What’s That Book? Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain

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

Genre: Non-fiction

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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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Email Book Club Mom at bvitelli2009@gmail.com for information.

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34 thoughts on “What’s That Book? Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain

  1. This one is on my list, Barbara. I’ve never seen the show and haven’t read any of his books. Thanks for sharing it. ❤

  2. I’ve read this book and very much enjoyed it. I was a big Bourdain fan (btw, No Reservations ran for 7 years – Travel Channel – and Parts Unknown – CNN – ran for 5, until his death) and was very sorry to hear of his suicide. Still a great read even if it’s a bit dated.

    1. Hi Lynette. Thanks so much for stopping by. After hearing Austin talk about this book and the series, I would like to read it. Hope you are doing well.

  3. I enjoyed this book when it came out. I am happy to have passed on my copy to my cousin’s late husband. It was the last book he read before dying suddenly at age 43. It will always be beloved here.

    1. Hi Donna – yes, it’s one of those books I’ve known about, but haven’t read either. I’m glad Austin’s review gave you the nudge. I like featuring older books on the blog. They get lost in the new ones. Thanks for the visit!

  4. I’ve always admired Bourdain’s culinary arts paired with his love for travel. His death was unexpected and so very sad.

    Thanks, Austin, for a great review.. You seem to have a bright future in journalism or wherever your interests take you. I have a nephew with the same name. Thanks, Barbara, for sharing all of this!

    1. Hi Marian Thank you for reading Austin’s review. I have not read Kitchen Confidential, but I’ve watched a few of his shows, including the one when he takes Obama to a Vietnamese restaurant.

  5. Well this great review has changed my mind in which originally I didn’t think I had any interest in a book about cooking. But now I do! Because obviously this book is about a lot more than just cooking. Thank you!

  6. I read Bourdain’s book not long before he died. The beginning was really engrossing but eventually it got a little dark. I had to struggle to finish. But I’m glad I did read it. It’s an important book.

    1. Hi JT – thank you for stopping by to read Austin’s review and thank you for your perspective on Kitchen Confidential. Hope you are having a nice weekend!

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