Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Posted 21 February, 2015 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 24 Comments

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kitchen confidential audio


Title: Kitchen Confidential
Author/Narrator: Anthony Bourdain
Published: 2000; Pages: 320
Audio Duration: 8 hrs
Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir
Rating: Shocking and Entertaining

On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads | On Audible

In Short:  Bourdain looks back at his start in the culinary world as he moved through the ranks of the NYC restaurant world–part memoir, part exposé, entirely entertaining.

Why I Listened: I wish I could remember who specifically prompted me to download this one, but I saw it several times on the Weekend Cooking link-up and thought it would make for a fun listen. Good thing I didn’t listen during our family roadtrip like I had planned. Bourdain’s language is quite…ahem…colorful.

Thoughts in General: Oh good golly miss molly. I’ve been thinking about this post for weeks and I’m still not really sure where to start with Bourdain and Kitchen Confidential. I was mildly familiar with Bourdain before going into my listening–seeing him on the Travel channel eating all sorts of really bizarre foods. And this is exactly where Bourdain starts his book–as a child and daredevilishly downing raw oysters must to the disgust of his family. From there it became a kind of addiction and eventually led way to his interest in all things culinary.

Throughout much of the book, Bourdain divulges what goes on inside the busy kitchens of hot New York restaurants. This is framed by Bourdain’s own move from the bottom rungs of the kitchen ladder further to the top. While much of the book feels like a kind of gossip column–who was working with whom and who was high on what kinds of drugs and what fantastical creations which chefs were making at which restaurants. It certainly doesn’t sound of interest, but it was an incredibly wild ride and Bourdain had me by the ear the entire time.

And I learned a lot, too. I learned about the best knives to use the kitchen and some of the more premium ingredients I can use to kick up my dishes a notch (I’ve only ever bought one shallot but perhaps it’s time for me to use them more). And shame on me for using that garlic press. Ha! And after listening to Kitchen Confidential, I will never again order the fish on Monday.


Bottom Line: Even when I couldn’t have cared less about the stories Bourdain was telling, I was still thoroughly engaged. I couldn’t even tell you why you might find this book interesting, but if you’re looking for a story that will make you laugh, that will leave your mouth hanging open, and that will keep you turning the pages (see note on audio), I definitely recommend Kitchen Confidential

Notes on the Audio: One of the best I’ve listened to. Bourdain was the perfect narrator for his own stories. He was fast talking but perfectly timed. He was expressive and emphatic. This is the only way I can imagine experiencing this book and I highly recommend the audio. There were a few moments of editing blips–where the tone of voice changed–but these were small distractions in the grand scheme.

 Are you a fan of Bourdain? Have you watched any of his shows or read any of his books?






Linking up with:

weekend cookingEvery weekend, Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking.  “Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.”  Hope you’ll join the fun!


24 Responses to “Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain”

  1. This one has been on my TBR for a few years. I moved it down the list when I read a post from an HR speaker who said she attended a convention where he was the keynote and that he was a real jerk. I was thinking I should read it now for my healthy living challenge – I might learn something. Maybe I’ll see.

  2. I’ve been wanting to read this book. Now I really want to. Maybe I’ll listen to it instead. Might add to it. I love his show The Taste. Some of the things the judges say, love it!

  3. I read this book (in print, I think) when it first came out and I no longer order the chef’s special or fish on a Sunday or Monday. As you said, even when a particular story didn’t fascinate, Bourdain still did. It’s interesting too to remember that this was one of the first chef memoirs that to tell it like is in the restaurant business.

  4. When I was in elementary school there was a guy in my class who would eat ANYTHING if we paid him. We would pool our money and mix all kinds of weird things together for him to eat. Now, I wonder what he’s doing. lol This actually sounds like a book Carl and I would enjoy listening to together.

  5. I loved this one too! I can not recall if this is the first of his books I listened to but it was not the last… he is funny (and yes at times vulgar…. is this the one that had the story about the bride in the kitchen?), but I really enjoyed it.

  6. I love Bourdain so much. As much as I appreciated this one, I think I tend toward his newer books which are more thoughtful…brash but maybe a little less brash than this one. My all-time fave is A Cook’s Tour. He’s such a wonderful writer.

  7. I loved this one too (I read it in book form)! It’s such a good gateway book for those who are interested in cooking memoirs, but haven’t dipped their toe in yet. It was my gateway to the many cooking/chef memoirs I’ve read since.

  8. I read this quite a while ago and my husband read it, too. (He used to cook in a restaurant, but not at the level of Bourdain!) I kept meaning to listen to one of Bourdain’s books, but I never did! It’s been so long since I read Kitchen Confidential that I could probably just listen to that one!

  9. I don’t usually (read never) do audio books, but this sounds like to one to do it with. Funny, about your not taking it on a family road trip though!

  10. Thanks for the recommendation! I’ve watched Bourdain on the Travel Channel a couple of times but have never gotten around to reading any of his books. An audio book might be a nice change, especially since you’re so enthusiastic about this one.

  11. Interesting because this is a book I would never pick up. I don’t really cook like I want to so listening to someone talk about cooking.. boring. So you make me actually want to try out this book. I think when authors narrate their own stories it can make it that much better because they know the parts where they want to change their voice to express their feelings.

  12. I listened to this a few years ago and loved it. And while I don’t remember specifics of the stories, I do remember having that same mouth hanging open reaction.

  13. I listened to this one on audio last year and posted it for weekend cooking. Wasn’t Anthony Bourdain’s narration excellent. I thought it was hilarious, the drug culture was shocking but his love of food was contagious, I laughed out loud so many times :)

  14. I enjoyed this book, he’s a good story teller. I think I have read all his foodie books but none of his fiction.

    • He definitely doesn’t sugar coat or hold back anything in this book! It was still a fascinating read/listen, though. Definitely recommend for foodies.

  15. Sounds like a book I would enjoy reading. Thanks for the recommendation, I’d love to figure out what are the best knives to use and secret ingredients to kick my dishes up a notch. Stopping by from Weekend cooking and hope you linkup with my Small Victories Sunday Linkup too.

  16. I read this a few years ago when we bought it for my brother-in-law who’s a bartender and a bit of an amateur foodie. Bourdain is kind of a dick and I don’t really like him but I think that’s part of the reason the book is fascinating. Bourdain doesn’t care if you think he’s a dick. He just is. Kind of fascinating to read a book by an author like that.

    However, I won’t watch his shows nor will I read another book by him. But this was definitely a fun read.

  17. I just listened to Medium Raw by Bourdain and really enjoyed it. He talks some about writing Kitchen Confidential and quite a bit how it’s changed his life. I think you’d enjoy it. And yeah – Bourdain’s language is definitely NOT family friendly!

  18. Ti

    I haven’t read his fiction but I’ve read nearly all of his memoir type books. I’ve seen all of his shows too. He’s such a little bad ass. I love him. Yes, he’s softened a little since having his kid but still.