Book Review: "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly", by Anthony Bourdain

"Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do."

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

It's downright scary how many parallels there are between completely different lines of work. The way Bourdain describes opening a restaurant in the chapter about owner's syndrome is eerily similar to starting a tech company for the wrong reasons. The focus on having high-quality tools in the kitchen, how line cooks differ so much from your ordinary home cook (in speed, uniformity, and frankly ability to eat shit), what a good manager looks like (e.g. Bigfoot or Andy Menschel, whom Bourdain still remembers him fondly), and what enlightenment in the workplace may look like (Scott Bryan and simple but flavorful and fresh takes on ordinary food, making him a chef among chefs). All of this reminds me of software engineering :expressionless:

I've really enjoyed reading through "Kitchen Confidential". It's quite an inspiring read, the life story of how a middle-class kid grew out of a drug habit and sleazing around to become one of the top chefs in New York City. Bourdain also offers wary eaters some tips and tricks on identifying food (Check their bathrooms! Eat on Tuesdays when the regulars do!) and on breaking into the restaurant business, if you're mad enough (Learn Spanish and don't lie!) That Bourdain mentions in the updated edition I have the copious number of free meals other chefs have specially prepared and comped for him goes to show how much it resonates with them as well.

Today, the trends Bourdain mentioned about celebrity chefs and 24/7 coverage are clearly evident; Bourdain himself went on to do a number of popular TV shows around eating across the world. Maybe it does help the rest of us understand what "real" cooking is like when we see Gordon Ramsay yell at people in "Hell's Kitchen". Maybe it takes us further away. I'm fine not finding out.

(Beth Aretsky, the "Grill Bitch" and Bourdain's longtime associate, offers T-shirts for sale, in part to benefit suicide prevention charities. Here's her website.)