What's it really like to work as a chef? What actually goes on behind the scenes? Severely hungover staff, malfunctioning ticket printers, temperamental bosses, and the joy of doing the impossible nightly — it's all here. A 24-hour snapshot of a busy restaurant kitchen. Recommended By Mary Jo S., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Forgoing the usual route of outrageous stories, name dropping, or straight ahead cookbooks, Gibney writes about what it's actually like to work in the kitchen of a fine dining restaurant. Told in the second-person, from the point of a sous chef a kitchen's second-in-command and a position Gibney first reached at the age of 22 the narrative wonderfully captures a single day's events, from morning deliveries and prep work through a busy service to the team's cathartic release at a local bar. An experienced chef with an M.F.A. in nonfiction, Gibney is as skilled with words as he is with his 11-inch Sujihiki knife. In fact, when writing about this trusty knife his prose sounds more like poetry: 'her outward lip traces lines in flesh with surgical exactitude, the convex shape of her inward face attenuates surface tension, releasing the meat. Cuts go slack at her touch; fish bows beside her.' This love of language permeates the whole book so that Gibney is able to tie together the off-color Spanglish dialogues of the staff with his drunken philosophizing on whether or not cooking is 'just another form enlightened self interest' to create a story that is both cohesive and multifaceted." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“A terrific nuts-and-bolts account of the real business of cooking as told from the trenches. No nonsense. This is what it takes.” Anthony Bourdain
“This is excellent writing — excellent! — and it is thrilling to see a debut author who has language and story and craft so well in hand. Though I would never ask my staff to read my own book, I would happily require them to read Michael Gibney’s.” Gabrielle Hamilton, author of Blood, Bones & Butter
“Sumptuously entertaining fare....[Gibney] breathes life into the mix of outsized personalities inhabiting the confined, hot, noisy space of the kitchen.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Sous Chef is a marvelous, superbly written, intelligent, and accomplished book. I know no other book that so vividly renders the experience and complexity of life in a big restaurant kitchen. The sheer amount of knowledge demonstrated here of the particulars of cooking is immense, and the dynamic, seesaw relationship between chef and sous chef is especially well achieved. I was gripped by the author’s culinary passion and literary sophistication. Bravo!” Phillip Lopate
“A good cook chooses ingredients carefully, just as a writer must select the right words. Michael Gibney is a word cook of the highest order, and this book will leave you licking your fingers.” Gary Shteyngart
About the Author
Michael Gibney began working in restaurants at the age of sixteen and assumed his first sous chef position at twenty-two. He ascended to executive sous chef at Tavern on the Green, where he managed an eighty-person staff. He has worked in the kitchens of Morgans Hotel Group, 10 Downing in Manhattan, and Governor in Brooklyn’s DUMBO, among many others. Over the course of his career, he has had the opportunity to work alongside cooks and chefs from many of the nation’s best restaurants, including Alinea, Per Se, Eleven Madison Park, Daniel, Jean Georges, Le Bernardin, Bouley, Ducasse, Corton, wd~50, and Momofuku. In addition to his experience in the food service industry, Gibney also holds a BFA in painting from Pratt Institute and an MFA in nonfiction writing from Columbia University. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.