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post #31 of 53

Bourdainasaurus Rex

I've been following recent comments on Kitchen Confidential with interest. As Anneke, I think, rightly pointed out, cooks of my generation--are in fact, dinosaurs--I'd hoped that I'd addressed that pretty explicitly in KC--that I come from a time in America prior to cooking being a "glamour" profession--a time when there was little reasonable expectation that the trade would lead to any kind of financial security or improved social standing. As a result--as Atheneus rightly observes--there was a lot less pride and professionalism in the business--and a lot more drugs. CLEARLY things have changed a lot. Being the "fastest" cook--with the largest tolerance for cocaine and alcohol is no longer considered a plus. Even I would fire a cook caugfht snorting coke during the shift--which is a measure of how much things have changed. What's surprised me, though, is that I wrote KC NOT as a cautionary--or as an expose--I intended it as a cult amusement for my fellow cooks and chefs and restaurant lifers in the NYC tri-state area. I had--and have NO idea whether fish on Monday is fresh in Helsinki or Sydney or Berlin--and I had little idea before touring whether cooks behave as badly worldwide as they have in my relatively narrow experience. All I can tell you is I get a lot of mail--and have met a lot of chefs--many who you'd think would have nothing in common with my own journeyman level experience--all over the world who found much to recognize in my squalid personal history. That an "outlaw ethic" exists still should come as no surprise to anyone who's read Nicolas Freeling's THE KITCHEN (written in the 50's) or Orwell's DOWN AND OUT(in the 40's). We have always--by virtue of our hours and working conditions and isolation been outsiders--with a worldview that reflects that environment. Being French, by the way is NO antidote to sloppy, lazy, dirty work habits. (see Idwal Jones' HIGH BONNET). I work regularly with French cooks--and they're the first ones to cheat, to use "le micro" or to "flash" sliced roast under the salamandre, or to squeeze blood out of a steak (Med rare to medium in one second!)--especially when they're cooking for "ignorant Americains". While I am grateful for Atheneus's concern for my own well-being--and sympathetic that he worries about how KC presents an industry where most of us work with real pride--let's face it: few of us will ever work for Robuchon --most will struggle in anonymity in mid-range restaurants, working long hours with little recognition. A little bad-*** pride in our toughness, our perseverance, our resilience--our OTHERNESS can hardly be a bad thing. If we didn't think we were basically harder working and "better" than all the 9-5ers it would be that much harder to haul our aching butts outta bed each morning. I think the profession will survive my book. A toast to my fellow dinosaurs! ANTHONY BOURDAIN
post #32 of 53
Dear QJWIN

I am a she person that has studied history also, that's why I am so interested in you.
Historically speaking, since, as you said, you are an antiquity. :)

And for one other reason that I will place here just for the records. I hate to see talented people being devoured by mediocre media. You survived kitchen to be devoured by them? Anyway, this is a personal thought!

I had the privilige to read "KC" in two languages and to read the articles of journalists from many papers.

I also have posted that if I were Anthony Bourdain I would write a second book with the title " What stupid Journalists have written for my book"
If you had an idea what kind of bozo writes the preface to the Greek edition...
Of course this is not your fault.

Maybe it's the same thing that you have observed. You didn't expected that people that live in Berlin would stop ordering fish on Mondays...

But my surprise started when I was reading posts here of people that they were so enthousiastic with your book that they were actually proposing it to their culinary students.

I personally think that your book is not for culinary students, because students have the right to dream that one day they will work for a Robuchon.
None can take this dream from them.If you don't have dreams you will always stay underpaid and in the shadow and of course you will never work even for Anthony Bourdain.

I don't think that with this book, you put the lights in the kitchen.
You just put yourself and only yourself under those lights.

I think you did well for doing so, I would do the same if I were you.
And now that I read that you did that for your amusement either , I am very very glad!
But in my posts I didn't criticized this at all.

I just criticised how THEY took your book.

If someone is inspired by your book and he/she recognizes him/her self in there, then, he will always stay there.

Now that you are touring to promote your book I hope that you tell people that you wrote it for your amusement and that they should not take it literally!

