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Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  2,900 ratings  ·  500 reviews
The back must slave to feed the belly. . . . In this urgent and unique book, chef Michael Gibney uses twenty-four hours to animate the intricate camaraderie and culinary choreography in an upscale New York restaurant kitchen. Here readers will find all the details, in rapid-fire succession, of what it takes to deliver an exceptional plate of food—the journey to excellence ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published March 25th 2014 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 2014)
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24 hours in the life of a sous-chef.

this is a really fun book for foodies, although in a way, it might be akin to carnivores reading Eating Animals. for people who want to retain the mystery and ignore the warts of what happens behind-the-scenes at restaurants, this might take away the glamorous candlelit magic of the dining experience. not that this is in any way an exposé - everything in this book reinforces restaurants' strict adherence to the health code and the pure love that goes into food
Petra X smokin' hot
This book could never be a film or even the beginning of a new series of 'Chefs' for Food Network. It is unusual in concept being a combination of the existential and stream of consciousness all tied together under the accurately descriptive but mundane title "24 Hours on the Line".

Superficially this is a chef describing what it is like to be the second-in-command in the very busy kitchen of a top restaurant. But bubbling along with the management duties are the preoccupations of a chef, his con
ARC for review.

I'm a sucker for foodie books. Now, don't get crazy, I'm not actually going to COOK anything, so I'm not that interested in cookbooks, but I love me good food that someone else makes, so reading about life in restaurants is incredibly fun for me. Therefore, I knew I would enjoy SOUS CHEF and I did. However, learn from my mistakes! I spent an enormous amount of time using the wonderful dictionary, Wikipedia and translation tools on my Kindle without realizing there was a glossary
This book was SO MUCH FUN! If you like watching Chopped, have ever imagined yourself on a cooking show while dicing vegetables, or just generally enjoy eating fancy food, then this is for you.

Sous Chef is written in second person, which is a great twist because it makes the story seem so immediate. You are the chef that will make or break dinner service, and you're the chef who knows exactly how to fillet a monkfish and test the preparation of the foie gras. You know the kitchen hierarchy and w
Four and a half stars, rounded up.


Sous Chef is a nonfiction book that lets the reader experience what it is like to be a sous chef in a kitchen for a twenty-four hour period of time. The pressures, defeats, victories, and the massive amount of work are all beautifully illustrated in the text, immersing the reader in the culinary world and all it has to offer.

When I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. In addition to being a foodie to the core, I'm also the daughter of an executive chef. I'
Jenny (Reading Envy)
"Even if you didn't work with them you'd be able to tell. It's a certain way of carrying oneself that secretly helps any cook recognize one of his own. An outward air of strength and mental toughness, tempered by some undeniable tinge of anxiety."

The second person narrative is a bit grating in this book, but if you can get past it, this is a great capture of what the kitchen of a busy fine-dining restaurant is like. Not just the kitchen but the culture of the people working in it, inside and out
Serge Pierro
Disclaimer: I won this book via Goodreads Giveaways

Having worked in a restaurant, I find these types of books fascinating. Michael Gibney does a fine job describing the inner workings of a professional kitchen. However, it lacks the vitality of books like Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" or Bill Buford's "Heat". I found myself not caring about any of the people mentioned within. Excellent kitchen detail, but, flat two-dimensional characters. There were also passages of Spanish dialogue
The single biggest thing I miss from leaving Los Angeles more than a decade ago is its vast array of restaurants. My preference usually swings toward those purveyors of the outré dishes as delectably described by Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic of the LA Times Jonathan Gold, rather than the trendy bistros and brasseries that garner Zagat raves and Michelin Stars. (Quite frankly, there's just nothing more gastronomically appealing than scoring a Korean taco from a mobile truck, or discovering ...more
Let's get this out of the way: I'm a food nerd. I've worked in restaurants, I had a subscription to Gourmet magazine for a decade (RIP),I love to cook at home, I consider Mark Bittman one of my idols and I unabashedly love every cooking reality show (even the bad ones like "The Taste" and "Master Chef". Don't judge me.) So when I saw this title pop up on Amazon's new releases, I had to bite, as it were.

