In my many years as a chef and food lover I have read hundreds of cookbooks, food essays, biographies, and memoirs by many chefs. No of which prepared me for Anthony Bourdain's new book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. It is an "in-your-face" account of one man's travels through the culinary world, and along the way Bourdain reveals many naked truths about the restaurant business. Truths that I am sure, have cost him dearly in the eyes of many fellow chefs, and in the media.
This book is defiantly not for the faint of heart, the "PC" inclined, or for those with delicate sensibilities. Bourdain goes on at length about the depravities committed by himself, and his fellow cooks. The sex, the drugs, the toilet humor. He paints a rather grim picture of the people preparing your food in some of the finest restaurants in America. He gives the world a glimpse of the unglamorous side of cooking, something you would never see on the Food Network. Yet there is something I find glamorous in all his unglamorous ravings. Maybe it's the chef in me, maybe it's because I know what he is talking about. Maybe it's because I too, along with many of my fellow cooks have also committed such sins, and maybe it's because I see a truth being exposed that no one has dared to expose before.
I expect that many chefs will condemn Bourdain for writing such a book, claim that stuff that he describes does not go on. But, I am here to say it does. Maybe not in every restaurant, but in most it does or has. Just ask most any chef, and they all have horror stories of abusive chefs, crazy line cooks, inept owners. You will be hard pressed to find a chef who doesn't drink too much from time to time, or hasn't abused some substance in their younger days.
I applaud Bourdain for this book. It took guts to write it, and it sure took guts to get it published. There is no doubt that there will be many people who will be shocked and disgusted by Kitchen Confidential. There will also be many people who feel betrayed by the book. There will probably even be people who boycott Bourdain, and any restaurant he works at because of it, but I have to admire him. He has given one of the truest accounts that I have ever read of life in restaurant business. And yes, I laughed almost the entire way through the book.