Monday, August 2, 2010

Kitchen Konfidential Has Inspired Me

Anthony Bourdain
Brasserie Les Halles
Executive Chef
c. 1998
I finished Kitchen Confidential (Bourdain should have gone Mortal Kombat and spelled Confidential with a K) and now I’m bored. I hate the doldrums of summer between the end of the NBA Finals and the beginning of the NFL pre-season. I would start another book but Grammy is reading my next assignment and MJ is reading Tony Bourdain’s follow up. Instead, since there is absolutely nothing on television, I’ve decided to write. I think Kitchen Konfidential (professional courtesy) has inspired me. Tony Bourdain has been a favorite of mine for about two years. He’s caustic, angry, honest, and a good writer. Until earlier this week I had only heard him read little segue blurbs on his television show, but I knew I liked his style. Kitchen Konfidential confirmed what I had already believed. I was a little bit surprised by how much he’s mellowed over the last ten years, yet I still know that I’ve found a kindred spirit. Not that I ever wanted to be a chef. I worked for three weeks at a Captain D’s. Actually, I was employed for three weeks; I worked about a grand total of nine hours, and I hated every second of it. I hated that people would send fast food fish back as if there was any possibility of me doing something other than dropping what ever was sent back on the floor, back in the grease, on the floor again, and back onto the same plate. I hated the fact that EVERYTHING in a commercial kitchen is hot. I hated that I got burned every 30 seconds. I hated that it was actual hard work. I hated that I stank like grease for 18 hours after I left more than anyone has ever hated anything. The smell of North Atlantic White Fish cod (Captain D’s got sued for calling cod NAWF) doesn’t come out with a shower and it doesn’t mix well with Drakkar Noir. Fast food cook did not enhance my stunna status and so my career in the food industry came to an abrupt and immediate halt. Bourdain fell in love with his first kitchen experience. This is where we differ. I don’t know. Maybe I would have fallen in love with the restaurant business if I’d started working in the late ‘70’s when there were top notch drugs and morally suspect waitresses readily available. The drugs were available at Captain D’s but not the females, and the first without the second is nothing but a self-indulgent waste of time. I also didn’t like the guys I worked with. Not liking, or respecting, my coworkers seems to be a recurring theme in my work life. The only group of guys at any of the jobs I’ve had that I’ve liked enough to want to spend time with them outside of work were the guys I sold newspapers door-to-door with in Tallahassee. I think what was great about us is that we were basically the United Colours of Benetton: Rayford Pea Farm Edition. We were a rotating bunch of guys between 18 and 22 from all over the ethnic and cultural spectrum. The only guy older than 22 was Allen; he was 27. He was the manager and a quintessential Floridian. Allen was a Miami Jew Redneck. Everything about the way he looked at talked was Dade County Jewish money. He was perpetually tan. In the winter he used to like to see if he was darker than I was. He was covered in hair, except the top of his head – first person I ever knew on minoxidil. He had to decide where to stop shaving. I even bought, at the time, that he’d had his nose fixed because of a deviated septum. I don’t know if it was because he was a career door-to-door salesman or not, but he talked faster than anyone I’ve ever known. If he had been on the West Wing, Aaron Sorkin would have asked him to slow down. Everything about the way he lived was Everglades country. He fished everyday before dawn. His favorite music was George Strait and Merle Haggard, and I don’t think I ever saw him without a dip of Copenhagen in his lip. He could drink Mountain Dew out of a Big Gulp cup with a straw and not swallow enough tobacco juice to get sick. He had skillz. We were a crew of between 8 and 15 knuckleheads who terrorized Tallahassee apartment complexes selling subscriptions to The Democrat. We never made any money outside of the first few weeks of a new semester, but it was an absolute blast every night. This is what Tony Bourdain found in kitchens. Unfortunately for me, restaurant work is a little bit steadier than selling newspaper subscriptions door-to-door. I’m still looking for the career that makes me want to want to jump out of bed and get to it, to show up early and stay late because I love it and I have to do a better job. I want to work with people that don’t disgust me when I think about them, or make me want a boat so I could dispose of their brutalized corpses without going to prison. I want to work well with others, but “Prison rape is the only thing stopping me from beating you to death just to see if you can have some kind of honest moment of self awareness” doesn’t fall into that category. Until I find that career I’m going to continue writing – I never should have stopped – and I’m going to keep reminding myself that my life couldn’t be any better outside of work, and that’s a trade off that most people would willingly take.


MJ said...

Your writing is getting better from reading a kindred spirit in bitterness. I enjoyed this post.

Christina said...

I hope you don't want to throw me over the edge of a boat, I will need your expertise for business when I open my own bistro. Culinary school, here I come! Anthony Bourdain is one of our all time favorites too!