“Kitchen Confidential” by Anthony Bourdain

When my wife and I heard about Anthony Bourdain’s death, we were both shocked and saddened. To learn that he had taken his own life was even more shocking. Sadly, the impetus for reading “Kitchen Confidential” was his death, although the book had been residing on my bookshelf for many years. Not only was it a brash look at the dark underbelly of the cooking industry, it was also an insightful glimpse into the world of Bourdain himself, clearly passionate about an industry that kicked him around for many years. While reading “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield, I could not help but think about Bourdain’s prose. Bourdain’s attitude, approaches, and demeanor did not immediately scream PROFESSIONAL, but his commitment and dedication to an art certainly did. Below are just a few notes from this book that I captured, more out of entertainment than insight for myself although there is deep meaning within.

  • Food had power. It could inspire, astonish, shock, excite, delight and impress. It had the power to please me . . . and others. This was valuable information.
  • Practicing your craft in expert fashion is noble, honorable and satisfying.
  • Good food and good eating are about risk. Every once in a while an oyster, for instance, will make you sick to your stomach. Does this mean you should stop eating oysters? No way.
  • never order fish on Monday, unless I’m eating at Le Bernardin — a four-star restaurant where I know they are buying their fish directly from the source. I know how old most seafood is on Monday — about four to five days old!
  • Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter-faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. 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.
  • A proper saute pan, for instance, should cause serious head injury if brought down hard against someone’s skull.
  • All the food was simple. And I don’t mean easy, or dumb. I mean that for the first time, I saw how three or four ingredients, as long as they are of the highest and freshest quality, can be combined in a straightforward way to make a truly excellent and occasionally wondrous product.
  • I like to hear different accounts of the same incident from different sources. It adds perspective and reveals, sometimes, what a particular source is leaving out, or skewing to leave a particular impression, making me wonder: Why?
  • Appreciate people who show up every day and do the best they can, in spite of borderline personalities, substance abuse problems and anti-social tendencies;
  • Don’t blame others for my mistakes. I am attentive to the weak but willing, if merciless to the strong who are not so eager to please.
  • When they’re yanking a fender out of my chest cavity, I will decidedly not be regretting missed opportunities for a good time. My regrets will be more along the lines of a sad list of people hurt, people let down, assets wasted and advantages squandered.

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