The Pequod Review:
Kitchen Confidential is great fun, a confessional and BS-free memoir of Anthony Bourdain's experiences as a chef, ultimately rising to level of executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles in Manhattan. The most useful section is his chapter "How to Cook Like the Pros," in which Bourdain offers practical advice for home cooks on everything from kitchen knives and butter (it is the main reason everything in restaurants tastes so good) to spices and demi-glace/stock.
But the most memorable parts of the book are the dirty secrets of restaurant kitchens, including the reuse of bread, widespread drug abuse, and the overall circus-like atmosphere that is wholly incongruous with the well-presented plates that arrive at the table. And he has strong warnings for anyone deluded enough to think they want to own a restaurant:
Why? Why would anyone want to do it?
Inarguably, a successful restaurant demands that you live on the premises for the first few years, working seventeen-hour days, with total investment in every aspect of a complicated, cruel and very fickle trade. You must be fluent in not only Spanish but the Kabbala-like intricacies of health codes, tax law, fire department regulations, environmental protection laws, building code, occupational safety and health regs, fair hiring practices, zoning, insurance, the vagaries and back-alley back-scratching of liquor licenses, the netherworld of trash removal, linen, grease disposal.
And with every dime you've got tied up in your new place, suddenly the drains in your prep kitchen are backing up with raw sewage, pushing hundreds of gallons of impacted crap into your dining room; your coke-addled chef just called that Asian waitress who's working her way through law school a chink, which ensures your presence in court for the next six months; your bartender is giving away the bar to under-age girls from Wantagh, any one of whom could then crash Daddy's Buick into a busload of divinity students, putting your liquor license in peril, to say the least; the Ansel System could go off, shutting down your kitchen in the middle of a ten-thousand-dollar night; there's the ongoing struggle with rodents and cockroaches, any one of which could crawl across the Tina Brown four-top in the middle of the dessert course; you just bought 10,000 dollars-worth of shrimp when the market was low, but the walk-in freezer just went on the fritz and naturally it's a holiday weekend, so good luck getting a service call in time; the dishwasher just walked out after arguing with the busboy, and they need glasses now on table seven; immigration is at the door for a surprise inspection of your kitchen's Green Cards; the produce guy wants a certified check or he's taking back the delivery; you didn't order enough napkins for the weekend — and is that the New York Times reviewer waiting for your hostess to stop flirting and notice her?