Welcome to What’s That Book, sharing book recommendations from readers and bloggers. Today’s guest reviewer is Austin Vitelli.
Title: Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
Author: Anthony Bourdain
What’s it about? Anthony Bourdain provides a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to work in the food industry, highlighting many of the juicy details of what really goes on in a professional kitchen that’s surely to raise some eyebrows for those who have never worked in one. The thing is, he said he originally wrote the book specifically for chefs and figured no one else would find it relevant—almost like a series of inside jokes. But the book, which was first published in 2000, quickly became a New York Times bestseller, capturing the attention of millions of people around the world, whether they had experience in the food industry or not. It also catapulted Bourdain’s career as a “celebrity chef,” a term he begrudgingly adopted due to its negative perception.
The story itself surely captured such a wide audience for a reason—people naturally love gossip, and of course many people have a love for food. The book provides endless stories of people whom Bourdain worked with over the years, his countless jobs and relevant escapades in the industry, and most importantly, the truth about how many kitchens (at least at the time) functioned. Bourdain’s blunt and detailed-to-a-fault account of his experiences, including his battle with drug addiction, immediately establishes himself as a trustworthy storyteller. Other than a few people’s names, he basically holds nothing back. And mostly importantly, while “the times” in 2000 certainly were no stranger to sexist and otherwise questionable behavior in that industry, Bourdain still had the awareness to know that it was wrong, making sure not to glorify that type of behavior too much, even though he later worried that the book still somewhat normalized it.
How did you hear about it? I watched Bourdain’s CNN travel/food show Parts Unknown, which ran for 12 seasons until his death in 2018.
Closing comments: If you have any sort of curiosity about the food industry or what a professional kitchen looked like 20 years ago, I highly recommend this book. And if nothing else, Bourdain is one of the best non-fiction storytellers I’ve ever seen.Contributor: Austin Vitelli is an editor for a medical publishing company in Pennsylvania. He graduated from Lehigh University with a degree in journalism. You can learn more about him and his writing experience at austinvitelli.com.
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