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

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
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Jul 01, 08

bookshelves: non-fiction
Read in July, 2008

I think that Kitchen Confidential would have packed more punch for me if I had read it when it was first published (in 2000). Much of what Bourdain was revealing about the restaurant industry became pretty well known in the years after he wrote this book - at least to people who had any interest in it - so I wasn't blown away by such revelations as:

Unless you're one of us already, you'll probably never cook like a professional.

Why, you might wonder? Because the home chef may not have the right tools, like a decent chef's knife. Really? Because I think that's probably the first thing that a home chef would invest in. Bourdain goes on to list a bunch of other things that are needed to cook like the pros, like a non-stick sauté pan and plastic squeeze bottles. And - get this - here's a top secret ingredient that's keeping your home kitchen from approaching the culinary levels maintained at Bourdain's former restaurant, Les Halles. Are you ready for it? Come a little closer... it's shallots! An ingredient that Tony describes as an item that is hardly found in a home kitchen.

Apparently we've come a long way in the past eight years. The behind-the-scenes of the restaurant industry have been exposed to us by numerous tv shows, books, and our familiarity with celebrity chefs. So there's not that much that seemed shocking or surprising when I finally got around to reading KC.

But it's not really Tony's fault that I was late in getting to his book. I actually really liked his writing style. If you've ever seen No Reservations (his Travel Channel show), you can probably hear the dry wit of his slightly gravelly voice, and that's what I heard as I read. He did a great job of staying true to his voice, and it was easy to imagine him narrating the story to me. Parts told early on, when he talks about how he became interested in food were very personal, interesting and funny. Following his crazy career path was a wild ride. And he really doesn't hold back on the details - the good, the bad, and the very, very ugly are all revealed - so it's still like a backstage pass in some ways.

My copy of the book had been revised to include a preface by Bourdain that acknowledges some of what I've mentioned above (mainly about changes in the public's awareness of the cooking industry), as well as an afterward that fills us in on the fact that Bourdain is no longer cooking at Les Halles, but working for the Travel Channel filming No Reservations, as well as some minor corrections to the text.

Overall, a great read if a little dated.
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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RandomAnthony Good review, Val! Watching the show after reading Kitchen Confidential is kind of fun because he cross-references back and forth a lot. Don't forget, by the way, the new season starts next week...


Valerie I don't get to watch No Reservations as much as I'd like, but I'll definitely try to keep up with the new episodes. Thanks for the heads-up!


message 3: by Kim (last edited Jul 02, 2008 06:41AM) (new)

Kim I wish I could cook.. :(

Great review, Val!




message 4: by Shelly (new)

Shelly I'm not a home chef. As I like to say, I can fuck up spaghetti. So I wasn't really into the section where he talks about "must haves" for the home kitchen either, just for different reasons.
I picked up the book not b/c I'm a foodie so much as I really like Bourdain. I, too, like his writing style and enjoyed the personal parts best. And you're right about the timing w/ the book. I read it this year and thanks to the popularity of cooking shows and celebrity chefs the whole shock value/expose thing was pretty much nil.
I also read it right after I read Devil In The Kitchen by Marco Pierre White, and his experience makes Bourdain look like a line cook at Houston's, so I was kind of underwhelmed by his achievements, and skeptical of his authority.
That being said. It's a good read. Bourdain can really write, and I like his p.o.v.--
I'll shut up now, but first let me say great review!


Valerie Thanks, Shelly. Would you recommend Devil in the Kitchen? I've never heard of that...


message 6: by Shelly (new)

Shelly I would recommend it, yes. I read it for a book club I'm in and although I enjoyed it, a few of the girls thought Marco was an ego-maniacal a-hole.
But bravado doesn't bother me if it can be backed up.
It was less food and more drama than KC, maybe that's why I liked it so much.
There's a cooking show on BBC called "Last Restaurant Standing," and I think White is going to host the American version coming soon to Bravo or NBC (?). He's a character, you should check him out.


Books Ring Mah Bell excellent review, Valerie!


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