Sunday, January 10, 2016

"Sous Chef," by Michael Gibney

I like going to restaurants, including trying new restaurants and trying those with different cuisines and influences, and I am fortunate to live in one of the best restaurant cities in the United States, San Francisco. Of course I love trying different restaurants during my travels as well. (It so happens that I am in Italy as I post this, and an hour ago I had an amazing risotto dish, one of several good meals I have had here.) I also enjoy learning about and reading about restaurants and chefs, so I have read several restaurant-related books over the years. Three examples about which I have posted here are memoirs: “Blood, Bones, & Butter,” by Gabrielle Hamilton (4/26/11); “Restaurant Man,” by Joe Bastinich (5/12/12); and “Yes, Chef,” by Marcus Samuelsson (7/21/12). I also posted a list of favorite restaurant-world-related books on 2/4/10. I very recently read a book I gave myself for Christmas (I also gave a copy to my son-in-law): “Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line,” by Michael Gibney. Gibney, a longtime chef, brings the world of a fine-dining restaurant’s kitchen alive by describing a typical day there in great, vivid detail. The book is based on his knowledge of and experience in several restaurants rather than one particular one, although focusing on one particular (unnamed) “Modern American” restaurant in the West Village in Manhattan. Many of the characters are either composites or given pseudonyms, understandably so. The book is not a tell-all, in the sense of revealing secrets or scary details, as was, for example, Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential.” But there are plenty of very intriguing and revealing portraits and details to keep the reader interested. I would not put this book among the very best of restaurant books I have read; the very best ones are in fact about more than restaurants, encompassing the wider world of food, and the lives and aspirations of the chefs and other workers. Or they are just plain better written. But this book is reasonably well written, definitely worth reading, and the format Gibney has chosen (a day in the life…) is an effective one.
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