Review: Kitchen Confidential

I picked up this 2000 book because I’d seen Anthony Bourdain on a few episodes of his series (and heard about his 2018 suicide).

When I was a teenager, I worked as a busboy at a few restaurants, so I was aware of some of the habits of workers in the business — late shifts, frequent moves, casual relations — but Bourdain took most of these “habits” to extremes, mostly because it suited his personality 😉

Indeed, he reflects at the end of the book on how lucky he is (was) to not be dead, given his drug habits, risk taking, and overall quest for the new, the weird and the outrageous.

This book made his reputation, which was only enhanced by later television shows, and I can see why, as Bourdain is a natural storymaker and storyteller.

I’ll offer a few tidbits from the book, but it’s definitely one of those books that needs to be read to be appreciated:

  • Eat out Tuesday-Thursday, to get the freshest food… and staff.
  • In a business where your word is your honor, keep your word.
  • Cooks take on insane loads of work at short notice. Preparation, efficiency and practice matter a lot (“prior preparation prevents poor performance”).
  • The 70s and 80s in New York took place on a different planet than today.
  • His career was fail, success, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, fail, success. The guy went through a lot of shit, often due to his own behavior, but he kept going. That’s enthusiasm.
  • His suicide at 61, like that of Hunter S. Thompson (one of his idols) at 67, makes me think it was a combination of “life is not worth living” and a fuck-it attitude. Suicide is a serious (one-way) decision, but I can see how some people are more inclined — without invoking a breakdown in mental health.

I recommend this book to anyone (assuming they’ve not already read it!) who’s passed through the swinging doors separating those who eat from those who feed. FIVE STARS.

Here are all my reviews.

Author: David Zetland

I'm a political-economist from California who now lives in Amsterdam.

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