Cooks or Chefs who can totally relate to Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" - a thread if you



I have worked for over 20 years in restaurants,hotels and clubs. I currently work as a private chef. I feel to be a good private chef you should have years of experience in restaurants. I can really relate to what Tony says in his book KC, I am now reading his new book Medium Raw, which is where he left off 10 years later and now wealthy. My one mistake when venturing out to start my private chef business was joining a personal chef association that also listed private chefs. I thought it was a good thing to have to show people your serious about business. For me it was an addition to be a CIA grad. I joined the forums and began interacting with other members. What I found out was that many of the "chefs" belonging to these groups are not really chefs at all as we see it. They pay their dues and talk about business and call themselves chefs but never worked a line. I developed a great amount of animosity towards this group because of this. My Kitchen confidential style of postings was immediately attacked every time posted. When finally the webmaster chimed in that  people were complaining to her about other members, I felt necessary to chime in myself, "that no professional chef would ever rat another chef out. I kept this post up and running for about a month calling out for the rats  as being unacceptable. I finally asked any other member of the forums to just agree with me that A true chef would never rat out his brother cooks, no one would agree with me. Who are these people, that call themselves chefs and never worked the line? Many have fat pensions from other careers and then claim to be personal chefs. It left off that I couldn't let the topic go, I was ashamed of all of them that they would continually attack me calling me a bigot a racist or whatever they could just because I stuck to my guns, my principals as a true chef, it took me years and years of busting my but to be called a chef! I was eventually censored from posting to shut me up. I think there maybe people on the forums that wanted to agree with me but are afraid of the church lady clicks that run it, such a shame, Just looking for guys who agree with Tony,that's my story. 
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Joined Aug 21, 2009
Hi Peter... nice to meet you!

I read KC and I have to say that I really enjoyed the book.  More than once I burst  out laughing on the commute to work because I completely related to some of the things he was talking about.  (the people on the bus must have thought I was crazy but whatever.. it's not the first time I've laughed out loud on public transit because of something I was reading and I doubt it will be the last)

I'm relatively new to the business... this is a second career for me.  I took some time and raised my kids and now that they're teenagers I can focus on a career again.  I don't regret the years I spent at home with my kids and if I had to do it over I would make the same decision.  At some point I plan to start my own personal chef business but right now I'm AKM/sous at a breakfast place and I really like who I work with and who I work for.   The KM/Chef is amazing and together we work like an old married couple.  I know exactly how he is going to react to a situation and when I say to the owners that "there is no way on this green earth the KM is going to agree to that"  when they come up with some sort of scheme to save on labour or whatever 99.9 percent of the time I'm right.  Even when we work together on busy weekend days.. I know how he is going to react to things.  We share cooking and board calling.. one day he will do eggs and I will do board, and the next day I do eggs and he does board.  I prefer to do eggs on Sundays as that's our busiest day and when I start to see the orders piling in I read ahead on the board and just shut up and cook.  He panics when he sees the tickets piling up and I just knuckle down and start banging off some serious food.  I call orders they way I cook and I know some of our cooks (well at least one) doesn't like it.  Too bad.. it's my responsibility to ensure that everything goes out on time and properly cooked and it's me that the owners are going to come to if there are issues. 

I've learned alot since becoming AKM and I have the people here at Chef Talk to thank.  Always they have been supportive and offered great advice, and if they did not agree with something I had posted they well tell me but it a very respectful way.   This site is one of the best ones on the internet when it comes to respect for others and support. 

As for cooks ratting each other out.. sometimes it's unavoidable.  If somebody turns up drunk or stoned I am going to send his drunk/stoned butt home because having him on the line puts everyone at risk.  Just like when somebody pulls a no call/no show.. I have to let management know about that as it's my job to make sure the kitchen is covered.  Same goes for how they work on the line.  It's my job to make sure we are meeting our target chit times and that everyone has a sense of urgency when it comes to orders.  If someone is lallygagging when I call orders then it's up to me to take that person aside and tell him/her that they need to step up and fire stuff as soon as it is called.  That's what comes with being AKM/sous and I know that and the staff knows that when I tell them something I'm not being a cranky old lady, I'm  doing my job. 

While I am AKM I am a mom first and the owners completely respect that.  When I interviewed for a line cook job I was quite up front with the fact that my son is a brain tumor survivor and he has a shunt in place that seems to like to fail now and then so if I get a call from the school that he is having troubles, I will have to drop everything and leave to take him to ER.  They hired me anyway  and they know that when I get a call from the school I have to go and take care of him.  They have no problems with that as both of them are family men themselves (one is a grandfather already) and when I had to bail in July because my son had the stomach flu I was told "do what you have to do we will manage".   I don't think I can ask for better owners. 

