

Tony Bourdain may be a master chef by profession, but he is also a born raconteur. A portion of his book, in a somewhat different form, ran in The New Yorker and his portrayal of the "underbelly" of the contemporary big-city restaurant can only be compared to George Orwell's in DOWN AND OUT IN PARIS AND LONDON. The great difference between Orwell's hellish vision and Bourdain's is that Bourdain is enormously proud of his profession, and trumpets its "grandeurs" as well as he bemoans its "miseries." As he puts it, "For me, the cooking life has been a long love affair, with moments both sublime and ridiculous. But like a love affair, looking back you remember the happy times best, the things that drew you in in the first place, the things that kept you coming back for more."

KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL is that kind of meal.

New York magazine
Bourdain’s prose is utterly riveting, swaggering with stylish machismo and a precise ear for kitchen patois.
New York Times Book Review
Hysterical.... Bourdain gleefully rips through the scenery to reveal private backstage horrors.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.34(w) x 8.04(h) x 0.86(d)

Read an Excerpt

"In that unforgettably sweet moment of my youth, that one moment still more alive for me than so many of the other 'firsts' that followed, I attained glory. Monsieur Saint Jour beckoned me over to the gunwale where he leaned over, reached down until his head nearly disappeared underwater, and emerged, holding a single silt-encrusted oyster. It was huge and irregularly shaped in his rough fist. With a snubby, rusted oyster knife, he popped the thing open and handed it to me, everyone watching now, my little brother shrinking away from this glistening, dripping, vaguely sexual-looking object. I took it in my hand, tilted the shell back into my mouth as instructed by Monsieur Saint Jour and, with one bite and a slurp, wolfed it down. It tasted of seawater, of brine and flesh, and somehow . . . of the future." —from Kitchen Confidential

Meet the Author

Anthony Bourdain is the author of Bone in the Throat. This is his first work of non-fiction. He is the executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles in New York City.

Brief Biography

New York, New York
Date of Birth:
June 25, 1956
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
High school diploma, Dwight Englewood School, 1973; A.O.S. degree, The Culinary Institute of America, 1978

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Kitchen Confidential 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 646 reviews.
DianeLorraine More than 1 year ago
Not for the faint of heart. A raucous and raw trip inside the restaurant biz. From nuts and bolts to totally obscure characters, and sometimes disturbing andecdotes, Bourdain delights the senses and the mind with his hilarious and detailed tales of the dark side of the industry. with his own brand of smarts and charm he takes you through his childhood adventures in France up to owning his own succcesful restaurant in New York. He touches on Universal truths throughout the business as well as his own sometimes touching and oftentimes unreal personal experiences. For anyone who loves to dine, who works in restaurants or has thought about it, this is a must read. Never a dull moment.
Mannadonn More than 1 year ago
First off I have to say¿I love this man! Bourdain¿s book is arrogant, crude, bullying, and egotistical and I loved every word, every line, every put-down, and every cuss word! Though this book was filled with technical terms and names of chefs that I have never heard of, Bourdain mentions in the preface that the book was originally intended for other chefs¿not for the general layperson. I read it anyway.

I was introduced to Anthony Bourdain by a friend via his television show ¿No Reservations.¿ I immediately fell in love with his holier-than-thou, better-than-most attitude. Maybe it is the thrill and fascination of the ¿bad boy¿ but I could not stop watching the show. Discovering that he had written a book was the icing on the cake.

The book is not a summary or recollection of his travels through different countries, cultures, and foods with his show. I believe that is contained in another book. Instead this book was more of a memoir; Bourdain¿s journey through the culinary trenches and godforsaken kitchens. Bourdain reminisces over his childhood and the cold soup that awakened his taste buds, the oyster that aroused his ensuing passion for food.

