Anthony Bourdain's book about "Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly" has been widely read over the past decade. I had considered purchasing it several times over the years, but I didn't pull the trigger until earlier this month after I saw it mentioned in an e-mail from Powell's.
I've read several books by waitstaff, and what sets Kitchen Confidential apart is that Bourdain loves what he does. He loves the food, the cooking, the manic environment of a restaurant on a Saturday night, the locker room camaraderie, everything. When a waiter or waitress writes a memoir, an inevitable subplot is about trying to get out of the business (usually to become a writer, which is awkwardly meta). Bourdain, on the other hand, enjoys writing but truly loves cooking. Of course, the irony is that this book became so successful that he left his old job behind anyway.
My only complaint about this book is actually a confession of my own ignorance. Frankly, I don't know what the hell he's cooking half the time. He could be stringing together random French-sounding words just to mess with me, for all I know. Come to think of it, my preference for diners over fine dining may be what kept me from buying it earlier.
Fancy cuisine aside, I enjoyed Kitchen Confidential. I've often wondered what goes on behind-the-scenes at a restaurant, and this book satisfies that curiosity. Bourdain is an ideal narrator, self-deprecating enough not to be arrogant (as many top chefs seem), yet skilled and experienced enough to educate and entertain.