“I wanted to write in Kitchenese, the secret language of cooks, instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever dunked french fries for a summer job or suffered under the despotic rule of a tyrannical chef or boobish owner.”
― Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
The world lost an amazing man today.
When I was 19, in culinary school and started working in restaurants, Kitchen Confidential came out and changed my life.
Cooking in kitchens became something to be proud of. Not because everyone started idolizing chefs and started paying more attention to them (which they did), but because it became so much easier to no longer give a shit about what others thought. Why you stopped hanging out on the weekends with your friends, why you started missing every family holiday, why you had burns all over your arms and didn’t care, why you decided against college and a “normal” life to work long hours, get dirty every night and destroy your body instead.
Kitchen confidential made me proud and excited to be entering into the restaurant industry. It made me understand it more clearly. The chapters, “Who cooks?” and “So you want to be a chef” had me smiling and nodding my head the entire time. This guy was speaking our language. A language that most people didn’t understand. I gave the book to my Mom to read when I first got into the restaurant industry, so she could understand. And she did. It probably saved us a lot of hard talks, and saved her a lot of hurt feelings and confusion.
“Line cooks are the heroes,” Anthony said. This statement made us feel like all the 15 hour days working for 12 bucks and hour was worth it. For practically all of us who were (or still are) cooks and chefs, it made us feel respected as professionals and not just the misfits that couldn’t (and didn’t want to) hack it in “normal” jobs or society in general.
He didn’t glamorize the disfunctionality of the restaurant business, he just called it like it was.
Anthony (or Tony as most chefs called him) not only inspired me to be a chef, but a writer too. He is a true master of words. He gave people like me, who had no formal education in writing and a colorful vocabulary, “permission” to write and throw and F-bomb out there, and not care what anyone else thought about it.
He is the reason chef memoirs are so popular and relevant today.
He is the reason we have travel food shows.
His respect for people’s cultures and food preparations taught America to start thinking outside the box, get off our soapboxes, shut our mouths and start learning from people from other countries. Because that’s how you become a better chef and a better person.
Even though I didn’t know Anthony, he was a mentor to me. He was a huge influence in my career, even still to this day, after leaving the industry. I feel like I lost a close friend. I definitely lost my culinary hero.
Rest in peace chef. You have left an eternal legacy that no-one will ever be able to replicate.
Sarah Burchard is the author of The Healthy Locavore, a natural foods chef and experience host whose writing focuses on cooking, holistic health, supporting community and eating locally grown and made foods.