UYC’s Book Club: Kitchen Confidential

Welcome to the second month of our NYC-inspired book club!  In case you missed the first go-around, the idea is to read a new book each month that is either based in or about NYC, and chat about it here on the blog!

Photo Credit: Donna Turner Ruhlman

Last month we had a riveting 700+ page fictional tale set in the city, and this month we went the memoir route of exploring the behind-the-NYC-scenes restaurant world by none other than Anthony Bourdain.  Here’s the Amazon quick-description:

Kitchen Confidential reveals what Bourdain calls “twenty-five years of sex, drugs, bad behavior and haute cuisine.” 

Bourdain spared no one’s appetite when he told all about what happens behind the kitchen door. Bourdain uses the “take-no-prisoners” attitude in his deliciously funny and shockingly delectable book, sure to delight gourmands and philistines alike. From Bourdain’s first oyster in the Gironde, to his lowly position as dishwasher in a honky tonk fish restaurant in Provincetown (where he witnesses for the first time the real delights of being a chef); from the kitchen of the Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center, to drug dealers in the east village, from Tokyo to Paris and back to New York again, Bourdain’s tales of the kitchen are as passionate as they are unpredictable. Kitchen Confidential will make your mouth water while your belly aches with laughter. You’ll beg the chef for more, please.”

Published in 2008, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Bourdain was truly a pioneer in this foodie-field of his…taking his adventures of the food world and dishing them up so they’re of interest to the masses…even the masses that may not be all that interested in food.  Why?  Because the stories are riveting, sarcastic, hysterical…with just enough information to leave you feeling like you actually learned something on this entertaining ride, too.

That being said, I’m going to share with you with 10 pieces of information I gleaned from Kitchen Confidential.  Bon appetit, my friends!

So you wanna be a real foodie?  Here’s 10 pieces of advice, ala Bourdain:

1. Ask the chef what he would recommend.  “I’ve long believed that good food, good eating is all about risk.”

2. Invest in a really sharp chef’s knife.  “Here’s all you will ever need in the knife department: ONE good chef’s knife, as large as is comfortable for your hand.”  (Note: Bourdain recommends the Global brand.)

3. Only allow heavyweight in your kitchen.  “Let me stress that again: heavyweight.  A thin-bottomed saucepan is useless for anything.”

4. Stay informed!  “Read!  Read cookbooks, trade magazines, I recommend Food Arts, Saveur, and Restaurant Business magazines.”

5. Do NOT order seafood on a Sunday or Monday.  It’s been sitting there for days, my friends, and who really loves old fish?  “Watchwords for fine dining?  Tuesday through Saturday.  Busy.  Turnover.  Rotation.”

6. Use the real stuff, i.e. butter.  “I don’t care what they tell you they’re putting or not putting in your food at your favorite restaurant, chances are, you’re eating a ton of butter.  In a professional kitchen, it’s almost always the first and last thing in the pan…that’s why my sauce tastes richer and creamier and mellower than yours, why it’s got that nice, thick, opaque consistency.  Believe me, there’s a big crock of softened butter on almost every cook’s station, and it’s getting a heavy workout.”

7. Learn the language, i.e. Spanish.  “Learn Spanish!!  I can’t stress this enough.  Much of the workforce in the industry you are about to enter is Spanish-speaking.  The very backbone of the industry!”

8. Make killer sauces.  “An ounce of sauce covers a multitude of sins.”

9. But…if you want to be the BEST cook, care about the stuff underneath the sauces.  “You want to taste the pasta, not just the sauce.”

10. Decorate your food like a pro using a plastic squeeze bottle + toothpicks.  “Numero uno–the indispensable object in most chefs’ shtick–is the simple plastic squeeze bottle.  Now drag a toothpick through the rings or lines.”  Voila!

Have you read Kitchen Confidential?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!


For next month, we’ll be reading Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, so download, buy, or check it out from your local library now!  You absolutely don’t have to be based out of NYC to participate…in fact, the more variety we have in voices, the better!  (That’s me cheering you on, yay!)

Our dear writer Joanne will be hosting this book discussion, and posting about it on Monday, March 31st, and would LOVE to have you guys join in on the discussion!  Between now and then, please join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag:


Who’s in?!  Let us know in the comment section below!


By: Jessica Tiare Bowen



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