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Anthony Bourdain: Chef, author and BAMF

Courtesy Lwp Kommunikáció/Flickr

When picturing alcohol-induced benders, drug-fueled frenzies, and debauchery of all sorts, restaurants are rarely what come to mind. It has been 11 years since chef and author Anthony Bourdain released his crude, bestselling book, “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly” where he exposed the deeper, darker side of the industry that has been hidden behind those big swinging doors in the back of America’s favorite restaurant. In a brutally honest account, Bourdain recalls his adventures in the world of cooking. He details a life that many may think they would love, but in reality are too soft and weak to last in.

Bourdain’s culinary journey began in Provincetown when he worked in a local restaurant for the summer. Bourdain writes, “The life of a cook was a life of adventure, looting, pillaging and rock-and-rolling through life with a carefree disregard for all conventional morality.”

Bourdain dropped out of Vassar College after that summer. He enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America and worked for various New York City restaurants. “Kitchen Confidential” resonates with anyone who has held a job in a kitchen – from chefs, to waiters, to dishwashers. The book relates to audiences who have dealt with mischievous cooking mishaps firsthand at their place of work. Some may even relate to Bourdain’s late nights struggling in the kitchen, resulting in sleep-deprivation zombie-like state and hours of flirting with waitresses.

“Kitchen Confidential” acts as a valuable guide to those who might think that they want to drop out of college and join the culinary ranks. Bourdain pays great attention to detail while explaining the laborious work that scars hands and sucks the existence of a social life.

In Bourdain’s world, sexual harassment is not uncommon and drugs and alcohol are prevalent. While it might discourage dreamers, it is better to know the reality of being a chef now rather than waiting until the harassment and stress takes its toll. Bourdain vividly describes the tornado of chaos, adrenaline and pressure that comes with being successful or otherwise collapsing in a fiery downfall. This is an underworld where anarchy, thick skin and loyalty stand above all else.
Just like the kitchens he describes, the life of a chef is not beautiful. According to Bourdain there are no fairytale endings; the kitchen staff becomes family. This book is not all horror as it encompasses a strong passion for high-quality food made with skill. “Kitchen Confidential” is a genuine, raw glimpse into a life that most know little about.

Bourdain’s life doesn’t just stop at chef and author – he currently hosts “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” on the Travel Channel. The Emmy Award winning series displays Bourdain experiencing a cornucopia of cultures and exotic foods. Life and culture are discussed in the series more so than the food. Bourdain explores the roots of his destinations and explains how food is deeply connected to the framework of how people exist. “No Reservations” is open, honest, stylish and shows beauty in places where it may have been overlooked.

This beauty is not shown in mountaintops, but in the heritage of boxing rings in Boston or the excitement of those testing new culinary waters. In the past seven seasons, the series has travelled the globe, moving from industrial capitals to barren reserves that many audiences will never see in their lifetimes. In the latest season, the show travelled to Japan, Kurdistan and the Amazon. The season’s ending should not stop fans from catching any reruns, though. They are constantly playing on Travel Channel and the seasons are available for purchase as well.

Jeff Mitchell can be reached at jjmitche@student.umass.edu

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