Jacob's Reviews > Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
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Apr 07, 08

bookshelves: nonfiction-biography-autobiography
Recommended for: Foodies, counterculture cultists, sexdrugandrockandroll types
Read in April, 2008

My first exposure to Anthony Bourdain, via his show No Reservations, left me with with the sense of a true asshole who sneered down his nose with aging punk-rock disdain at people and things he deemed beneath him, and, honestly, it seemed like most people and things were beneath him. For some reason, even though he crossed my Southern sensibilities and turned me off to him on that first exposure, I kept watching the show and realized that there is a lot more to him than that first impression suggested. No Reservations is now my favorite show and when I saw a copy of Kitchen Confidential for sale in the book store, I snapped it up and began reading it that night. I unfortunately wasn't able to keep his voice in my head (his delivery is a large part of the draw of his show for me) but the series of stories from his past that he lays out are captivating even when heard inside my skull as coming from the disembodied larynx of my standard reading voice.

Personally, I didn't find the shocking bits all that shocking. I've been backstage at good restaurants. I've heard it all before. Honestly, I'm not really all that hung up on food safety. Instead it was the parts dealing with his own erratic career path that kept me interested. Instead of leaving this book with the impression that Bourdain was an even bigger jerk than my first impression left me with (as someone suggested would happen), I left the last page of the book with an even more positive view of the guy. Sure, Bourdain is still cynical, obscene, and wears that brusque New York attitude like a badge of honor, but what stands out in his book is his glowing admiration for people who earned his respect for their willingness to work or pushing him down the right path as a chef (his almost loving references to Bigfoot and Pino are prime examples), his seeming compulsion to take in less than desirable underlings, and his complete willingness to point out when and where he screwed up. In this more recent update, he even points out that he learned he was wrong about Emeril Lagasse (as a chef and person, not as a TV Celebrity) and frequently comments that he isn't a top-tier chef because of his own mistakes. He even goes so far as to point out that the only reason he is able to hang out with and talk to the Michelin-starred chefs he always admired from afar is because of his notoriety as author and TV host.

This isn't some self-aggrandizing piece literary self-pleasuring. This is a very human piece of literature that reveals its author to be a man who may have grown up a couple of decades too late, but isn't too vain to admit that when he did it was in a large part because of those who took a chance on him and supported him when he was at his worse.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Rachel (new)

Rachel I really like Anthony Bourdain. I haven't read this book (though I can't wait too) but I love his show. Yes, he does sometimes look down his nose at people, but most of his contempt is reserved for phony tourist traps that are run by people who care more about making a quick buck than about quality. When he is with people who are passionate about their food and their culture, he seems very respectful, even when they are serving him something that looks revolting. I agree that he can come off like a jerk at first, but he really grows on you.


John Yes, Jacob's comment really resonated with me. The first time I read this book I couldn't stand reading more than a few lines and put it aside.

Similarly, I didn't really get into his show compared to some of the others on the Food Network - this was before he found a new home on the Travel Channel..

Maybe it's that in-your-face New York attitude I ran away from (grew up on East Coast myself, now live here in CA) ..maybe it's just that arrogance is a real turnoff for me..

In any case, I started to watch his shows more and and more until I found myself caring what he had to say. Over time he became someone whose opinions I valued and even found refreshing.

What I thought to be his arrogance turned out to be a disdain for pretension. What I thought to be naked sarcasm turned out to be a sense of humor under pressure.

In short I finally looked beneath the surface - something I usually think others don't do enough.


Linda Well said


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