Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

August 2007

Foodie that I am, I’d been wanting to read this book for years. I finally bought it in a shop called “Books for Cooks” in Melbourne—a store devoted entirely to books about food and drink. Heavenly.

If you’re familiar with Anthony Bourdain’s personality, you’ll know what to expect from Kitchen Confidential (though I hear he’s mellowed somewhat of late). It’s a pretty macho, rough and ready, take-no-prisoners look at the restaurant industry.

While certainly not on a par with Down and Out in Paris and London, it does cover some of the same territory. I already suspected that I never really wanted to work in the big-restaurant industry, and this book confirmed it for me. It’s not a particularly pretty field to work in, and it seems to have very little to do with the love of food (though Bourdain repeatedly stresses that it was his love of food which steered him towards the industry in the first place).

The most enlightening chapters were the ones about what’s really going on with the food you order in a restaurant (I think I’ve been put off swordfish for good), and about the chefs who run kitchens nothing like Bourdain’s—i.e., calm and civilized, rather than testerone-laden pirate-ship operations. Overall, an entertaining read if you’re interested in the food-service business—but if what you’re really interested in is food, then I suggest browsing through a cookbook instead.

Further reading…