Good luck to you and to your next books

:)
"Muabet de Turko,kama de Grego i komer de Djidio", old sefardic proverb ( Three things worth in life: the gossip of the Turk , the bed of the Greek and the food of the Jew)
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"Muabet de Turko,kama de Grego i komer de Djidio", old sefardic proverb ( Three things worth in life: the gossip of the Turk , the bed of the Greek and the food of the Jew)
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post #33 of 53
ATHENAEUS: Salutations. I applaud your commitment to your trade--and apologize for my gender confusion. But I hope that what appealed to all the chefs and cooks around the world who read and enjoyed KC is the acknowledgment that it depicted the cooking trade--even at a very high level--as as much about repetition, endurance, loyalty, cameraderie--the grim mechanics of doing the same dish the same way again and again and again-as it is about artistry. That some absolutely brilliant two and three star chefs have the same social skills as Charles Manson should surprise noone--least of all other chefs. Being a disaster as a human being is certainly no impediment to cooking well- (just look at David Bouley)A lot of us take a death's head sense of pride in our own dysfunction--we KNOW we'll never be solid citizens--and we like it like that. Perhaps someday, food will be prepared in cool, sterile "laboratoires" to the gentle strains of Mozart, by crisp, calm, dedicated professionals for whom profanity, bad behavior, alcohol abuse, promiscuity are anathema--perhaps cooks of the future will work 40 hour weeks, get paid well, receive health benefits...maybe they won't have to sign in and out in a log book when they want to take a piss (like one famous French three star used to demand). Or have trays of food thrown in their faces (same guy). Then again--maybe not. For those interested in seeing a three star Michelin kitchen in action--and why a lot of cooks feel they need a drink or five at the end of the shift, I recommend the amazing Gordon Ramsay documentary series: BOILING POINT. A brilliant chef--and a nice guy( I think)--but man! You want to see pressure? He makes me look like a diplomat.
post #34 of 53
What I got out of it was a lot of laughs, and as a former NYC pastry chef, a lot to relate to as well.
What's this I hear about a show on the Food Network?
post #35 of 53
Knowing you as I do Momoreg, I am sure you took no gruff from anyone
Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
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Baruch ben Rueven / Chanaבראד, ילד של ריימונד והאלאן
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post #36 of 53

This one , is for you "Tickle monster"

Dear QJWIN and friends.

I will narrate you a rather amusing story about an ancient variation of "Kitchen Confidential"

When Athenaeus ( the original, not me! ) from Naukratis of Egypt wrote his famous book the "Deipnosophists", cooks ,and we are talking about the Greek cooks that mattered at that time ( they have invented cooking!) were people that were ex-slaves!

Althought the art of cooking was highly appreciated , the profession of the cook as the one of the banker was exercised only by ex-slaves...

Athenaeus of Naukratis was a strange guy. He was a bon viveur who loved drinking, doing drugs ( yes! they existed in antiquity) and in his house he had only the most beautifull and most expensive prostitutes of Egypt.

He used to gather his friends and FOR HIS AMUSEMENT he decided to collect in a book all the culinary stories he knew.And he knew a lot since he has worked as a cook himself.

He narrated the stories of drunk cooks, of thives and other scamps of his Era that had the talent to cook.He has narrated hilarious stories of fish that was served to rich and sauces that they stink (from bacteria)

BUT Athenaeus loved cooks and he highly appreciate them so in his narrations the drunkards appeared as magicians!
The under payed ex-slaves are presented as the artists of the future that deserved a sponsor to invest on them.

He named quick sex, sensualism and he called it spice of this art...


But you know how publicity works. It has to be threated with the way it deserves and above all to be faugthed by its own weapons.Athenaeus knew that .

So, this book of his, took great publicity. It became the Bible of the civilised world and soon being a cook became one of the most respectable professions.

Athenaeus concluded his 9th book with this quote " You judge a prostitute and a cook by the price you must pay to have them. The most expensive they are, they better they perform their Art"

In the excavations in Pompei they have found this quote inscribed with golden letters :)

In Pompei, cooks were paid a fortune


Athenaeus didn't candy coated anything, in fact he wrote for his amusement but with his book changed the history of cooking :)
Cooks ever since owe, him A LOT

Dear QJWIN

I don't know in what way KC changed cooks lives. It would be unfair to ask something like that from you .

