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The Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness and the Making of a Great Chef

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  4,640 ratings  ·  305 reviews
What do Mario Batali, Heston Blumenthal, and Gordon Ramsay have in common? Answer: They all survived tours of duty in the kitchen of Marco Pierre White. In the UK, White's brilliant cooking and high-wattage antics have made him a legend: the first British chef (and the youngest chef anywhere) to win three Michelin stars, a chain-smoking, pot-throwing, multiply married culi ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published May 1st 2007 by Bloomsbury USA (first published January 1st 2006)
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Gavin Esdale A line cook here to give you a sort-of answer:

I haven't heard that sentiment myself, but here's some food for thought: valorizing cooks might not be a…more
A line cook here to give you a sort-of answer:

I haven't heard that sentiment myself, but here's some food for thought: valorizing cooks might not be a sign of an empire in decline (I think it's good to appreciate just how fundamental food is to, well, pretty much everything related to stable human society) but it could definitely be argued that the huge media empire that exists around food and cooking has done a disservice to the culinary craft itself in two ways: the first by making a celebrity of the chef, and the second by the misrepresentation of the craft itself.

Cooking as a profession is not made for TV. You have to be a little bit crazy to do the job, and you absolutely have to be crazy to WANT to do the job, and this kind of crazy is not the kind that plays well for an audience that's just there to have their salivary glands tickled. As a job, cooking is a combination of tedium and panic, with occasional moments of glorious satisfaction.

Unfortunately, that moment of glorious satisfaction is expanded to encompass far more of the culinary experience, which is why being a chef can seem to appealing when presented in the cooking show format. Even the rougher parts of it make it look like just part of the grand experience. You won't see the hours put in poring through cookbooks to plan a menu when you don't have a studio's budget, but you will see a figure presented as the near-omnipotent, passionate, and made-for-TV kind of crazy that makes the job look appealing, and, unfortunately, just a little too attainable for someone who thinks they can do the job because they can cook at home and know how to use the Allrecipes website, which does happen, and sucks.

Food is good. Being a cook can be good. Appreciating the labour, resources, and planning that goes into a meal is excellent. Thanking the cooking staff at a restaurant for a good meal can provide one of those glorious moments I mentioned earlier. However, yes, aggrandizing the role of the chef and presenting the job of cooking as either a pretty spectacle OR a merciless and thankless struggle does no good to the craft itself.

So, enjoy your meal and just make sure to thank the chef if it was good and thank the line cooks if it was REALLY good.(less)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,640 ratings  ·  305 reviews


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Jeffrey Keeten
May 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cooking
”And so I took my first step along the long, bully-laden, work obsessed, sleep-deprived, nicotine- and caffeine-fueled, passionate, hot and winding road that would end with three Michelin stars.”

 photo Marco20Pierre20White_zpslumewfk2.jpg

I don’t cook, but oddly enough I enjoy reading about chefs and the skillet laden road they travel to create food that makes their customers close their eyes and raise their hands to the food gods in supplication.

It is really all Anthony Bourdain’s fault. I read Kitchen Confidential after catching hi
...more
Malia
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The Devil in the Kitchen is a truly entertaining book and one I read over the course of two days, because I found it hard to put down. White's anecdotes paint him to be something wavering between a mad genius and a miserable narcissist, but they make for a great read. Though he didn't come across as the sort of person I'd want to be friends with exactly (to be fair, he wouldn't want to be friends with a vegetarian like me either, I suspect), it was enjoyable to read about someone who is so truly ...more
Carol
Jun 22, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
OOooh, he's such a nasty boy. I think I might like to have him cook for me, but I wouldn't want to know him in any other context. I wouldn't want to be his wife and I sure as hell wouldn't want to work for him.

I understand that to some degree a mercurial, self-confident demeanor is a job requirement for being a Michelin-3-star-caliber chef but White comes off as a 5-star jerk. He's very quick to quote positive reviews and people who bolster his image as a sex-god Mick-Jagger-of-the-kitchen. I da
...more
Kid
Dec 27, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book. . .it was unpretentious, well-crafted and interesting. If this sounds like I'm damning it with faint praise I kinda am. . .

Marco White is the self-described "first celebrity chef" aka "rock star chef" - he made great sacrifices to gain three Michelin Guide stars for one of his restaurants and is clearly passionate about high cuisine. It comes across and is compelling. At the end of the day this did not transcend the genre. . .i.e. a memoir by someone at the top of their field.
...more
Ms.pegasus
Feb 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in haute cuisine; and anglophiles
Recommended to Ms.pegasus by: Jonathan Lin of Goodreads
You've achieved your life's dream at age 33. Now what? It's a problem few of us even think about, let alone encounter. It's the problem Chef Marco White faced in 1995. The choices he made at that point were, like his life, unusual and courageous.

