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LitPicks Book Reviews—September 2014

Theme—Hell's a Kitchen
Conditions are brutal in restaurant kitchens. So
what is it that keeps chefs and cooks standing for 12-hour stretches, non-stop, in 110-degree heat? A devotion to good food and the creativity behind it. So say this month's books.
 

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Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage
Molly Wizenberg, 2014
256 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
September 2014

Molly Wizenberg is an accomplished woman: a successful food blogger and published book author. Yet here she is at one in the morning sobbing into salad greens and mopping the floor. She's exhausted beyond measure.

Her problem is that she's co-owner of a restaurant—one she doesn't like and doesn't want. The other problem is that the success of the restaurant is intimately bound up with the success of her marriage—the co-owner being her husband. This is Molly's memoir, and it's delightful.

 

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Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line
Michael Gibney, 2014
210 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
September, 2014

It's enough to make you weep, reading (reading!) about what it takes to serve 300 people in an upscale New York restaurant. Why would anyone subject himself to such abuse—the mental and physical strain—night after night?

Michael Gibney's wonderful behind-the-scenes account is a revelation: chefs and cooks aren't like you and me. Their stamina and mental acuity is not the stuff of ordinary mortals; it's superhero stuff—Supermen (and the occasional woman) in chef whites.

 

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Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
Anthony Bourdain, 2000
312 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
September, 2014
Bourdain is bad-ass. At least he was 30-some years ago; now he's a grey-haired eminence of the culinary world with several books and TV series under his whites. And it's hard to believe that Kitchen Confidential is closing in on 15 years.

But what a book! Gossipy, deeply personal, always witty and sometimes shocking, it manages to be instructive for both professional cooks and the dining public. Cautionary advice for budding chefs? "Show up on time." For diners? "Nix the Eggs Benedict" (come to think of it, skip Sunday brunch altogether).

 

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