After hearing the sad news of Anthony Bourdain‘s suicide earlier this summer, I decided I should finally read Kitchen Confidential, the book that got him noticed. Y’all, that man could write. He was flawed, for sure, but so very vibrant and passionate about food and cooking and the people he worked with. And he was a straight-shooter, which I appreciate. Somehow I’ve ended up reading more than a few food-related books this year, and I really enjoyed this one.
Here are a few bits and bobs I highlighted as I read:
Cooking is a craft, I like to think, and a good cook is a craftsman — not an artist. There’s nothing wrong with that: the great cathedrals of Europe were built by craftsmen — though not designed by them. Practicing your craft in expert fashion is noble, honorable and satisfying. And I’ll generally take a standup mercenary who takes pride in his professionalism over an artist any day. When I hear ‘artist’, I think of someone who doesn’t think it necessary to show up at work on time.
No one understands and appreciates the American Dream of hard work leading to material rewards better than a non-American.
Somebody who wakes up with a scratchy throat and slight fever and thinks it’s okay to call in sick is not what I’m looking for.
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.
Bigfoot [one of his bosses] 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.
Given how his story ended, this was particularly poignant:
That was never my problem. 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. I’m still here. And I’m surprised by that. Every day.
If you’re into food writing and haven’t yet read this one, check it out.