Book Review: Kitchen Confidential

As a rule, I do not review non-medical books on this blog, unless it forms part of a Top Ten Tuesday. However, since my recent discovery of the myriad of book blogs, Goodreads and the ability to read while maintaining my schedule has led to me rather bravely attempting a bookish challenge, I have decided to blog about those books.

For the Cookery, Food and Wine category I read Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain.

This biographical tale expands on Bourdain’s introduction to the world of food, his rocky climb to some semblance of culinary success and the lovely extracurricular activities of those in the industry.

I think I’ve alluded to this before, but I can’t cook. Or perhaps I’m just not inspired enough to do so. I can bake, a little, but my idea of a successful weekday supper is a tin of baked beans. I have The Boy to thank for my relatively okay nutritional status.

So anyway, this was thus one of my less-anticipated categories for this challenge. I couldn’t even manage to finish watching Julie & Julia, such is my lack of interest in culinary… stuff.

So this book very nearly ended up being a DNF, because a lot of the terminology really was French to me.

It was interesting though, to read of the downright strange exploits of those in the restaurant business. Medicine has kind of inured me to losing my appetite, but the sensitive soul should approach this book with some care. Also, it’s full of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll – in case that doesn’t float your boat.

Bourdain does a marvelous job of describing the characters of the business, and pointing out common mistakes made by cooking hopefuls.  He even dispenses a bit of cooking advice:

Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screwtop jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don’t deserve to eat garlic.

He sets out to tell the truth, and as such the book has the requisite amount of self-deprecation as well.

Overall the real value in this book for me was HR-wise. Bourdain clearly has found a good way of dealing with difficult fellows, and I enjoyed his take on this. I think I learned a thing or two there.

Maybe they didn’t make it through high school, maybe they’re running away from something-be it an ex-wife, a rotten family history, trouble with the law, a squalid Third World backwater with no opportunity for advancement. Or maybe, like me, they just like it here.

Furthermore, it does give quite a bit of insight, and he goes on to illustrate that not the entire sector is as he has experienced it.

I did struggle to finish this though and it’s definitely not on my list of favourite books, but I’m unsure if that was due to personal preference or poor writing. The chapters are nice and concise (always helpful), and though not Pulitzer-prize writing, Kitchen Confidential has a genuine, unassuming tone.

“Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”


  1. Maybe you didn’t like it as much because you’re not a foodie? I have an unhealthy devotion to food and those who make food, including Anthony Bourdain, so I really enjoyed the book. And I totally agree with his take on bottled garlic – so, so wrong.

    1. I think that’s the biggest part of it – I like eating (especially chocolate) but I don’t really pay too much attention to it. But it was still good to get a glimpse into that world!

  2. This book has been on my TBR list for awhile, but every time I go to read it something I am more interesting to me comes along. Then a read a post from a well-known HR blogger who heard Bourdain speak at a conference. She found him to be a pompous jerk, so I’ve since moved his book to the bottom of my pile.

    1. Oh, he’s definitely quite pompous and egotistical! But at least reading his book doesn’t mean you have to be his friend 😉

  3. This is on my list- I like his dry humor and brutal honesty.

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