Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

4.2 644
by Anthony Bourdain

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When Chef Anthony Bourdain wrote "Don't Eat Before You Read This" in The New Yorker, he spared no one's appetite, revealing what goes on behind the kitchen door. In Kitchen Confidential, he expanded that appetizer into a deliciously funny, delectable shocking banquet that lays out his 25 years of sex, drugs, and haute cuisine.

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When Chef Anthony Bourdain wrote "Don't Eat Before You Read This" in The New Yorker, he spared no one's appetite, revealing what goes on behind the kitchen door. In Kitchen Confidential, he expanded that appetizer into a deliciously funny, delectable shocking banquet that lays out his 25 years of sex, drugs, and haute cuisine.

From his first oyster in the Gironde to the kitchen of the Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center, from the restaurants of Tokyo to the drug dealers of the East Village, from the mobsters to the rats, Bourdain's brilliantly written, wild-but-true tales make the belly ache with laughter.

Editorial Reviews

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
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're gonna love it.
Restaurant Business
With equal parts wit and wickedness, Bourdain [does] the unthinkable by revealing trade secrest that chefs and restauranteers cringe to read.
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.

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Product Details

Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Unabridged, 6 cassettes, 9 hrs.
Product dimensions:
4.15(w) x 6.15(h) x 2.64(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

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