Many proverbs emphasize the necessity of small beginnings before greatness. But, how difficult is it to stay on the path after you’ve made it? In Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential,” readers get a personal, intimate glimpse into Bourdain’s early life, his motivations and influences, his eventual rise to prominence as a world-renowned chef, and most importantly, his uniquely sensual relationship with food. The curious title “Kitchen Confidential” refers to the more lurid aspects of Bourdain’s younger, formative years and its impact on his understanding of cooking. These aspects include topics such as his unlikely battle with drugs during his career, his recreational use of drugs with friends in his teens or generally living an ephemeral, carefree life with no sense or care for responsibilities at Vassar College. Again, Bourdain detailed that such a lifestyle often consisted of flippant drug use, casual sexual encounters, and skipping classes.
In contrast to his friends, Bourdain reveals an acute awareness of his personal detriments, highlighting a frustration towards feelings of directionlessness in life. One major turning point in the story concerns Bourdain’s time vacationing in Provincetown and how a local summer job serving actual customers food - a sheer coincidence and his first experience of the so-called kitchen - only slowly and gradually convinced him of his purpose and passion for the culinary world. The transition from his reckless years as teen and young adult and the struggle between this past and a blossoming, genuine passion for culinary arts captures some of the most significant contradictions in Bourdain’s life that he must reconcile. How Bourdain decides to balance the recreational aspects of his life and how he finds that skills he previously thought useless (i.e. dishwashing, upkeep) actually integrate into a coherent career and life path signify a very human, and very rare non-fictional example of the often romanticized genre of “coming-of-age” or bildungsroman in literature.