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Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line

3.58  ·  Rating Details ·  5,175 Ratings  ·  795 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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Chrissi Wood-Smith I absolutely loved this book. I found the world of chefs very interesting. It is worth a read.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Mar 05, 2014 karen rated it liked it
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
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
I've always been fascinated with chefs. I'm a bit stalkerish as I watch or read anything I can get my hands on with them in it.

Rawr! They have food! Good food! And they make the magic and make dishes that I would never dream of. That I don't have to clean up after.
Not that I can afford to eat in the 75 dollar per person restaurant.
I used to sorta fantasize about doing it myself but the hours are just unreal. Even if I wasn't an old lady with a million kid. AND I know that all restaurants aren't
Petra Eggs
Dec 24, 2014 Petra Eggs rated it really liked it
Recommended to Petra Eggs by: Rebecca Foster
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
Mar 22, 2014 Diane rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, food
Parts of this book were so intense I felt like I was hunkered down in a restaurant kitchen with dozens of orders during a massive dinner rush.

Sous Chef describes 24 hours in the life of a cook in an elite New York City restaurant. The book starts on a Friday morning, with the crew spending the day prepping for dinner service, and then the pressurized hours on the line from when dinner service starts at 5pm through the exhaustive "second seating" at 8pm, and then the final meal tickets after 10pm
Mar 18, 2014 Emily rated it really liked it
Shelves: grbp, favorites-2014, food
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
Jan 30, 2014 Erin rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 07, 2014 Snotchocheez rated it really liked it
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
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
Sous Chef gives anyone interested in the dining world a unique inside look at what working the line is like. Maybe more notably, it will create that interest in everyone else! Being a lover of all things food, from both sides of the kitchen door, cooking as well as dining, I am most definitely in the former category. I love to try new dining establishments whenever I can, from the tiny diner no one even notices to the upscale five star celebrity chef establishment. On rare occasions I even like ...more
Serge Pierro
Dec 09, 2013 Serge Pierro rated it liked it
Shelves: food-and-wine
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
Feb 06, 2014 Jillyn rated it it was amazing
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'
First Second Books
This book is a fascinatingly constructed nonfiction narrative -- instead of the personal and emotional memoir, or the action-packed nonfiction personal narrative, it tells the story of the life of the chef through the eyes of the everyman (or every-chef, as it may be) going about a day of ordinary business.

It's like the grown-up version of Busy Town, Busy People!
Mar 30, 2014 Sean rated it liked it
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
Mar 11, 2014 Daniel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Larry H
Mar 25, 2014 Larry H rated it really liked it
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
*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 much 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 current
Apr 15, 2014 Kats rated it liked it
Food is often on my mind. I just love it. I don't always enjoy preparing it, even though prior to having children, "cooking" used to feature on my CV under "Hobbies & Interests". Now it's mostly a blooming chore. For the last few weeks I've been cooking at least four meals a day, two for my children and my better half, and two for me as I've been on a very limited detox diet, not suitable for children (or skinny men). As a result, my life has revolved around food shopping, chopping, cooking, ...more
Gina *loves sunshine*
I listened to this on audio and thought that added to the experience!! I love food, I love cooking, chopping, serving, and I love planning menus. I also love eating at restaurants that cook and make everything from real food...from scratch!! does one classify this kind of restaurant to the fast food, chain restaurant eating masses??? because I say this would be behind the scenes at a real food restaurant..but most people would look at me funny like doesn't every restaurant serve real fo ...more
Megan Treseder
May 05, 2014 Megan Treseder rated it liked it
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.
May 24, 2017 Beth rated it really liked it
IF I had ever wondered about "living" literally in a large restaurant kitchen as a key member of its staff, this book would have directly changed my rainbow wishes. However, it was very enlightening, and I will think about the cogs and wheels grinding "back there" in the future for sure!
Mar 14, 2014 Amy rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
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

After a lot of personal debate, my two star rating represents a personal chip on my shoulder.

I abandoned this book halfway through and read the last chapter. I can't explain why but I don't like Michael Gibney. He is a young, up and coming New York professional, gallivanting around as a stylish non-fic writer with an inflated sense of self-importance, stroking himself about the higher calling of his commitment to the art and love of food. I've heard it before and I've heard it better.

The bo
Angela Risner
Mar 07, 2014 Angela Risner rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 14, 2014 Philip P. rated it really liked it
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
Jun 19, 2015 Kate rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015-books
Thanks to Random House for an ARC which I received last year and only picked up this year. Michael Gibney tells the story of a day in his life as a sous chef in a high end New York kitchen. I was a waitress in college and I have friends in the food industry, so the material was not unfamiliar. I initially had trouble getting into the story, but once I got used to the style, I sailed through. He writes very well, about the food itself, the preparation and the hectic nature of a professional kitch ...more
I love cooking, love watching cooking shows, especially competitions (like Chopped and Iron Chef), so I went into this book thinking that I would love seeing behind the scenes. I am sure I would have, had it been written by someone else. But right from the start, I knew it was going to be horrible. The author read the preface and could barely muster even an ounce of enthusiasm. If the author doesn't even seem to give a damn about what he wrote, how the hell can the reader be expected to? This wa ...more
Nov 18, 2014 Sheila rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 14, 2014 Laura rated it really liked it
One of my favorite restaurant/chef memoirs to date, even if it was occasionally overwritten. And it reminded me of what I already knew: I could never work in a restaurant.
Aug 18, 2014 Debgal rated it really liked it
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.
Jun 09, 2017 Sarah rated it liked it
The narrative style was refreshing as it reminded me of a choose-your-own-adventure book, but the narrator was such a stereotypical frat boy that it was almost nauseating at times.
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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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