Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly - Deepstash
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly

Anthony Bourdain

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Good line cooking

Good line cooking

Professional level cooking is not all about the best recipe or the most innovative presentation. Instead, it is “economy of movement, nice technique and, most important, speed.”

Line cooking is the real business of preparing food. It is more about consistency, mindless unvarying repetition. Chefs need the line cook to execute unquestionably without challenge.

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The three groups of line cooks

  1. Artists are an "annoying, high-maintenance minority." Their efforts, convinced of their own genius, are often less satisfying to the majority of dinner customers.
  2. Exiles want to work a normal 9-to-5 or are refugees who prefer work to poverty.
  3. Mercenaries are people who do it for cash and do it well. Cooking is a craft, and expertly practising your craft is noble, honourable, and satisfying.

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Bourdain’s opinion of American cooks

They are “lazy, undisciplined and, worst of all, high-maintenance lot, annoyingly opinionated, possessed of egos requiring constant stroking and tune-ups, and, as members of a privileged and wealthy population, unused to the kind of ‘disrespect’ a busy chief is inclined to dish out.”

That is why non-Americans become well paid and sought after by other chefs. They’ve worked their way up from the bottom and know what it’s like to scrape out plates and haul garbage out to the curb.

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Mise-en-place is a cook’s workstation

Mise-en-place is a cook’s workstation

A cook’s station and its condition is in a state of readiness. If you let your miss-emplace run down, get dirty and disorganised, you’ll quickly become overwhelmed.

A typical mise-en-place contains:

  • Kosher or sea salt
  • Crushed black peppercorns
  • Ground white pepper
  • Fresh breadcrumbs
  • Chiffonade parsley
  • Blended oil in a wine bottle
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • White wine
  • Brandy
  • Chervil tops in ice water for garnish
  • Chive sticks or chopped chives
  • Tomato concasse
  • Caramelized apple sections
  • Garlic confit
  • Chopped or slivered garlic
  • Chopped shallots
  • Softened butter
  • Favourite ladles, spoons, tongs, pans, pots

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Tips On Eating Out

Tips On Eating Out

  • When to Eat Out: Tuesday is a great day to eat out. The chef is well-rested after a Sunday or Monday off.
  • Be polite to your waiter or waitress: “he could save your life with a raised eyebrow or sigh.”
  • The brunch menu is usually made of “old nasty odds and ends”
  • Bread has likely been recycled from someone else’s table.
  • Good restaurants are clean, cooks and waiters well-groomed, dining room is busy.
  • The scrap ends of sirloin that have been pushed constantly to the back of the pile are served to people who want their meats cooked “well done”.

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Essential kitchen tools

Essential kitchen tools

  • A decent chef’s knife
  • A flexible boning knife. Get one made by Global.
  • Pairing knife
  • Offset serrated knife
  • Plastic Squeeze Bottle
  • Toothpicks
  • “A thin metal ring, or cut-down section of PVC pipe about an inch and a half tall and laying inches across for pretentious food presentation.
  • Pastry bag
  • Mandolin
  • Pots and pans
  • Stockpots, saucepans, and thick-bottomed sauté pans are nice to have
  • Ensure they’re heavyweight
  • Never wash a non-stick sauté pan. Wipe it clean after each use. Don’t scratch the surface. Use a wooden spoon or non-metallic spatula.

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How to cook like a professional

How to cook like a professional

Good food is most often, simple food. Some of the best cuisine in the world is a matter of three or four good, fresh ingredients.

Basic Kitchen Ingredients

  • Shallots - Use for sauces, dressings, and sauté items.
  • Butter - In a professional kitchen, it’s almost always the first and last thing in the pan.
  • Roasted garlic. Sliver it for pasta. Smash it with the flat but don’t put it through a press.
  • Chiffonaded parsley for garnish. 
  • Stock is the backbone of good cooking.
  • Demi-glaze
  • Cervil, basil tops, chive sticks, mint tops, etc.

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Smart restaurant ownership

  • Your chances of seeing a return on your investment are about one in five. 
  • Some people go into the restaurant business because of ego. Friends encourage you into it because you’re good at hosting dinner parties.
  • The most dangerous is getting into the business for love. 

Smart restaurant owners know from the start what they want. They are capable of doing well, and know how much it will cost them at the outset. They also have a fixed idea of how long they’re willing to lose money before they pull the plug.

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Restaurant roles

Restaurant roles

Runners dress like waiters and are paid out of the house payroll, but their loyalty lies with the chef and the kitchen. This person has dedication and speed, can quickly gauge what’s going on, can carry multiple plates and remember position numbers.

A night porter has to clean the restaurant after service, take out the garbage, clean and scrub the insides of the ovens, and hose down the kitchen.

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How to become a chef

How to become a chef

  • Be fully committed.
  • Learn Spanish. The backbone of your staff will be speaking this language.
  • Don’t steal.
  • Always be on time.
  • Never make excuses or blame others.
  • Lazy, sloppy and slow are bad.
  • Assume the worst. Be amused by what you see and suspect.
  • Avoid restaurants where the owner’s name is over the door.
  • Think about your resume
  • Read
  • Have a sense of humour.

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aleqq

I get my inspiration from nature and objects around me.

Kitchen Confidential is an insider’s look into the life in the culinary trade from Chef Anthony Bourdain.

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