Title: Kitchen Confidential, Deluxe Edition
Author: Anthony Bourdain
Page Count: 376
Publication Date: 2000
Kitchen Confidential has sat ideally by on my “need to read” list for over a decade. Anthony Bourdain was a culinary icon of mine, living the dream of food and travel-based nirvana. His death in 2018 reignited my desire to read this book but I didn’t get around to purchasing the paperback until this year during an online Barnes and Noble shopping spree at the beginning of the pandemic.
Being a die-hard Bourdain fan, I purchased the 2018 deluxe edition. This version of Kitchen Confidential has rough cut pages, handwritten thoughts by Bourdain in its pages, an interview with his editor, and a new introduction by Eric Ripert. These bells and whistles are nice for the fellow Bourdain lover that wants to dive into every crevice of the man’s mind, but the true beauty of this book can be found in whatever edition you decide to buy.
Bourdain writes with complete disregard for polite society; the exact way any self-respecting chef should write a memoir. Profanity, cocaine and genitalia are frequent players in the game of Kitchen Confidential. There is no attempt to turn the restaurant industry into a fairytale which I think everyone should wholeheartedly respect. If you’ve ever had the honor of working in the food industry, even if it was for a summer job in high school or college, you know that a kitchen staff is filled with some of the roughest, rudest, funniest; most talented people you’ll ever meet. If you haven’t had the opportunity, Anthony will fill you in before page 376.
This book is like rock and roll meets piracy meets the Art of French Cooking. Bourdain takes you into the deep corners of the twisted brains of chefs. He gives you step-by-step instructions on the art of stealing line cooks from other kitchens when opening a new restaurant. He completely translates cook-talk (a chapter that was cut out of some translations for being un-translatable). He eloquently explains his hatred of vegans, vegetarians, and rude customers. He teaches you what tools you really need in your kitchen and the dos and don’ts when ordering at a restaurant.
This title is an invaluable piece of literature to have on your shelf, even if you’re not a foodie. While teaching you about food, it teaches you a lot about writing as well. Bourdain has a voice that is impenetrable. There’s humor, honesty, and humility in his writing and I don’t think I’ve read something more human in a very long time.
Before reading this book, Antony Bourdain was already on my top five list of people, dead or alive, that I would invite to dinner. Now, not only would I invite him to dinner– I would beg him to help me make it (Julia Child better be there too).
My next book review will come out on November 22nd. I will be reviewing The Irish Princess by Karen Harper. Come back next week for my Kitchen Confidential florilegium! Happy reading!