Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain is an unforgiving look at the restaurant industry and the unsavory individuals that hide behind the scenes. This book is brutal, it is alarming, but most of all, it is beautiful and honest. It is the story of one chef's love of food and the gnarly people who cook it. This may not be the best book for folks outside of the business, but those who are "in the know" are bound to spend the entire time they are reading this novel nodding their heads in agreement. Bourdain just knows how to describe kitchens in a way that most cooks/chefs do not. (Hey, not all cooks or former cooks can write or even speak properly, but that magic on a plate needs no translation.)
Okay, to be fair, there is no plot to this novel. There is no page-turning suspense. There is no hero. There is only one master villain and his army of lesser villains marching from restaurant to restaurant, leaving no menu unchanged and no drug un-(well, you get the idea). Kitchen Confidential is no "Tale of Two Cities" and Anthony Bourdain is not Charles Dickens, by a long shot (though I doubt that would bother him in the slightest). What this book is would be lost on anyone who has not slaved in a 90-degree kitchen while listening to heavy metal, screaming at the other cooks to stay off your station . . ., and loved it. This is not a cookbook. It is a cook's book.
Anthony Bourdain has given cooks a book to pass around and say, "Dude, you have to read this." with Kitchen Confidential. In fact, that is how I came across it. Another female cook who I spent most of my cooking career with or around gave me the book and said, "Please read it. I need to talk to someone about it." I felt the same way when I had finished. I spent a lot of time feeling as if my kitchens were unique little secret hideaways that no outsider could understand. Terms like "radar love" were created for my use and the use of the cooks I came across. When I saw that in Bourdain's book, I said to my book-giving friend, "Didn't we make that up?" Her expression said, "Apparently not." In this way, Kitchen Confidential turned my one shimmering thread in the cooking world into a web.
I was not a lone mercenary cook beating some sense into the helpless newbs that were placed at my feet more often than I care to remember. I was part of an army that was heretofore invisible to me. Anthony Bourdain also taught me that I had "martyr syndrome." He is a jerk, but I love him for it.