Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
I binge read this the weekend after Anthony Bourdain died. I had never read it previously. I knew him to be churlish and talented. I was unaware that he had struggled with substance abuse.I saw him as larger than life, a man who grabbed hold of life with both hands.
Reading this book, it’s impossible not to hear his voice.
I worked in the restaurant industry for a hot second. The very things that sucked Bourdain in, spun me on my heel. The punishing pace, inhuman hours, vulgar behavior, not to mention rampant drugs and alcohol.
In the restaurant business, he found his tribe, his calling. He learned the ropes from the ground-up.
He tries not to be sexist, but seems to most appreciate women who took a typically male approach to the business. I’d like to think he evolved over the years.
He did appreciate the dedication of immigrants who often peopled the back of the house of NYC restaurants, stating:
No one understands and appreciates the American Dream of hard work leading to material rewards better than a non-American.
One of my favorite insights he shared was to check out restaurant bathrooms before eating there:
I won’t eat in a restaurant with filthy bathrooms . This isn’t a hard call. They let you see the bathrooms. If the restaurant can’t be bothered to replace the puck in the urinal or keep the toilets and floors clean, then just imagine what their refrigeration and work spaces look like. Bathrooms are relatively easy to clean. Kitchens are not.
The last words of the book are:
I’ll be right here. Until they drag me off the line. I’m not going anywhere. I hope. It’s been an adventure. We took some casualties over the years. Things got broken. Things got lost. But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Definitely worth a read.