As you said, you wrote it for your pleasure. And I like this because it seems that we have the same hobby.

If Kitchen Confidential is still popular untill next year from now, I will change my nick name to Anthony Bourdain.
And in my classes, that I will start in a respectable university of New York from this summer, that teaches what people love most, publicity, KC will be the Bible.


Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with me.

:)
"Muabet de Turko,kama de Grego i komer de Djidio", old sefardic proverb ( Three things worth in life: the gossip of the Turk , the bed of the Greek and the food of the Jew)
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"Muabet de Turko,kama de Grego i komer de Djidio", old sefardic proverb ( Three things worth in life: the gossip of the Turk , the bed of the Greek and the food of the Jew)
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post #37 of 53
I think this book is for students. If we cannot learn from the mistakes of history (and Chef Bourdain's book is a history, of sorts), what are we to learn from? If anything, it's better that prospective career cooks and chefs have a more realistic view of how things can be in this industry than the one foisted upon them by culinary schools and the like.

As far as recognizing yourself in there; yes I do. But it's a me of the past, just as Bourdain tells of a Bourdain of the past. Bourdain kicked heroin, I kicked cocaine. Both of us (and many other people in many professions) have moved on to better things. In my case it was, as for you, Athenaeus, due to decent people that I knew. I'm sure there are people that recognize themselves as they are now when they read KC; hopefully they will see that the person that Bourdain was in the past was not good (as he apparently did) and stop their self-destructive, un-professional behavior. Hopefully.

What I really got from KC was that there is a sub-culture that I belong to; that of a career chef/cook. It's what I love, it's where I belong. The thing is to have the particular view of the world that we, as cooks, do and yet be able to relate to the "normal" world in a professional manner. I think that finding this balance, combined with whatever talent we may posess, determines our success. And so, my first rambling rant of this year ends...

Anthony, now that you are done with the book/tv show, what are you up to now?
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post #38 of 53
Dear Greg

I got your point. There is no matter of agreeing or dissagreeing here, it's just a different point of view.

The fact that some people experienced wilde situations and they survived them, has a value only for themselves. I mean you do not put in your resume " I did drugs and now I am clean" , you know what I mean.
And it has an "educational" value only for people that are in the same mess right now.
You show them that there is a way out IF they are lucky.

Viewing things from this side, I come to the conclusion that for cooks-wannabe KC is not very useful a reading.
Unless they have Anthony Bourdain in person, reading them passages from the book and explaining to them that they must never be bad children as he was.

But the author was not interested in that!

That was all I was suggesting. Nothing more nothing less, nothing about the author and the essence of the book.

I was talking about the reactions towards the book.


IF I wanted to make a comment about the author It would be the following :

Eating you flesh turns out to be quite an unhealthy practice, in the long term.

BUT you know something Greg? I decided to erase all that I have said above and to take back everything I posted about the reactions towards this book.

I take it all back!

You know why? I have this last post of yours and I have you(especially this tiny sentence under your avatar that describes your status) that present in the most clear way what I was trying to say.

You defended KC and you wannabe Cape Chef!
That means that you stand by your folks yes, but you are looking towards the future .

This is what I was trying-at least- to suggest, this is how things will improve in this business, in MY opinion of course.
This is the opinion of a person who - as you and QJWIN ,very kindly I must admit, insinuated- is an outsider.

You needed 1 post, I needed 5-6 and you have the "nerve" to make jokes for poor lawyers that had their head stuck in the toilet ??? ;) :p
"Muabet de Turko,kama de Grego i komer de Djidio", old sefardic proverb ( Three things worth in life: the gossip of the Turk , the bed of the Greek and the food of the Jew)
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"Muabet de Turko,kama de Grego i komer de Djidio", old sefardic proverb ( Three things worth in life: the gossip of the Turk , the bed of the Greek and the food of the Jew)
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post #39 of 53
Atheneaus, I think that we shouldn't be underestimating young people. I personally think that it's more beneficial for us to be honest to them about something than it is to cover it up. It gives them the opportunity to think about it, to judge the behaviour and to choose one way or another. If you are invited to a party and you find out at the last minute that it's a party for cokeheads, aren't you glad you found out early? Even if you choose to go, you'll be more prepared for it. Likewise, young people are less likely to get 'dragged in' to the behaviour if they are prepared for it.