Bourdain may be a condescending a**hole but he seems humbled by some of his experiences and the people he has admired over the years. I enjoyed the fact that he wrote an afterword that made certain apologies to some individuals he had criticized throughout his book and his time as a chef. However, a friend of mine hated the fact that he made apologies. She feels that if he is going to be a supercilious bastard he should make no apologies for such behavior.

This book detailed many disgusting habits of the kitchens he worked in. Bourdain provides the reader with thorough descriptions of foods he has cooked and foods he enjoyed eating¿and if you know Anthony Bourdain you know he enjoys some un-American fare. Eating the gelatinous goo from behind the eyeball of the fishhead he was enjoying has remained in my head.

The reader who picks up this book is in for an intense ride. A love of food, cooking, or Bourdain himself is recommended before delving into this six-course book. I definitely have no complaints about this book. But hey¿who am I? Just a lowly reviewer with an unsettling attraction to Anthony Bourdain that¿s who.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like Anthony Bourdains writing style and have always wanted to work in a kitchen. After reading this book I realized I could never cut it a fast paced culinary environment. Down and dirty portrayal of how it is to run a kitchen and the kind of people it attracts. If you like his writing style you like this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very enjoyable and easy quick read... and I'm glad he went a little easier on Emeril towards the end.
Anonymous 4 months ago
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a chef. After reading this book, there is no way I could have survived as one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am an Anthony Bourdain tv fan. I've watched all his shows esp. No Reservations and Parts Unknown. I love all the places and different foods he tries and the people he meets. It was good to read and find out how he started being a chef. It certainly isn't an easy life but one he loves.
barbaraRT More than 1 year ago
I had read this fascinating biography before so I was happy to add it to my Nook library. Mr. Bourdain paints a very real picture of life as a professional chef.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book after watching a season of his show. This is a good book to read if you want information on the inner workingds of the restaurant business. Beware that the author lives a pretty rowdy lifestyle an uses the language to describe it. Do not purchase if you are easily ofended.
LosLavolpista More than 1 year ago
I had read somewhere that you would read quotes from this book out loud to friends. I didnt buy it, i'm not the type of person who would do that. But there i was drinking a beer and reading quotes from Bourdain and his understanding of spanish adj's derived from his kitchen staff to a friend. It was awesome... His interpretation of the language, different cultures, and terms were spot on. I was thinking in my head, "finally a man that gets it"...He understands the struggle of going from nowhere to somewhere, and adapting and surviving. That is Bourdain! a true tale of survival. Great book and goes well with a beer as well.
risuena More than 1 year ago
I absolutely love Anthony Bourdain's humor. He's cynical, direct, and witty. I admire his approach on life, food, and people. I watched his "No Reservations" show and was immediately thrilled to find he wrote books as well. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Kitchen Confidential and had a hard time putting it down, probably one of his best works! I think he's a great writer, narrator, and commentator.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read A Year at the CIA and some other books about professional cooking, but this one offered the most unvarnished insight into what really happens in the kitchen. If you have every wondered how all the food for your table arrives at the same time when the resturant is packed to the rafters, then this book will entertain you. It could also turn you into a Howard Hughes germaphobe as well. The only drawback is sloppy editing. The author uses the same methaphors and analogies throughout the book and they become repititious and distracting. Needed a fresh set of eyes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyable. A man who knew what he wanted to do and hung in there.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kept me up all night turning pages and running to the kitchen to find something to eat because I was salivating his visuals are so delicious I could taste them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved it
Billy_The_Kid More than 1 year ago
This has to be the all time best restaurant memoir. I simply love Tony Bourdain and the way he tells his stories.
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Still reading, haven't quite decided.
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1TJG More than 1 year ago
Anthony Bourdain tells it the way it is.   I couldn’t put it down, and enjoyed every minute.  I completed it in one sitting.   He shoots from the hip and doesn’t candy coat the reality as many other so called culinary “Super-Stars” do.  I have read other chefs books on my Nook, but this is the only chefs book I have purchase a hard copy of for my home library.
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