The whole world in his hands:
from gallus apprentice with a drug problem to renowned galloping gourmet, Anthony Bourdain has more than proved his worth in the American kitchen
Who’s cooking your food? What strange beasts lurk behind the kitchen doors? You see The Chef. The guy with his name stitched in Tuscan blue on his starched white coat. But who’s actually cooking your food? Are they young, ambitious, culinary school graduates putting in time until they get up the ladder to the top job? Probably not. The chances are, they are a dysfunctional, mercenary lot of fringe-dwellers, high on testosterone, nicotine, analgesics, caffeine – and who knows what else – motivated by money and a grim pride in cooking.
Yet to watch them, at their best, properly organised, is to view a high-speed collaboration resembling a kitchen ballet. A good ‘line cook’ works clean and has ‘moves’ which are carefully worked out for economy of movement, nice technique and most importantly – speed. The job requires character, endurance, the ability to show up on time and to work through pain and injury.
All is revealed in Anthony Bourdain’s life as a New York line cook which has shot him into the bestseller list with his frank expose, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underworld. To date, he has not been lynched by fellow chefs, or restaurant owners. But then, he’s not an annoying TV chef. And neither is he round, adorable or cuddly, but an ex-junkie, with the looks of an ageing rock star. His long, thin, elegant form is perched on a stool as he deals with an Edinburgh book festival audience, curious to hear more.
They are not disappointed. He begins with the things that endear him to his machismo lifestyle, where much damage is done to mind and body in the cause of putting food on plates. His hands, it could be said, are where it all started.