Sous Chef follows 24 hours in the life of a New York City sous chef. Author Michael Gibney, on
This started out a little preachy-career-day to me. Focus and commitment and love of the art. I believe in the sentiment and I appreciate what it takes to get that plate in front of me, but I've heard it before.

And I can't say much for the paper-cut-out cast. And, as this was in second-person, I was surprised to find myself included in this cast.

However, I did appreciate the nuggets of real knowledge and food lore that I got from this book. And the food service was like a well choreographed acti
Megan Treseder
The use of second person was too distracting. I honestly don't know why the author employed it here. The narrator was likable, and it was fascinating to read about a day in the life of a sous chef at a very nice restaurant in New York. However, there was too much terminology that I didn't know - it was distracting and tiring to have to flip back and forth between definitions and the text.
Angela Risner
Sous Chef follows Michael Gibney in that role for 24 hours. It's an intimate look into the lives of the people who are so devoted to their craft of service there is little to no room for a personal life.

When I worked for the corporate office of a large quick service chain, I worked 10 shifts in the restaurant to learn about the people and jobs I was supporting. It was very eye-opening for someone who had never worked in food service. Those people work VERY hard for very little money. I used to
Philip P.
What a fun read! Received an advanced copy and am so glad I did. Having always dreamed of being a chef, this book truly gives you a "you are there" feeling. Perhaps this is because it's told in the second person. Now, second person can be very tedious and/or awkward, but not so in this book. Gibney writes well in this second person voice, something very very few can pull off, IMO. Gibney does it masterfully.

Another testimony to Gibney's great writing: this book is almost sheer information/descri
Larry Hoffer
I'd rate this 4.5 stars.

From the moment I realized I loved to cook (and realized I was good at it), I had a dream of becoming a chef someday, of perhaps having my own little restaurant, where I could decide a menu based on what looked good at the market, and cook for people who loved food. Sure, television shows like Top Chef and Hell's Kitchen made being a chef look a little less appealing, but those shows are enhanced for their dramatic value, right?

Michael Gibney's terrific book, Sous Chef: 2
One day in the life of a sous chef, second in command in the kitchen. I enjoyed learning about his work. It is hard work and not one I would want to live. Whenever he went from the first person to the second person I felt a disconnect in the story. I would have rather seen everything through his eyes instead of him trying to have me see it through my eyes as if I were the sous chef. When he told his story I was very interested.
While most people would say I’m an average cook, at best, I willingly (and happily) admit to being addicted to all things food. Whether it’s a shiny new cookbook with lots of pretty pictures, Bobby Flay grilling meat on a New York City terrace, or a dirty down reality show with wannabes mouthing off to their so-called mentor, I’m fascinated by the culinary arts. So, when I heard about this new book, Sous Chef, that promises an in-depth look at a 24 hour period in the manic life of – imagine that ...more
Wow! This is a "day in the life" of a sous chef. After reading this book, you wonder why anyone would want to do this for a career. It was definitely an eye-opener for me.
*I received an ARC through a GoodReads contest. My thanks to the author.

This book tells you everything you ever wanted to know and more… MUCH more… about what goes on behind the scenes in the kitchen of a fine dining establishment. I considered this to be a bit overwhelming, as I am not in the food industry, and this was way more information than I ever wanted or needed. However, I read every single word and have the glazed eyes to prove it.


I think this book is more suited for those who currentl
Feeling like a vicarious chefling, I really enjoyed this book. If you've ever read, "Kitchen Confidential" by Anthony Bourdain, or seen his television show, "No Reservations," you'll be right at home in the kitchen via the mind of a chef.

Gibney really knows his stuff; he's been trained in culinary school and worked his way up the line under some talented chefs. This reads quickly, like a novel, except it's all about FOOD.