I don't think that sugar coating things is useful for anyone (well, maybe for our old grandmothers!). If the kids can't take a shot of reality, how will they ever survive in the industry?

As for your fear that the book is damaging and perpetuates a negative image, allow me to use an old cliché: the first step towards healing is admitting you have a problem. I think Bourdain successfully brought to light a problem in a way that is in dramatic contrast to what most view as acceptable behaviour today. I don't think anyone, not even the most hardened youngster could say that this is a lifestyle they aspire to.

From my experience in culinary school, I can say that there are screw-ups who will no doubt end up in rehab and have a short and miserable life. But I garantee that they will NOT be in the culinary profession. They won't survive. For the rest of us, Bourdain hasn't killed a dream, he supports a dream. He has shown what hard work and discipline and professionalism yields. THis has been a redemption for him; for culinary students it becomes their modus operandi.

We North Americans are bombarded with exposés, articles, interviews, books, all geared towards one thing: shock and expose. It's a hobby I guess. Has it killed professions? Careers, yes; professions, no. Perhaps we have become blasé about the whole thing, in which case I appreciate your fresh view on this Athenaeus. However, I will never retract my statement that covering up the truth to protect the new generations, in the culinary profession or elsewhere is wrong. Change can only occur when information is brought to light, not covered up.
post #40 of 53
Well, QJWIN

You MUST admit that at least I, related you to a great author of antiquity that I admire a lot and I wasn't in any case suggesting that you must start touring schools with your book, showing them the truth, like Miss America or something like this.
I am not a North American and I do not try to find a moral conclusion in everything...
I just enjoy the conversation.
"Muabet de Turko,kama de Grego i komer de Djidio", old sefardic proverb ( Three things worth in life: the gossip of the Turk , the bed of the Greek and the food of the Jew)
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"Muabet de Turko,kama de Grego i komer de Djidio", old sefardic proverb ( Three things worth in life: the gossip of the Turk , the bed of the Greek and the food of the Jew)
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post #41 of 53
Ha! Tell me about dirt in one's profession...
Tell me about drugs and alchohol and wilde things.
I liked that someone told somethings even in another profession. I felt a wilde happiness.I wish I had the talent to mock at the face of those they envy the world of fashion and modelling as Bourdain did.
I imagined myself stopping a show and start screamming things to the stupid that were watching.Maybe I will do this when I decide to quit for good never when I am in the business.
This is what atheneus was saying, I know because we have discussed about it many times and up to a point she is right. But looking things from inside is a different thing.
Anneke I didn't get you. Before Bourdain's appearance you called him a cow boy.Are you on the chef's side as Greg is or you are impartial?If you are impartial what do you suggest? Be KC a recommended reading?
And why Canadians say that they are North Americans and not just Canadians?

Melina from south eastern europe
"Fortuna audaces juvat"
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post #42 of 53
Because I'm talking about Canadians and Americans Melina. We're not that different.

I don't think I am the one who has changed her tune since Bourdain's apperance. I still think he's a cowboy and the lifestyle he portrays in his book is disgusting. My last post has little to do with Bourdain I suppose. It has more to do with education and the 'cleaning-up' of an industry. I have nothing in common with Bourdain except his love of food. Do I think this should be recommended reading? I wouldn't sell the book at the campus bookstore, but would I try to keep a kid away from it? Nope!
post #43 of 53
I have read this thread with great interest. It is amazing to me that his book has caused such a stir. I received the book for Christmas and am about 100 pages into it.

In the forward of the edition I have, the author states that he never expected anyone to read the book. It seems to me he wrote it to purge and have a little fun. So far, I like the book a lot. It's very entertaining. Tales of The Dreadnaught v. Mario's and general fear and loathing in P-Town make for a fun read.