So that is me..
Joined Oct 28, 2008
Hey Peter. I have read Kitchen Confidential...numerous times. Unfortunately I lent it to an ex never to see it again. The book was a thing of beauty, all dog eared and tattered with pages missing. But I digress. I have been working in the biz as a dishwasher, prep cook and line cook for about 5 years. I have worked in all sorts of places and get very uncomfortable when friends and especially servers introduce me to people as a/the chef. Like you I believe a chef is someone who has put their time in on the line and has accumulated a pretty solid amount of culinary knowledge. I do not believe the chef should be the be all end all of cooking lore. We are in an industry that is constantly evolving, and so it is pretty much impossible to know everything. In my opinion the chef should have no trouble holding down any of the stations on his/her line with the utmost competency and above all should be a LEADER. I have a culinary degree but did not come out of school thinking I was a chef. That piece of paper means you have a base knowledge (possibly more depending on what school you attended), but does not necessarily mean you have the experience of a hardened line grunt who spent those 4 years you spent in school in a working kitchen, learning those little tricks they don't teach you in school (the System D-esque things) and earning his/her chops on the line. One final note to close this mofo out: I just finished reading Under the Table by Katherine Darling, which is about her career transition into the cooking world and her time spent at the FCI in NYC. I thought it was a great book, save for the end, when she kept saying how this piece of paper confirmed her entry into chefdom. Everytime I read it, it made my blood boil.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
Yeah read the book.  As fiction, it is well written and very interesting, and I am sure all that stuff really did happen to the author. 

That being said, I am not a drug user, nor do I tolerate drug abuse in my kitchen, and when people bring up the subject, I make my opinions very well known about drug/substance in the kitchen.

On just about every "culinary" forum, there is a lot of navel gazing and poetic dreck about what a "Chef" is, probably one of the most popular threads.

But hey, this is N. America, anyone with a poofy white hat can call themselves a "Chef", just as anyone with a cell-phone camera can cal themselves a "professional photographer".

As a Chef and an employer I have "ratted" on staff; for stealing, for fraud, for drug/booze abuse, sexual or racist comments, basically anything that makes the workplace a dangerous or unpleasant place. 

And that's the way I run MY kitchen.............. 
Joined Aug 21, 2009
Foodpump if I ever find myself in your part of the country I'd happily work for you, if you'd have my inexperienced yet  hardworking butt for an employee. 
Joined Mar 9, 2010
Bourdain is the only one when I read his books, to say to me .....o.k. I'm just like my fellow comrades  ...normal.  Maybe not normal in society ....but in my own culinary world ,that was enough.

Thank-you Anthony
Joined Oct 13, 2001
Tony ran with the big dogs for a long time.That lifestyle was a big norm for the folks who started this biz in the late 70s and early 80s. Most all of my chef buds can relate to the atmosphere of the book.As far as a RAT goes I guess you can feed me some cheese because as the chef I can only see what is right and what is wrong and as a father raising children I gotta practice what I preach ! Integrity is being true to the truth wherever it takes you and when you start to muddy those waters life tends to just get bad.The book is a good read but just take it for what it is and thats a good read!

The us against them mentality is what causes the most human suffering .

Time to eat, cheese and crackers anyone..................
Joined Nov 20, 2000
On just about every "culinary" forum, there is a lot of navel gazing and poetic dreck about what a "Chef" is, probably one of the most popular threads.
That's one of the best lines I have ever heard! Not, dreck, and certainly poetic! /img/vbsmilies/smilies/thumb.gif


Joined Mar 2, 2006
I am a chef,

thats what you will hear me say,

spent 60 grand to be one

at the CIA.

Hows that for poetry LOL.

As far as ratting out people, if you are stealing, high, drunk or just aren't pulling the weight I will sit you down first and then rat you out if you don't come around.

I do not agree with the us against them mentality,we are all just squirrels trying to get a nut.
Joined May 22, 2010

A Rat is one who runs to others to take care of their sh!t. I do not Rat. I take care of my own crap. My kitchen, my rules.. if I'm too stupid to figure out that my breakfast cook is drinking vodka, I deserve it. If i can't tell the signs of prescription drug abuse, or figure out which of my cooks is chronic, then I'm in the wrong business. it's no one else's job to take care of my kitchen but mine. My employer knows this.

Rats are lowlifes.
Joined Apr 3, 2008
I have worked with people hung over, stoned, drunk and on something I couldn't tell but didn't feel comfortable with. As i have never owned my own place and have only been a lead twice in my career as a cook, the best i  could say was "why don't you do "X" over here at this station (away from the line). I have complained about co-workers as far as bad habits (bad food handling mostly, it's a pet peeve) but i usually hand the person all the rope they need to hang themselves in front of the boss.  Except stealing food, I have never worked in any restaurant that wouldn't let you eat all the soup and bread you can handle (or equivalent) and if you were in a really hard spot they would let you take a sandwich home, at least. So if I catch you stealing food in any place I work in you are done and feel free to call me a rat, I'm an honest hard working one.
Joined Oct 3, 2010
I can only agree with most of you, Foodpump are we related?, my sentiments exactly, if an employee turns to, off their head/out of their mind/hungover or stoned it's "go home", "do it again and your fired!", the kitchen is a place for people who want to cook and are fit to do so, if that seems wrong! then you is in da wrong place ***********!er!

(I might just say that as a very young commis, (before Boudain!) I lived the high life, 3-11 shift and on to the clubs til closing time then to the market pubs for breakfast[pint of stout and a bacon buttie] and who knows what we took/smoked through the night!, some how we found the rent and managed to eat, 8-4 shift eels pie and mash couple of pints and bed, some of us were friends of certain Ladies of a certain age who needed some company, and their friends when they were on holiday, never bought a shirt or suit in those days, dear Ladies, I loved them all)..................I may have arrived at work a little jaded but never wrecked!!!
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