Friday, September 7, 2007

Book Review: "Kitchen Confidential," by Anthony Bordain

This is really yesterday's post, but I don't see a way to back date it from when I'm writing it, which is today.

I finished listening to Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bordain's autobiography in the restaurant business. It is profane in the extreme, descriptions are grossly exaggerated to the point of unbelievability, and it doesn't hang together with any sort of theme (does it need to?), but I liked it nonetheless. Partially, I just liked how true-to-character the whole book was, and having Bordain read it in his somewhat lower-class-sounding New Jersey accent, made it seem all the more genuine, despite the exaggerations.

The fact is, Bordain isn't as lower-class as he sounds. He's rather well-educated and well-read and this is evident from his vocabulary, powers of description, and knowledge of his craft. I liken him to the cooking equivalent of Bruce Springsteen—seemingly working class New Jersey on the surface, but completely savvy and talented in reality. Bourdain is proud of his accomplishments, but writes with vivid savageness about his past excesses as a drug addict and general live-for-the-moment type of guy. And while he doesn't seem to regret anything he has done, he speaks kindly of others who came up the ranks with their passion for food as primary motivator and not the love of rank and money as he did.

But if Bourdain had been refined, his book wouldn't be so entertaining. In the end, he really does love food and cooking and he's totally devoted to his faithful staff, which is clearly a big deal in the New York restaurant scene. Most surprisingly, after many descriptions of debauchery in and out of the kitchen, we learn that he's been married to the same woman throughout the book! So I even ended up liking Bordain. I wouldn't mind reading his other books, including a couple of kitchen novels.


Anonymous said...

last paragraph: "women" should be "woman" (I hope)!

You should read "A Cook's Tour." I enjoyed that one even more.

Anonymous said...

also we should watch top chef over vacation!