As to what I've read that relates to the restaurant biz, some of it is common sense (if you walk into a place and the chef is sitting at the bar in a dirty apron picking...) and some is informative (the fish is old on Mondays).

The "deplorable" behavior of kitchen community is neither especially deplorable (everyone who has ever worked at a Burger King has committed some unspeakable act) nor unique to the restaurant biz. In the 80's, here in Gotham City, no matter where you were, it wasn't "Is there any coke here?" but rather "Who has it and how much!" This was true at weddings, funerals and in the office. We all make mistakes. The reason I haven't had a drink in 14 years is not because scotch made me a candidate for Boy Scout of the Century. We learn and move on.

I don't think it was Mr. Bourdain's intent to rip the lid off the restaurant biz. He wanted to write a book. The restaurant biz is what he knows so he wrote a book about the restaurant biz.
"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
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"At weddings, my Aunts would poke me in the ribs and cackle "You're next!". They stopped when I started doing the same to them at funerals." D. Barry
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post #44 of 53
When I started working for free at the restaurant where I am now at, the exec chef asked me before I started, "Have you read KC? All of it, that's all true."

"Twice," I replied.

My experience, despite his words, has been nothing like Bourdain's. It is not the "pirate crew" that Bourdain so loves to be in league with. It's a downright tea party in comparison, and compare that to my "real" job as a computer programmer and I might as well be in a sensory deprivation tank from 9 to 5. So I do suspect that many who read it see twinklings of their own experiences, at least here and there, and enjoy it, and nod in agreement on some level. I don't think it is ever bad to gain a window into someone else's experience, be it to learn something new to do, or something new to avoid. ;) I dont' think this is a bad book for students to read, but hopefully they realize this is one man's story, and not the Bible on the Way Things Are.

The part that was hardest for me to, oh, what's the word, accept, was the incidence in the Rainbow Room kitchen where he gets his respect by skewering a nasty, bothersome coworker with a hot fork. I certainly wouldn't doubt it's validity, but that's one out of control situation where deliberate injury, that could also slow and derail the work production seemed way out there. So maybe not everyone nods with a knowing grin to that story, but people relate to all different sorts. The book is out there, it's one person's experience. I can see how such a book would cause problems for restaurants with bad stories (see the thread elsewhere on the board about the chef wringing dirty rags on meat to make it appear more well cooked when sent back to the kitchen as too rare), but Bourdain for the most part seems to avoid this problem by writing about things and places well in the past, who have had time to change or disappear in the interim.

As for the writing style, Bourdain has succeeded, at least in my opinion, to creating a strong personal voice.

There was an article in the San Francisco Chronicle not too long ago that was written by Bourdain about the recent wave of chef celebrity-dom, and how its time might indeed be already past due for being over. I began reading the article without checking the author, interested in the subject so quickly I didn't stop.

By the time I was halfway through it, I knew who had written it. All it took was one particular sentence (a brilliant one referencing Emeril as the Ron Jeremy of the cooking world) to tip me off and within a paragraph I was certain of it. To me, that is one of the marks of a successful writer, to be heard in a way all one's own. Doesn't matter, in this sense, if you agree with them or not, they've developed their "voice," which is not an easy thing to do. I happen to enjoy his style, and his ability to speak of things that perhaps are not "safe" subjects. Huzzah!

I do wonder, though, with all the books (1., how the **** do you have the time, Tony?), how that gels with huge hours involved with being an exec level chef. I suppose the high profile is good advertising, but I know Bourdain is on a book tour at the moment, I am planning to go sneak a peak at him in Corte Madera, CA when he comes around these parts in a couple weeks. What goes on back at the restaurant when the chef is gone so much? I'm just curious, I know my chef heads out for a week here or there to other countries for various food explorations, but I would suspect Bourdain must be gone quite a lot more, to promote his books and create that television show starting next week. Ack, I am veering off topic.


SlaveGirl
http://www.restaurantslave.com
post #45 of 53
Slavegirl really said a lot with ...

