Nonfiction – Cooking / Food
Released March, 2014
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.
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