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Book Review: Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

May 2, 2011

If I was interested in becoming a chef would I have liked this book more?

If I liked Anthony Bourdain would I have liked this book more?

Hard to say, but I think the answer to the first question might be “Maybe, but doubtful” and the answer to the second question is, “Probably not”.

I thought the beginning of Kitchen Confidential was interesting but I don’t need anyone advising me not to eat in restaurants with dirty bathrooms or to treat servers with respect. It was this blow-the-lid-off-the-restaurant-industry type of hype that brought me to Kitchen Confidential, but after the first couple of chapters of this type of not-so-eye-opening “insider” information, it was all downhill.

To be honest – and this biased my view of the book – I’m not a fan of the “Shock” celebrity in today’s media. Shock jocks, shock politicians, shock pundits and now, at least with this book, shock chefs. If you have something to say, please say it, I’m interested. But if what you have to say relies on insulting various groups of people and using offensive language to make a point or color a story, or if your abrasive dialogue is too often used to hammer home the idea that you’re better/smarter/cooler than the people you’re talking to, you can save it for someone else. The reality might be that you are better/smarter/cooler than the people you’re talking to, but let us come to that conclusion ourselves.

In the end, after wading through insults to vegetarians and people who like to order items on the side and pretty much anyone Mr. Bourdain has worked with (or for) in his restaurant career, as well as droning stories of drugs and sex, I found little of any substance in Kitchen Confidential. Beyond that, I found Kitchen Confidential to be little more than a boring and vulgar rant by a chef/author who maybe spends a little too much time in front of the mirror thinking all sorts of wonderful things about himself and whose stories and writing remind me of the reminiscences of 28-year-old at his ten-year high school reunion. Like the food I send back, this one is tasteless and undercooked.

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