Sous Chef by Michael Gibney: Book Review & Weekend Cooking

Weekend Cooking, Cooking books, food books

This post is part of fellow book blogger, Beth Fish Reads‘, weekly meme (a “community” blog post, for all those non-bloggers out there) called Weekend Cooking.

Sous Chef, Michael Gibney, cooking nonfictionNonfiction – Cooking / Food
Released March, 2014
241 Pages
Source: eGalley from NetGalley
Bottom Line: Skip it.

Plot Summary of Sous Chef:

A day in the life of a Sous Chef at a restaurant in the West Village of NYC, based on Michael Gibney’s real-life experience.

My Thoughts on Sous Chef:

Sous Chef has been compared to Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and Bill Buford’s Heat, both of which I loved. Bourdain said Sous Chef was “a terrific nuts and bolts account of the real business of cooking”…and I agree with him. The only problem is that the nuts and bolts of cooking is not that interesting and that’s where Sous Chef fell short for me.

Sous Chef literally goes step by step through a day in the life of a Sous Chef, which ends up reading a bit like a task list. He starts with the pre-opening work of cleaning the kitchen, checking inventory, and completing paperwork. Not surprisingly, reading about inventory and paperwork got a little tedious and I longed for more of a storyline, personalities, and the revelation of behind the scenes secrets (what I think made Kitchen Confidential so entertaining).

I did love Gibney’s writing style – he was able to capture the essence of what I suppose it’s like on the line during a busy Friday night in the West Village. And, he shined when describing the people he worked with, particularly Executive Chef Bryan:

Fluency in the language, European training, and a sadistic approach to competition helped him more than just a bit. A native misanthropy made it easy for him to stop caring about the throats he had to cut on the way to the top.

I wish he’d spent more time on the “essence” and personalities than on the tasks the kitchen staff needed to complete.

It was clear that Gibney is passionate about his work as a chef and takes pride in the entire job, not just the cooking. He also made me appreciate the back-breaking, frenetic work that cooking is and internalize how much of a disruption to the kitchen that diners’ special request can cause. 

Though I wasn’t a huge fan of the nuts and bolts nature of Sous Chef, I would be interested to see Gibney try again with more of a storyline and focus on the people.

Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon

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  1. Tina wrote:

    That was a fun read, I love books like this. Behind the scenes in a kitchen.

    Posted 5.3.14 Reply
  2. Jackie wrote:

    I have this on my TBR list.

    Posted 5.3.14 Reply
  3. I haven’t read in this genre yet. I may be better off starting with Bourdain.

    Posted 5.3.14 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      I would say Bourdain is a better place to start…a bit more mainstream appeal and “action”.

      Posted 5.3.14 Reply
  4. Kerry Ann wrote:

    I thumbed through this at the library the other day. Looked interesting, but I had far too much on my reading plate at the time. Thanks for the review.

    Posted 5.3.14 Reply
  5. All about one day! Cheers

    Posted 5.3.14 Reply
  6. Beth F wrote:

    I liked this better than you did.

    Posted 5.4.14 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      Yes – I remember your review! I thought it was fine, but just not as entertaining as expected. I did love his writing style, though. I’d read something else by him.

      Posted 5.4.14 Reply
  7. Laurie C wrote:

    I wonder if people who have actually worked in a restaurant kitchen would enjoy it more. Or maybe even less, because it’s too familiar. I haven’t even read Heat yet, so I won’t add this one to my TBR list.

    Posted 5.4.14 Reply
  8. It’s so disappointing when a book doesn’t live up to the hype. Hope you have some better reads in your future.

    Thanks for visiting my Sunday post.

    Posted 5.4.14 Reply

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