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Anthony Bourdain reveals all in "Kitchen Confidential"

Anthony Bourdain at the New York Times Book Review Expo.
Photo by Lawrence Lucier/Getty Images

Playing with sharp knives in the comfort of one’s home kitchen is… very cool. That’s a given. But, doing so in the “back of the house” (the heart of every restaurant) is just as dangerous as it is exhilarating when serving two hundred plus guests for the dinner rush.

In “Kitchen Confidential,” Anthony Bourdain, renowned executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles in New York, extends a personal invitation, a glimpse into the life of a line cook making his way to the top of the food chain, failing many times over along the way.

Bourdain is a natural born thrill-seeker afraid of nothing. During a family vacation to France he recalls the rush of of his naive taste buds infiltrating his simple, adolescent understanding of what food can be. Bourdain - nine years old on a family vacation to France - was a living nightmare for his parents who tried everything to make this trip exciting and fun.

Having endured enough, his parents dined at La Pyramide, a restaurant they were very excited about, without him. Stuck inside a car alongside his brother, for three hours, Bourdain realized that food “could be important.” From there on, he prided himself on outdoing his parents when it came to food, trying everything under the sun, the more shocking the better, including the brains of various animals and “stinky, running cheeses the smelled like dead men’s feet.”

Bourdain never loses his edge; he only gains finesse. Aside from his life in the food business, “Kitchen Confidential” is filled with useful knowledge, including a thorough breakdown of affordable and indispensable kitchen must-haves in a chapter called, “How to Cook Like the Pros.” The list is short, yet detailed. It provides culinary confidence at a fraction of the price that a department store has on display.

Many characters are introduced throughout “Kitchen Confidential.” One of these characters is Bourdain’s mentor, a man named Bigfoot, “a West Village legend, either loved or despised (and frequently both) by generations of bar customers, waiters, bartenders, cooks, chefs, and restaurant lifers.”

Bourdain learned every intricacy about running a restaurant by working with Bigfoot. Other personalities are complete opposites, examples of how not to run a restaurants. These include mob bosses whose purveyors called Bourdain into an idled car to talk about poultry, which they kept in the trunk, simply out of habit.

“Kitchen Confidential” is a romantic, blood-stained, speedball-induced ride with culinary gold woven in with a gilded string, all of which can be and should be used, even if playing chef in the comfort of a home kitchen.