I love cooking shows. Especially competitive ones. Especially ones that involve Gordon Ramsay yelling at people. On one hand I love the creativity that some chefs have in coming up with dishes and flavour combinations as well as the artistry of creating a beautiful plate. On the other hand a professional kitchen seems like a fascinatingly feral place that very few diners ever get to see inside. It was this that drew me to chef/author, anthony Bourdain’s “warts and all” memoir.
After a culinary awakening while visiting family members in France as a young boy, Bourdain fell in love with the idea of cooking for a living and made his way through culinary school before working in a wide variety of kitchens from being a grill chef in a simple seaside fish restaurant to being the executive chef in a chain of high class international establishments.
Lifting the curtain of exactly what goes on behind the scenes and what it takes to make it in a professional cooking environment, Bourdain delves into the good, the bad and the downright ugly of what it takes to get a kitchen up and running, keep it up and running and to actually make money in a restaurant… all of which is very interesting.
At times I definitely wanted more though. Bourdain flirts with the details of his addiction but never really gets into really deep, personal detail, which I feel would have made him seem somehow more human and possibly more likable. While I understand that a professional kitchen takes a particular type of personality to succeed, I found it hard to connect or warm to Bourdain because it felt like he was keeping a part of himself back in favour of a lot of “dick waving” and bravado. He also never really talks much about his relationship with his long suffering wife and it can be hard to understand how they ever would have met or established such an enduring relationship. Maybe that wasn’t the point but it was what I wanted to know about.
Whether you’re a Food Network fundi or just an enthusiastic gourmand or if you’ve ever fancied yourself as a chef or restaurateur Kitchen Confidential is a great way to get a look under the bonnet and behind the scenes. Just don’t expect an outpouring of personal sentiment.