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Chapter 30 - Kitchen Confidential Part 2

It will come as no surprise, after last week's blog, that I also enjoy books written by chefs and those involved in the food business. While I have never had a desire to be a chef, (long hours, on your feet constantly), I have always enjoyed the stories and experiences shared. My interest goes back long before Julie Powell's book Julie and Julia: My Years of Cooking Dangerously where she sets out to make all the recipes from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

I think being a chef must be one of the hardest civilian jobs. It is estimated that about 60% of restaurants fail within the first year of operation and 80% fail within the first five years. In addition you need 6 to 12 months of working capital to even think about starting up. Many banks will not even consider restaurant loans in their loan portfolios and require significant loan guarantee fees as well as collateral. Easier then to work for someone and hope to rise as your skills increase.

The first book I read from a chef was Kitchen Confidential Updated Edition: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain. It is a good retelling of his life as a chef but not my favorite of his. I like his book World Travel: An Irreverent Guide instead in which he recounts his travels based on his television show. It is informative, funny, and supplemental with essays by friends and colleagues. You'll want to go traveling with this book.

After reading Julie and Julia, I read My Life in France by the incomparable Julia Child. She arrived in France in 1948 when her husband was assigned to the US Embassy in Paris. She spoke no French, knew practically nothing about the country, and developed her cooking skills because she was a bored housewife. The rest was history and an enjoyable book to boot.

My next stop in culinary memoirs was Tender At the Bone by Ruth Reichl. Reichl was the editor of Gourmet Magazine and several Gourmet cookbooks. This is the first of a trilogy of memoirs which tell of her growing up years and her journey into the world of cooking. Ruth Reichl has also written other books, both fiction and nonfiction.

Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton - A co-worker, a wonderful chef herself, loaned me this book to read many years ago. Gabrielle Hamilton's journey to cooking was perhaps not a surprise as her French mother was an excellent cook and her father owns a restaurant. She started out in catering then opened her own restaurant, Prune, in New York City. Sadly the restaurant closed during the Covid-19 pandemic. Her book was touted by Anthony Bourdain as being the best memoir by a chef ever.

Ritz and Escoffier: The Hotelier, The Chef, and the Rise of the Leisure Class by Luke Barr - Swiss hotelier Cesar Ritz (of Paris Ritz fame) was invited to the Savoy in London in 1889. The owner, Richard D'Oyly Carte, wished Ritz to create the world's best hotel. He brought his chef, August Escoffier, and between the two created a hotel and restaurant like no one had ever experienced. This is their story.

Are there memoirs or biographies you enjoy reading? Rock stars, movie stars, scientists, political or historical figures? Let me know.


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