I’ve read a number of Anthony Bourdain’s books, and I regularly watch “No Reservations”. I think “Top Chef” is much better when he is judging. Although I might disagree with him on certain things (like his hatred of vegetarians), I genuinely call myself a fan of his work.
“Kitchen Confidential” is almost an anthropological study of kitchen culture. And like many studies of culture I’ve read over the years, I might like to visit, but I don’t want to move there. In the chapter where he outlines his graduation speech, I become wholly convinced that I never, ever want to work in a professional kitchen. Hell, I’m exhausted after cooking a moderately complicated dinner for two. I can’t fathom trying to cook for two hundred.
I further appreciate Bourdain’s frequent admissions about his own personal failures. Not just his drug addictions (multiple!) but also his arrogance after his first year in culinary school and his decision to follow the money rather than make good career choices. I appreciate his honesty and wish other successful people would analyze their lives in this frame. He implies that although he worked hard, he has also been rather lucky and seems somewhat uncomfortable with his success. The humble nature of his personality is also apparent on his show.
On a tangential note, I completely appreciate Bourdain’s description of writing when he claims it doesn’t feel like work, it feels like cheating. That mentality is a big factor in my own struggle to take myself more seriously as a writer and not merely “someone who blogs.”
While not a book that I look to for deep philosophical discussion, “Kitchen Confidential” is a very interesting and entertaining read. Bourdain manages to be humorous while also reflecting honestly on his life.
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