Title: Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line
Author: Michael Gibney
Published: March 25, 2014 by Ballantine Books
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The back must slave to feed the belly. . . . In this urgent and unique book, chef Michael Gibney uses twenty-four hours to animate the intricate camaraderie and culinary choreography in an upscale New York restaurant kitchen. Here readers will find all the details, in rapid-fire succession, of what it takes to deliver an exceptional plate of food—the journey to excellence by way of exhaustion.
Told in second-person narrative, Sous Chef is an immersive, adrenaline-fueled run that offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the food service industry, allowing readers to briefly inhabit the hidden world behind the kitchen doors, in real time. This exhilarating account provides regular diners and food enthusiasts alike a detailed insider’s perspective, while offering fledgling professional cooks an honest picture of what the future holds, ultimately giving voice to the hard work and dedication around which chefs have built their careers.
In a kitchen where the highest standards are upheld and one misstep can result in disaster, Sous Chef conjures a greater appreciation for the thought, care, and focus that go into creating memorable and delicious fare. With grit, wit, and remarkable prose, Michael Gibney renders a beautiful and raw account of this demanding and sometimes overlooked profession, offering a nuanced perspective on the craft and art of food and service.
I’ve been in the mood for foodie books lately and Sous Chef actually lived up to what I expected from it. It is what it’s billed as, 24 hours in the life of a sous chef. It’s fiction, but Gibney has spent years in restaurants and it is a true picture of the behind the scenes. I learned some of the terms and practices that go with a professional kitchen. Gibney gives a good idea of the types of people cooking draws, of the personalities and egos and how they all come into play. By writing in the second-person, he makes you feel a part of the story, makes it more immediate.
This is not a book that’s big on plot or character development – it’s not supposed to be. If you’re like me and love food network tv, and are fascinated by what goes on in a restaurant that we don’t see, you’ll enjoy this one. It does, however, take away some of the mystery and magic to dining out. But we are reminded, time and again, that it is food services, it’s about serving the best food you can to the customers.
It’s a quick read, too, which make sense, given the limited time frame. I have to admit that I’d like to get to know some of the characters more, but I guess that’s the point, too. They represent the various people working in kitchens in New York, but we’re not allowed into their personal lives, just the part they bring work, and the bar afterward.