This book will leave you ready to hit the kitchen and prepare something a
Oh, this was fun! I gobbled it right up over the course of two bus rides. Gibney's got a lovely authorial voice, and conveys a real sense of immediacy. I felt like I was standing right in his kitchen. I liked the conceit of one single day's service, and I really, really felt for his girlfriend. I am glad I have a passing familiarity with the restaurant business, and just as glad that I'm out of it- though if anything is going to make me wistful, it's a book like this one. It was written in secon ...more
Christi Cassel
Rating: 3.5/5

This book was immediately appealing for several reasons:

1) It’s short. The entire book is only 210 pages, the font is pretty big, and the last twenty-five or so pages is a glossary of “Selected Kitchen Terminology” (everything from “dupe pad” to “transglutanimase”). I knew I’d breeze through this in a couple hours.
2) The subject matter is engaging. The book is categorized as non-fiction, intended “to provide a genuine impression of the industry.” As the subtitle suggests, this is a
4.5 stars. A day in the life of a sous chef in a mid to upper ranking unnamed Manhattan restaurant on a busy Friday. Author Michael Gibney is a well seasoned (...) chef - the sous chef of the title and one of two at this particular restaurant - who, per the jacket flap bio, clearly has a lot of experience. Also per the jacket flap, he holds a BFA in painting and an MFA in nonfiction writing, so clearly he is a very talented and creative guy. You can see this in his writing, which is intelligent, ...more
*I won this book through the Goodreads First Reads giveaway*

I frequently consume food books and memoirs, but this wasn't quite like anything I'd read before. Using second person, Michael Gibney takes the reader through 24 hours in the life of a sous chef - down to the the names and appearances of knives used for the fish to the process of checking inventory. He creates an imaginary kitchen and cast of characters, combined from all his experiences in various roles and restaurants, and merges them
This review originally appeared on my blog,


SOUS CHEF is a book I devoured. Twice. It’s as tasty as the dishes and food it describes.

An excellent look into the daily routine of a chef, it’s told in a creative style that puts the reader behind the knife. Second-person narrative (You pick up a dish, you make carrot puree) is really difficult to pull off, but I think Michael Gibney did a great job with it in this book. For me, that style made it much easier to learn about a kitchen, b
Ramona's Original Blog Post:

A flash of realization happened a few pages into Sous Chef: this was one of those rare moments where a book that reads like an autobiography served to both infuse more knowledge into my brains and further enlighten me about a part of the service industry that I find so fascinating. Not often I come across a writer like Michael Gibney and it is such a wonderful treat when I do!

One day in the life of a sous chef. Somehow, media h
Alysa H.
I received this book through Goodreads First Reads.

I was worried that I might have the all-too-common knee-jerk reaction to a book being marketed as "told in second-person" but Gibney is an excellent writer and he really uses this voice to great effect. While the entire book is by no means in repetitive second-person "you you you" -- there are plenty of long passages that feel more like third-person description -- the world of the professional kitchen proves a perfect candidate for the immersive
Terri Jacobson
A fascinating look at working the line in a high-end New York restaurant. The mechanics of how fine food is prepared and served make for a quite interesting story. The camaraderie and the politics of the kitchen staff were well portrayed. This is a look at what real cooks deal with in their daily life. I enjoyed this book very much.
Lucy Burdette
This book is well-written and would probably appeal to someone who's in the restaurant business--or considering it. It definitely made me think about what's going on in the kitchen when I'm eating out!

But overall, it was simply too much detail about a day in the life of one chef and the small details of kitchen life.
Very interesting book about the workings of high-end restaurant kitchens. Nicely written too - I especially liked the authors series of short sentences that mimic the multiple short tasks that the Sous Chef executes as he works as part of the overall team to prepare each diner's plate prior to it going out the kitchen door. Recommended for any reader who enjoys dining out and wants to learn more about what might be going on behind those kitchen doors while you are sipping your wine and waiting f ...more
Kelly Sedinger
I'm a big fan of the "behind the scenes of the restaurant business" genre, and this is a good one. It's not a long book at all, and while there's not a whole lot of material here that will be a surprise to people who have read Bourdain, Bastianich, and other such books, Gibney's is still a worthy entrant. Gibney's approach isn't so much to give an overview of an entire restaurant operation, but rather to give a very tight-and-narrow look at just one day in the life of the kitchen's second-in-com ...more
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Michael Gibney began working in restaurants at the age of sixteen and assumed his first sous chef position at twenty-two. He ascended to executive sous chef at Tavern on the Green, where he managed an eighty-person staff. He has worked in the kitchens of Morgans Hotel Group, 10 Downing in Manhattan, and Governor in Brooklyn’s DUMBO, among many others. Over the course of his career, he has had the ...more
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“The back must slave to feed the belly.” 1 likes
“When you never see the sun, you at least deserve some time with the moon.” 1 likes
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