With an attempt to add input rather than reiterate, there are several aspects of Kitchen Confidential that may be embelished, but there are most certainly true-to-life experiences that Mr. Bourdain shared. That said, I do not consider myself an 'antiquarian' chef (by any long shot), but there were more aspects in the book that related to what I had seen & experienced in restaurants than what I hadn't.

As for 'suggested reading' for students. I say "**** right!" There isn't a week that goes by where I cross paths with a culi student that has yet to do some internship work in a restaurant and has no insight; frequently they are unaware of the pay, the hours, the very improbability of ever having their own TV show. The only idea they have of what goes on in the BOH is the rosy picture they get when they are visiting the school. I may, or may not, have reconsidered my career path had Kitchen Confidential been around then. Now that it is, when the cooking schools issue The Professional Chef, it should be teamed withKitchen Confidential as companion reading.

Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple

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Invention, my dear friends, is ninety-three percent perspiration, six percent electricity, four percent evaporation, and two percent butterscotch ripple

My Author Page

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post #46 of 53
"This was the opinion of an outsider but I spent the same amount of money to read this book as the insiders did so maybe you will recognize me the right to have an opinion."

We make no division here regarding "insiders" and "outsiders". "A food lover's link to professional chefs" is the statement of purpose written under the cheftalk logo on the main page. Everyone has a right to an opinion here, and I am very sorry if anyone has been made to feel otherwise.
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post #47 of 53

Apologies, Mr. Bond

Mr. Bond: Apparently I overlooked one of your posts. I meant no offense. As far as my plans for the future--which is what I think you asked? At this point--I really have no idea. I'm pretty much making it up as I go along. If I said I wanted to die on the line, though,I'd be lying. I'd like to go back to Viet Nam. Maybe write a whole book in Vietnam. That would be nice.
post #48 of 53
Atheneus, in one of your earlier posts you say that no one would write a book describing all the hard-working "good" chefs out there. Well, there are lots of them: "The Soul of a Chef", "The Last Days of Haute Cuisine in America", "Culinary Artistry" are just a few of the many books that depict that kind of working environment, not to mention most of the introductions to chef's cookbooks. Most of these chronicles the chef's early career working hour after hour in the great kitchens of the world. Maybe the chef was a tyrannical Frenchman or not, but none of these introductions dare discuss the steamier sides of this industry. I believe that one of the reasons A. B. wrote this book was the fact that no one ever discussed this side in public. It was chefs' "dirty, little secret". It was about time someone told that side of the story.
One thing that everyone seems to forget is that Bourdain says that not every kitchen is like the ones he has experience. I does not claim to have an insight into all the kitchens across the US. All he is doing is presenting on side of the story. And yes he made many a chef laugh and maybe even reminicse about life in this crazy industry.
BTW, if I am to believe some of the stories from my french chefs, about when they were younger and doing their apprenticeships, American cooks are not the only ones to act in such a manner. Some of the stories I have been told would knock the socks off of even Mr. Bourdain.
post #49 of 53
Actually, Chef Bourdain, you overlooked one sentence at the end of one of my posts. No worries, though; I took no offense and no apology was necessary. Good luck with returning to Vietnam; it sounded (in A Cook's Tour ) like you enjoyed it. Imagine how much better it will be without a camara crew tailing you!
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post #50 of 53
I'm not upset about anything here. I'm merely clarifying something for Chef Bourdain.

I'm curious; what exactly do you mean by " building our own mythology"?
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post #51 of 53
Is this the best book on what it's like in the BOH?
Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860)

M.E.A.T.
Mankind Enjoying Animal Tastiness
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Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860)

M.E.A.T.
Mankind Enjoying Animal Tastiness
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post #52 of 53
It tells you what it can be like. Bourdain will be the first to tell you that not all kitchens are like his.
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post #53 of 53
For another view, read Michael Ruhlman's The Soul of a Chef. It has a section on the chef of Lola, a restaurant in Cleveland, and another on Thomas Keller. Both of these give you an idea of what it's like in those kitchens. Very different from what Chef Bourdain describes. In fact, EVERY kitchen I've ever worked in (or even just trailed in) was different from every other kitchen. So please don't think that any one view will be 100% definitive.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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