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

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
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Feb 26, 2008

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Read in March, 2008

I come at Bourdain more as a traveler than as a foodie, and someone who found the Travel channel show before the books. I've never seen a travel show host like that before, not The Greatest, but far better than most. I quickly formed an obsession and might currently be suffering burnout - too much, too fast. I'm more likely to judge him on how "punk rock" he is (or isn't), than what type of chef. I was first turned off when going into the mainstream bookstore to look for him in print. Dude has a lot of books out right now... A cursory flip through some of his fiction had me thinking I'd be disappointed. Some of the other books looked like the work of an over-zealous PR agent juicing all they could out his ongoing 15 minutes. But KC is supposed to be the "one to read" and it doesn't disappoint.
I was more into his debaucherous tales of the past than the food snobbery bits. Having done time in kitchens myself (certainly as a "cook", but with perhaps fleeting glances at other's "chefdom") I was entertained with hyperbolic tales of getting slammed on the line, with criminal madness going on unseen by the patron eye. Yet another one who has "been there"...

But there are some strange inconsistencies: one chapter urging "those who want to cook like pros at home" to not under-estimate the importance of garnish, then claiming a lot of "Jackson Pollock" decoration to be unnecessary, and possible gay. His wanting to play both sides of the fence: having been SO down and out, then talking shit about high salary and name dropping a lot of stuff I'll never eat, and don't necessarily want to (I'll taste it, comped...), but I can chalk this unbalanced ego stuff up to "repentant crackhead's remorse". And as he says in the afterword, these are different times. But we know many kitchens, at various economic levels, are still kooky places. More than anything, it's clear that Bourdain possesses an ego that needed to soar beyond the building, no matter how fine an establishment that was...and I'm OK with that.
My real questions center around the mentioned but unexplored character of Nancy, his wife, with whom he has been "stealing horses with since high school". How exactly did she weather the worst of his debauchery era? Why would she stick around if it was really as bad as all that? Is she in fact some Sharon Osbourne character cracking the whip behind the scenes? And is this the woman with whom he has recently had the child that has inspired him to quit smoking? How is that possible at their age (early 50's)? But as you see, review reader, I may certainly be in danger of being too involved in this cult of personality...
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by medders! (new)

medders! Ha, I'll probably never read the book, Chilly, but I sure did love the review.

message 2: by Mo (new)

Mo I love your review, but I can't get past the fact that he physically reminds me of Adam Carolla...

Chris Chilly you summed it up perfectly. I don't have to write my review now because we shared the same exact experience.

message 4: by Maggi (new) - added it

Maggi I want to know more about his wife too. In the epilogue/addendum in the new edition he sounds as if he is no longer married. Could she have stuck with him through all that craziness and left afterward? Is he on the road too much to be married?

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