DEVIL IN THE KITCHEN is Marco White's memoir. It's the story of a boy from a financially strapped working class home in Leeds. It chronicles the distress of a boy who lost his mother at age 6, who feared the loss of his father from terminal cancer four y
...more
Jim
Dec 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: autobiography
By the end of this book, Marco is neither a devil nor in the kitchen, but you do understand why he once was both. Undeniably a difficult character, the autobiography goes some way to explaining the drive and motivations behind the man and I did wonder if a couple of therapy sessions had added to some of the more reflective and self-analytical passages. On the other hand, selective amnesia is often also in evidence especially when concerning business or personal relationships, although he does re ...more
Shahine Ardeshir
May 12, 2013 rated it liked it
Silly as it sounds, I started reading this book after watching Marco Pierre White in action on Masterchef Professionals. I know precious little about fine dining, but I liked the man from what I saw, and thought that a book about his life would be interesting.

I was half-right.

The book begins beautifully. In fact, the first half was one of the best autobiographies I’d read - about how a young boy from very humble beginnings started a life and built a career in the culinary scene in England. It w
...more
grundoon
3.5 Wow, this is a tough one to rate. On the one hand, it's an autobiography (ghostwritten) of a charismatic, narcissistic, volatile, wildly-talented chef. On the other hand, it's an autobiography of a charismatic, narcissistic, volatile, wildly-talented chef. The story is entertaining, mostly compelling, and there's a good deal of culinary and kitchen life. But the further you read, the more you notice how much has been left out and how just about every anecdote comes padded in justification, r ...more
Jackie C
Jun 18, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: chefs and therapists!
Marco Pierre White has had an illustrious career for sure, but he's no Anthony Bourdain. At least Tony has respect for the cultures of the world and sees what an as* he has been.

I wish Marco well but thought this was just another retrospective of a self-absorbed, workaholic madman who achieved high culinary honors by manipulating, terrifying, insulting, abusing, and ignoring anyone who should have mattered to him (except his wife Mati, who must be a saint or the ultimate masochist).

I'm glad to
...more
Jim George
Marco is undoubtedly a brilliant chef, his accolades and accomplishments proceed him in the culinary world of fine food. As a person; he is arrogant, pompous, self centered, and extremely easy to become disgusted with. It seems as though he left a bigger wake in life as a personality who famously belittled and badgered every friend, lover, family member, peer, acquaintance, customer, and business associate he ever dealt with. If there is such a thing as karma, he is in for a rude awakening. I wo ...more
Jeff
From what I've read, classic French cooking—the kind Marco Pierre White excels in—seems filled with confections. Hillocks of puff pastry or shivering gelees sheltering stronger stuff inside: fish, eggs, puddings of blood or brain.

In a way, The Devil in the Kitchen is like those dishes: under the puff pastry of celebrity memoir lurks the tale of a brutally ambitious chef, wanting nothing in life but his own three Michelin star restaurant. Hands down the best parts of this book are when White talk
...more
^
Jan 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Foodies and budding commercial chefs
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book; in one part a fascinatingly rewarding reminiscence of 1980s London; and in another a raw insight into what it took to succeed, both financially and socially, in the restaurant trade. James Steen (the ghost-writer) has done such a superb job here that found myself wishing that I could now read his book of how he wrote this book. I can’t believe that he could have had an easy time of it.

Good 1980s restaurant food WAS memorable, though mainly because of the
...more
Firecooked
Mar 12, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: foodie-books
Ok, second book in a row that I was just glad to get to then end! The subtitle of The Devil in the Kitchen is Sex, Pain, Madness, and the Making of Great Chef… I think the more accurate title would have been “Being a great chef is an excuse for sex, pain, and madness”. The autobiography covers Marco White’s (big name chef in Britain) life starting as a child with the early loss of his mother, through to retiring young after receiving the highest Michelin accolades possible. You kind of get a “th ...more
Nat K
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: foodie
An interesting insight into the culinary world before it became "popularised" by reality TV/cooking based shows.

I enjoyed the way that Marco told the story of his life. From humble working class beginnings, to the adrenaline fuelled food junkie, who realised at the end of it all, what did it really matter what anyone thought of his food anyway, if it no longer fed his obsessional interest in it.
...more
Red
Nov 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food
Like most chef memoirs, it is more a collection of essays than a coherent narrative of life. I can see how he gained a reputation - cooking was his obsession and it seemed like he had very little balance at all in his life. Combined with losing his mother early and a disciplinary dad, it also makes sense how he'd have an explosive temper and issues with treating people unwell.

I did like how frank he was about not being good with girls, lol. I liked the frankness of his social awkwardness - some
...more
Scott Thomas
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such a stark contrast from Bourdain's book. Marco was focused, driven, and on a mission. Anthony Bourdain was on a mission to make as much money as he could while scoring as much booze and drugs as he could. Both equally great in their own respect.

