I just finished Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain, over the holiday. It was a decent audio book, read by Anthony himself. The book started off really slow, but you started getting a glimpse of his real personality towards the middle and end. I recommend it to any foodies or anyone interested in working in a kitchen. Here are a couple notes I jotted down:
- He was a spoiled brat when he was kid, and was a huge druggie and alcoholic.
- It was only when he was totally insulted and publicly humiliated, that he started taking cooking seriously.
- Never eat fish on Mondays, because it’s probably 4 days old. Yeh, the stuff you’re eating has been sitting around since Thursday morning.
- Chefs usually have Sundays and Mondays off. If you want a good food, eat at a restaurant on Tuesday or Wednesday. The Chef will be there, and won’t be frantic. He’ll have time to make sure each plate gets his attention.
- The difference between pro vs home kitchens: Real Butter. Real Parsley. Real Stock (reduced), not canned stuff. Demigloss.
- Good food is often simple. Just make sure it’s made of good ingredients. And garnish it.
- You don’t need a lot of knifes. One good chef’s knife will do.
- He doesn’t understand why anyone want to start a restaurant. The food will perish. The failure rate is so high. The workforce is unreliable. Most people start a restaurant simply out of ego or they really love food.
- Success makes people over reach. It’s usually an illusional power grab. Most people will open more restaurants, and watch their original successful and profitable restaurant become neglected.
- Bourdain had a jewish mentor, whom he referred to anonymously as “Big Foot”. Big Foot had a book documenting how much filet a lineman can cut from one fish for example. Big Foot used to play football, so he was obsessed with data and stats. Big Foot used his data to decide who stayed, and who was fired.
- Bourdain consisidered his Su Chef to be closer to him than his own wife. If he needed money, drugs, chores, his Su Chef would get done. An added bonus of any Su Chef is if they had a criminal mind.
This book was recommended to me by Dylan. When I originally asked him for a book suggestion, I expected something revolving around technology, physics or something conceptual beyond my grasp. I was surprised he mentioned this one… and it was worth it. Since reading it, I’ve been able to talk to a couple people more intelligently about the food industry. I actually got a private dining session from Chef Charlie Williams, at Cous Cous (while I was in Richmond)! He gave me a tour of his kitchen after his shift, and it was interesting to hear his perspective of the industry today. Basically he explained that the book was about 90% accurate… there’s a little exaggeration (like the Mafia’s and guns), but all the drugs, alcohol, sex, corruption, and living from pay check to pay check is entirely true.
Here are some photos of Cous Cous:
On to my next book… “In Defense of Food”, recommended by Josh.