Publishers Weekly Review
Chef at New York's Les Halles and author of Bone in the Throat, Bourdain pulls no punches in this memoir of his years in the restaurant business. His fast-lane personality and glee in recounting sophomoric kitchen pranks might be unbearable were it not for two things: Bourdain is as unsparingly acerbic with himself as he is with others, and he exhibits a sincere and profound love of good food. The latter was born on a family trip to France when young Bourdain tasted his first oyster, and his love has only grown since. He has attended culinary school, fallen prey to a drug habit and even established a restaurant in Tokyo, discovering along the way that the crazy, dirty, sometimes frightening world of the restaurant kitchen sustains him. Bourdain is no presentable TV version of a chef; he talks tough and dirty. His advice to aspiring chefs: "Show up at work on time six months in a row and we'll talk about red curry paste and lemon grass. Until then, I have four words for you: `Shut the fuck up.' " He disdains vegetarians, warns against ordering food well done and cautions that restaurant brunches are a crapshoot. Gossipy chapters discuss the many restaurants where Bourdain has worked, while a single chapter on how to cook like a professional at home exhorts readers to buy a few simple gadgets, such as a metal ring for tall food. Most of the book, however, deals with Bourdain's own maturation as a chef, and the culmination, a litany describing the many scars and oddities that he has developed on his hands, is surprisingly beautiful. He'd probably hate to hear it, but Bourdain has a tender side, and when it peeks through his rough exterior and the wall of four-letter words he constructs, it elevates this book to something more than blustery memoir. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Booklist Review
When the rest of the world is leaving the day's work behind, a restaurant staff's workday is just moving into high gear. Chef Bourdain writes intensely and personally about his career in New York's restaurants, leaving little to the imagination. Drugs, crime, aggression, violence, and sex all commingle with the pots and pans. Bourdain recognized people's passion for food on a boyhood trip to France, when his parents left him in the car for three hours while they ate at Fernand Point's legendary La Pyramide. Work in a Provincetown restaurant on Cape Cod led him to enroll at the Culinary Institute of America in Poughkeepsie, New York, where he learned his craft. In restaurant kitchens, Bourdain encountered the real characters, the line cooks, who actually turn out the food, many of them addicts, struggling immigrants, loners, and misfits. Bourdain's respect for those "fringe elements" makes the narrative worthwhile. For the foodie, Bourdain's prescriptions for kitchen equipment and cooking staples offset the grungier aspects of restaurant life. --Mark Knoblauch