Marco showed the amount of work that has to go into earning 3 Michelin stars while still pushing back against critics. The shining moments are when he stands up for the front staff and tells customers to literally, "Fuck off." It takes a certain type
...more
BMK
Jul 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really like the first 2/3rds of this book covering his early years and moving steadily up in the world of chefing. However the last 1/3rd just seems to be mostly about score settling and trying to justify why he never talks to any of his ex-colleagues and business partners and why most of it ended up in court cases. A bit petty.
And another really distracting element throughout the whole book was that the first person style and sentence structure which was almost identical to that used in the A
...more
Kae9mm
Oct 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book prepped me for what I would see in Michelin level kitchens. Angry chefs, sabotage, strict rules, and lots of shouting. The narration by MPW was quite nice as well. I’d recommend this book to any young chef, interested in work at Michelin starred restaurants.
Leon Niemandt
Aug 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Good book. Not particularly well-written, but a fascinating account into the obsession that drives a chef that is willing to sacrifice everything to reach the top.
Dawn Elizabeth Reid
Jul 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
“If you've been given opportunities then you have to create opportunities. If you're given knowledge by people, share your knowledge. If you were born with talent, show your talent off.”- Marco Pierre White.
MPW has reawakened my passion for simple but perfect pleasures with this read, my thanks to him for openness and honesty.
...more
Martie Nees Record
Aug 02, 2016 rated it liked it
If you don’t know who Marco Pierre White is you will be meeting a volatile, narcissistic, and in his youth, simply gorgeous, bad boy chef. This autobiography was written with a ghost writer, which makes sense as the author left school at the age of sixteen. Let me clarify he left conventional school in his teens. He did attend many years of boot camp-like training in numerous professional kitchens. This type of brutal schooling helped prepare him to become the first three star Michelin British c ...more
shellyindallas
Mar 19, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: foodies
Shelves: book-club-pick
Marco Pierre White's story is interesting. I'm not a "foodie", but I still enjoyed it. The writing style was kind of rough at times, extremely conversational and would sometimes jump from one topic to the next without much transition (surprised he had a ghostwriter), but all in all it was an entertaining read.
White, like most chefs, is a hothead. His infamous temper was apparently the talk of London's restaurant world during his heyday. Although to me he seems to go overboard at some times--like
...more
Jill
Dec 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: food-literature
Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential - a behind the scenes look into a chef's life - was what got me hooked on food literature. Although Bourdain and White are different in many ways (White's a three starred Michelin chef and he stresses that he never did drugs nor did he binge on alcohol), the Devil in the Kitchen reminded me of Bourdain's book in many ways: the hard scrabble to the top, their accounts of verbal exchanges in the kitchen with the liberal use of foul language, and ultimately, ...more
chucklesthescot
Marco is very blunt and honest in this book and I appreciate that. There is nothing worse than getting a celebrity biography/memoir and there is little of interest in it or all the secrets or scandals are ignored or glossed over. It kind of defeats the purpose. Well you can't accuse Marco of any of that. He tells the reader exactly how things were and isn't worried about altering things to make himself look better. He is happy to tell the stories that make him look like a psycho which does make ...more
Claire
Sep 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-harder-2016
So basically, I'm a huge MPW fan. So there wasn't much chance of me not liking this memoir. That being said, there is a lot to like in it. MPW's story endears him to you from the outset, when he begins his tale as a six year old boy who has just lost his mother. Throughout the book, it becomes clear that this has, and continues to have a significant impact on him. While at points, he does gloss over some less savoury moments in his life, for the most part, MPW is pretty upfront about his own bad ...more
Palma
Jul 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: put-aside
I love to read about what drives ceratin people to perfection and temperments.

This is not a cook book but a biography that I find very honest. It tells of how he grew up and how people used to work really hard at young ages, of growing up and actually living in the outside world of simple pleasures of fishing, playing in mud, catching tadpoles etc

I like this man's honestly and directness. I may not agree with his conduct in a kitchen ,though!
I find it pretty disappointing that this great chef,
...more
Nathan
Jun 26, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Although tempered with brief instances of enticing narration, the book falls very short of its potential. White has a reputation for having a frenetic, perfectionist attitude, yet very little of either comes across in his own book. I think a proper biographer, and not the subject, would have a far more equitable, and interesting, story to tell.
ProofProfessor
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was given this as a present and thoroughly enjoyed it. The crucial thing with ghostwritten books is for (a) the subject's voice to shine through, and (b) the structure and flow to be tiptop. This book delivers on both fronts. Highly recommended, nicely printed, decent enough paper, and I couldn't see any major editorial issues (which always pleases me). ...more
Juliet Slemming
I was hoping for more "Kitchen Confidential".. this was allll about the three stars Marco has won, did I mention he has three stars? if he mentioned it once he mentioned it 100 times... how many stars? 3 I think. Too long and just not funny enough. ...more
Jennifer Foster
Jan 01, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
It's the story of an ego maniac telling you how great he is. I kept waiting for the story to start and it seemed to just be more stories of his awesomeness and hardships. The biggest miss is that the book never develops his emotions about what is happening in his life. ...more
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