Kitchen Confidential

Kitchen Confidential Updated Ed Book Cover Kitchen Confidential Updated Ed
Anthony Bourdain
Biography & Autobiography
Harper Collins
January 9, 2007

One of the best auto-biographies you will ever read. Great life lessons to be had. How to work. How to be a craftsman. How to be a professional. And highly entertaining.

Work clean! Working clean, constantly wiping and cleaning, is a desirable state of affairs for the conscientious line cook. That chef was right: messy station equals messy mind.

Cooking is a craft, I like to think, and a good cook is a craftsman — not an artist.

When a job applicant starts telling me how Pacific Rim-job cuisine turns him on and inspires him, I see trouble coming. Send me another Mexican dishwasher anytime. I can teach him to cook. I can’t teach character. 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.’

Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food.

Weekday diners, on the other hand, are the home team potential regulars, whom all concerned want to make happy.

Vanadium steel Global knives, a very good Japanese product which has — in addition to its many other fine qualities — the added attraction of looking really cool.

Jacques Pepin’s La Technique.

And when you buy a non-stick, treat it nice. Never wash it. Simply wipe it clean after each use, and don’t use metal in it, use a wooden spoon or ceramic or non-metallic spatula to flip or toss whatever you’re cooking in it. You don’t want to scratch the surface.

Please, treat your garlic with respect. Sliver it for pasta, like you saw in Goodfellas, don’t burn it. Smash it, with the flat of your knife blade if you like, but don’t put it through a press. I don’t know what that junk is that squeezes out the end of those things, but it ain’t garlic.

In Bigfootland you showed up for work fifteen minutes before your shift. Period. Two minutes late? You lose the shift and are sent home. If you’re on the train and it looks like it’s running late? You get off the train at the next stop, inform Bigfoot of your pending lateness, and then get back on the next train. It’s okay to call Bigfoot and say, ‘Bigfoot, I was up all night smoking crack, sticking up liquor stores, drinking blood and worshipping Satan . . . I’m going to be a little late.’ That’s acceptable — once in a very great while. But after showing up late, try saying (even if true), ‘Uh . . . Bigfoot, I was on the way to work and the President’s limo crashed right next to me . . . and I had to pull him out of the car, give him mouth-to-mouth . . . and like I saved the leader of the free world, man!’ You, my friend, are fired.

Bigfoot understood — as I came to understand — that character is far more important than skills or employment history.

Skills can be taught. Character you either have or don’t have. Bigfoot understood that there are two types of people in the world: those who do what they say they’re going to do — and everyone else.

(God help you if you don’t have a pen in Bigfoot land);

The most important and lasting lessons I learned from Bigfoot were about personnel and personnel management — that I have to know everything, that I should never be surprised. He taught me the value of a good, solid and independently reporting intelligence network, providing regular and confirmable reports that can be verified and cross-checked with other sources. I need to know, you see. Not just what’s happening in my kitchen, but across the street as well. Is my saucier unhappy? Is the chef across the street ready to make a pass, maybe take him away from me at an inopportune moment? I need to know! Is the saucier across the street unhappy? Maybe he’s available. I need to know that, too.

Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance,

I learned to recognize failure.

Paul Castellano biography called Boss of Bosses,

‘We’re in a lifeboat . . .’ begins one of my standard inspirationals to new sous-chefs. ‘We’re four days out to sea, with no rescue in sight. There are two Snickers bars and a tiny hunk of salt pork left in our stores, and that fat bastard by the stern is getting crazier with every hour, becoming more and more irrational and demanding, giving that Snickers bar long, lingering looks — even though he’s too weak to help with the rowing or the bailing any more. He presents a clear and present danger to the rest of us, what with his leering at the food and his recently acquired conviction that we’re plotting against him. What do we do?’ We kick fat boy over the side, I say. Maybe we even carve a nice chunk of rump steak off his thigh before letting him go. Is that wrong?

1. Be fully committed. Don’t be a fence-sitter or a waffler.
2. Learn Spanish!
3. Don’t steal. In fact, don’t do anything that you couldn’t take a polygraph
4. Always be on time.
5. Never make excuses or blame others.
6. Never call in sick. Except in cases of dismemberment, arterial bleeding, sucking chest wounds or the death of an immediate family member. Granny died? Bury her on your day off.
7. Lazy, sloppy and slow are bad. Enterprising, crafty and hyperactive are good.
8. Be prepared to witness every variety of human folly and

Under ‘Reasons for Leaving Last Job’, never give the real reason, unless it’s money or ambition.
13. Read!
14. Have a sense of humor about things.