Sous Chef

Sous Chef

24 Hours on the Line

Book - 2014
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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.
Praise for Sous Chef
"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
"[Michael] Gibney has the soul of a poet and the stamina of a stevedore. . . . Tender and profane, his book will leave you with a permanent appreciation for all those people who 'desire to feed, to nourish, to dish out the tasty bits of life.'" -- The New York Times Book Review
"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
"A wild ride, not unlike a roller coaster, and the reader experiences all the drama, tension, exhilaration, exhaustion and relief that accompany cooking in an upscale Manhattan restaurant." --USA Today
"Vibrantly written." -- Entertainment Weekly
"Sizzling . . . Such culinary experience paired with linguistic panache is a rarity." -- The Daily Beast
"Reveals the high-adrenaline dance behind your dinner." --NPR
Publisher: New York : Ballantine Books, 2014.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780804177870
Branch Call Number: 641.59 Gibn
Characteristics: xvi, 214 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm


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Aug 21, 2017

So fast paced, I could not put it down.. wanted to know what happened to the fish, to the expensive pot, to the bossy chef.. Sounded so real, I can see and smell the fish and the taste the freshly made pasta and urugula! I learned a few kitchen tricks as well! This is a good read for wanna be foodies like me!

ArapahoeKati Apr 04, 2017

An intense and in-depth look about 24 hours in a restaurant. A talented writer, too--I didn't even realize he had switched into second person until about halfway through, and that choice really made me feel like I was in the restaurant.

Jun 01, 2015

Such a cool read though I'm more of a comfort food guy (the thought of gourmet pistachios ) fried Chicken and Mashed Potatoes I pretty much get the effort that goes into pleasing the foodie and yet at the same time gaining an appreciation for the craft ( and believe it is one) of food prep and presentation the deference to CHEF upon which the world of the restaurant revolved around was quite intriguing he wasn't the ass one would have thought a man of his caliber would be just a consummate perfectionist who wanted the best for all involved and the camaraderie amongst the staff had its highs and lows not to mention hierarchy yet despite it all they pulled it together to put it together a engrossing read.

ksoles Sep 06, 2014

From Anthony Bourdain to Marcus Samuelsson to Gabrielle Hamilton, many chef-come-authors have described the arduous process of climbing the kitchen ladder. But "Sous Chef" stands out; Michael Gibney so rawly exposes the weight of the obligations, routine and pressure to perform inherent in the profession that the reader might conclude that becoming a successful chef simply can't be done.

With experience in such restaurants as Tavern on the Green and Momofuku, Gibney has his fair share of intricate and painstaking anecdotes to impart. And he does so with an exacting tone and brilliant recall. Furthermore, he writes in the second person, forcing the reader to inhabit the life of a sous chef working the line on a 300 cover night.

"Sous Chef" opens with a map displaying the layout of the typical restaurant kitchen. We learn about “the pass,” i.e. the area through which all food passes between cooking and plating, the various stations and prep areas, as well as walk-ins, loading docks, offices and locker rooms. But an annotated map doesn't satisfy Gibney; the text begins with "you" arriving at an empty restaurant and walking through the entire kitchen, preparing for the day. This involves checking inventory and cleanliness and pondering the physical and mental strain to come. Such an exposition might seem boring but, with Gibney’s lively prose, a deserted restaurant comes alive.

This setup works prepares us for later events, like when the fish cook becomes ill. Gibney makes us understand the impact of losing a man; tension becomes palpable as "you" jump in to a new position. Time and again, Gibney answers an essential, often glossed over question: how does a restaurant actually WORK? And despite the book's revelations, it does not read like a cautionary tale meant to weed out the delusional. It neither glamorizes the life of a chef nor inflates daily obstacles; it simply lays the facts bare without the trappings, fluff and distractions of celebrity.


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