Today, Anthony Bourdain may be better known for his television shows, "No Reservations" and "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown," but the chef, whose death at age 61 was announced June 8, first made his mark with a swaggering tell-all memoir.
In May 2000, Bloomsbury published "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly," written while Bourdain was a relatively low-profile chef at Les Halles, a neighborhood brasserie in Manhattan. He already had two novels under his belt.
"Kitchen Confidential" caused a ruckus in both the culinary and literary worlds and became a national bestseller. Bourdain was recognized — in some quarters, reproved — for his brutal honesty about restaurant life as well as his vivid prose style.
In August of that year, Newsday books editor Laurie Muchnick reviewed "Kitchen Confidential" along with another title, "The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection" by Michael Ruhlman.
Here are some choice bits from that review:
"I don't know how [Bourdain] finds time to write; he starts his day at 6 a.m. with a cigarette in bed, pondering the shopping list and the specials, and winds down after midnight in a dive bar near Times Square, drinking free beers with the cook-friendly owner. You can sleep later, of course, but when do you write?"
"Like a Martin Amis of the culinary world, Bourdain revels in the unsavory; his highest compliment is "criminal," as in "Having a sous-chef with excellent cooking skills and a criminal mind is one of God's great gifts". . . . Bourdain's writing style also reminds me of Amis . . . he has a similar slangy way with words, a supple vocabulary and a way with a list."
"Bourdain is no culinary saint, or any other kind of saint, but he gets you on his side right away with his disarming honesty. Even if you get the impression that you might not hit it off in person — maybe you're a vegetarian, or an Emeril Legasse fan — it's hard to read this book and not feel like you've had a great time hanging out with Bourdain, listening to him tell you the secrets of professional cooking (shallots, for one thing), or what not to eat in a restaurant. "