Book Review: Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Title: Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

Author: Anthony Bourdain

Genre: Nonfiction, Food & Drink, Food, Autobiography, Memoir, Biography, Cooking

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Published: January 9, 2007

Page Amount: 312 pages

Goodreads Summary: A deliciously funny, delectably shocking banquet of wild-but-true tales of life in the culinary trade from Chef Anthony Bourdain, laying out his more than a quarter-century of drugs, sex, and haute cuisine—now with all-new, never-before-published material. New York Chef Tony Bourdain gives away secrets of the trade in his wickedly funny, inspiring memoir/expose. Kitchen Confidential reveals what Bourdain calls “twenty-five years of sex, drugs, bad behavior and haute cuisine.”

Why I Read:  The most momentous of books often come out of the blue, I’ve found. Whether it’s a random book found by accident in a used bookstore or one I’ve been meaning to read for years, the ones I don’t expect to make an impact have a tendency to impress. Two Anthony  Bourdain books were left for me by my cousin in my apartment as he came to visit me. I didn’t pick them up for a week. Even though I love kitchen memoirs, Anthony Bourdain has always struck me as an arrogant actor who panders to his audiences. I wasn’t hot on reading it. As luck would have it, I picked up the book on my way to school – thinking that I’d give it a chapter try – and was beyond pleasantly surprised. 

Review: If I had to pick out the most important things that I took away from Kitchen Confidential, I can name three: 

  • Stick to eating seafood on Tuesday through Thursday if you want the freshest catch
  • Don’t wash a non-stick saute pan
  • Smash your garlic with the back of a knife and don’t use the press unless you want your garlic to lose half its flavour

Let’s cut to the chase: I adored this book. Scratch that, I found it one of the funniest and entertaining books that I’ve read in the past year. Not only was the writing absolutely top notch, but the content was beyond hilarious. I loved Bourdain’s style of writing in that blunt dry wit that he is famous for. Each word leaps off of the page in colourful phrases and the prose is full of stories of drugs and rock and roll.

Maybe you wouldn’t expect a kitchen memoir to talk about chefs coming up with their most inventive of creations while high off their minds on cocaine. I certainly didn’t. Then again, I didn’t anticipate Bourdain growing on me like a particularly aggressive fungus. By Chapter 2, I was absolutely addicted to his vivid manner of storytelling. Each chapter covers a different part of his life, whether it’s being an uppity jerk in Cape Cod, the CIA (Culinary Institute of America – not the Central Intelligence Agency), or learning how to manage a kitchen. The story jumps from each moment from the next, and whether it’s told in a narrative or direct dialogue – each stage is somehow perfectly suited to the play being performed there.

Probably if I had to say what stuck with most –  it would be remiss if I did not share with you Bourdain’s particular life view. He says very clearly that he wants to experience everything, he wants to live life to the fullest. Since tasting his first oyster in France, food has absolutely fascinated him. Even when he was hooked on drugs, working with gun runners in NYC and selling (only part of) his soul for television – he has had a passion for food and for experiencing the most he can.

It’s so incredibly at odds with our current health culture, where we are all meant to eat as little as possible and season absolutely nothing. As a partial health nut, I’m not against making dishes healthier using less butter or more vegetables. But in the spirit of Anthony Bourdain, I’m more inspired to cook to the taste bud. How society and culture has developed is such a fascinating subject and it’s a shame when we won’t let ourselves go and explore each different soup and partially undercooked seafood dish in the furthest of countries.

I am in love with this book. As of now, it’s my top book for 2017 (and for 2016). I recommend it highly to everyone because I think it’s one of those books that exposes people to not only the industry of cooking but also the blunt writing style of a chef who has international exposure (and yet who feels more authentic through his words). Seriously go read it. Right now.

Favourite Quote: “I’ll be right here. Until they drag me off the line. I’m not going anywhere. I hope. It’s been an adventure. We took some casualties over the years. Things got broken. Things got lost. But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world” 

Rating: 5/5 Stars

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