Martine's Reviews > Kitchen Confidential

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
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Jan 06, 08

bookshelves: non-fiction, biography, memoirs, journalism-in-book-form, north-american, blokey-books
Recommended for: foodies and lovers of gonzo journalism
Read in January, 2008

Anthony Bourdain's memoirs of his life as a New York chef are something of a legend among foodies, and it's easy to see why. A spectacular story full of sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll, Kitchen Confidential has nothing to do with the likes of Delia Smith or Nigella Lawson; the best way to describe the book would be 'On the Road with food'. Bourdain may be vulgar and rather full of himself, but there's no doubt he's a gifted story-teller, and he's on to a good story here. The first half of the book, which charts his own rise from drug-addled rebel to celebrity chef, is a rollicking read -- you really want to find out how this irresponsible heroin-and-cocaine addict goes on to run a huge and apparently successful kitchen. Bourdain does an excellent job capturing his early life, the culinary industry in general and the many colourful people he has met in it, ranging from Italian cheap-fish enthusiasts and uber-macho South American line cooks to harsh but inspiring mentors, dodgy purveyors and, yes, the mafia. Sadly, the second half of the book isn't nearly as good. Once Bourdain has reached his present-day position, his until-then straightforward and gripping narrative turns into a weird jumble of disjointed chapters. He takes the reader through a random day in his life, explains things which should have been explained before, goes off on tangents which don't really go anywhere, and has tips for aspiring chefs which don't really need to be spelled out after the first half of the book. It's still entertaining stuff, but it doesn't go anywhere and really, really could have done with some thorough editing. Personally, I could have done without the second half, but I highly recommend the first half to those who like a good rough tale.
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