I looked down at my inbox on Friday afternoon. Bon Appetite had a Headline, “Remembering Anthony Bourdain” and I thought that was an unusual title until I read further. I couldn’t believe it. I know I never knew Bourdain on a personal level. However, I did read a lot of what he had put on paper. In fact, when I first started out as a young chef, reading “Kitchen Confidential” and “The Nasty Bits” had kept me pushing forward when I thought I wouldn’t stack up.
He has a chapter in “Kitchen Confidential” directly addressing young aspiring chefs. The advice he gave was priceless. I especially took to one particular. He said, “Read!”.
“Read cookbooks, trade magazines — I recommend Food Arts, Saveur, Restaurant Business magazines. They are useful for staying abreast of industry trends, and for pinching recipes and concepts. Some awareness of the history of your business is useful, too. It allows you to put your own miserable circumstances in perspective when you’ve examined and appreciated the full sweep of culinary history.”
– Excerpt From: Anthony Bourdain. “Kitchen Confidential.”
I was alone in my journey. I didn’t go to culinary school. I taught myself most of what I needed to know in order to have a chance to even pretend to be able cook in a restaurant. My chef demanded more of me than what I was capable. I had to push myself harder to make up for what I didn’t yet know. Most days ( actually everyday ) I looked at the back door to the kitchen and had a fight or flight moment. If I never picked up Bourdain’s first book, flight was inevitable. It was the first time that I realized that I wasn’t alone. That every young cook/chef in the world was going through the same type of boot camp. Until this point, I thought I just didn’t have it. Anthony Bourdain pointed out that I didn’t have yet, no one does at first. But we all go through this stage and it gets easier.
So, thank you very much Anthony, for your inspiration and guidance through your words. I hope that you find yourself in a place where whatever demons you had can no longer reach you. You journeyed to every corner of this earth. Now journey on man.
Must Reads: You’re Not Alone
These are my best recommended books for any young chef who may feel the way I did in the beginning.
Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential”
Not only does he give advice to young chefs, but he also paints a very colorful picture of the inside of the restaurant world. There are stories that leave you rolling with laughter and some that leave you just plain shocked.
Marco Pierre White’s “Devil in the Kitchen”
A biography of Marco’s early life and career. The youngest chef in the world to attain 3 Michelin stars in that time. To this day only a very few chefs have achieved this accolade at a younger age than Marco. He shows what it took to get there, but also had some good stories along the way.
Bill Buford’s “Heat”
A writer turned chef, Bill started out working in a kitchen in order to personally research what it takes to work the life of a chef. He in turn gained a skill set that brought him into the fold of our fraternity of chefs. The way he talks about the struggle and describes the pressures of becoming a chef is unparalleled.
Daniel Buloud’s “Letters to a Young Chef”
Very inspirational, this book is a quick read and gives the perfect advice for young chefs. If you are a veteran, and have not ever read this, read it. It will give you a good look back on what you did to get where you are at now and help in times when one of your younger chefs need advice.
Gabrielle Hamilton’s “Blood, Bones, and Butter”
The chef’s chef. Anthony Bourdain wrote of this wonderful place tucked away in the East Village. This place is where chefs would go after closing down their own kitchens for the night. They would get the best of the simplistic beauty of food. Seeing the world of professional cooking through her eyes gives a different appreciation for this business. This book definitely shows the measure of passion we have as chefs.
When Did You Fall in Love? (with food)
In “Kitchen Confidential”, Bourdain tells the story of when he first realized that food can be more than just fuel for our bodies. Food can be creative, different, an event. He traveled to France with his family on summer vacation and there he experienced vichyssoise and oysters for the first time. These are some experiences you may hear chefs talk about when they remember the foods that opened their eyes to a whole new world of food.
In similar ways, I too experienced these far from the norm foods as a child. I tried oysters for the first time when I was about 10. I was very proud of myself. My dad and my grandfather would both knock back a dozen oysters when we were out to eat on vacations by the shore. I wanted to try them, and so began a love for this strange looking delicacy. The other food I tried at young age was gazpacho. My dad, who to this day is an excellent cook, made this cold tomato soup for the first time a few years after my discovery of oysters. I couldn’t believe how good it tasted and was mind blown at the fact that it was served cold.
Please leave a comment below with any foods that have ever thrown your own taste buds for a loop. I’d love to hear about the time you fell in love with food.
For anyone who wants to try the vichyssoise that Tony made. Follow the link below. I wouldn’t change a thing and it is still one of the few recipes I can say that about.