Kitchen Confidential
Anthony Bourdain
Contributed by Margherita Wickersham
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Chapter 1

Food is Good

Anthony Bourdain begins with the vacation that led him to embrace not just food, but good food. During a vacation with his brother and parents, he sat through meals he found to be boring. However, this course of boredom halted upon consuming the first “vichyssoise” he had during the cruise. This lingered in his tastebuds for the remainder of his trip. Sitting through mealtimes with his family provided him the chance to complain about the food that was being served. Through his whining, Bourdain was further pushed to ask for steak hache instead. Given that he just finished the fourth grade, usually not much could be said about children having an appreciation for food or having an acquired taste palate.

While in Vienne, his curiosity got the better of him when his parents left him and his little brother in the car as they got into La Pyramide, distracted by a stash of Tintins (comics). At this point, Bourdain became curious as to how food could drive parents into leaving their children in the car, which dawned on him as an important event. From that point forward, he began to consume all types of food presented to him. The Monsieur Saint-Jour introduced Anthony to oysters, which opened his culinary eyes even more so and further expanded his curiosity. From then on, this curiosity became his drive, especially towards his years as a chef.

Food is Sex

In this chapter, Bourdain reveals his motivation in striving to become a chef. His teen years are described as those of an undisciplined, angry young man. He spent a lot of his time interacting with friends who had the same desire to drink, do drugs, and sleep with women. Such desires during his time at Vassar College prevented Bourdain from attending many of his classes. Most of his mornings were spent doing drugs as most of his roommates were working in the restaurant kitchens as dishwashers, cooks, chefs and waiters, and where such positions generally demanded late-night hours. Doing drugs only got to show how unhappy young Bourdain was and how much lack of direction he had at the time. With the same de-motivation that he had during this time, he joined his friends to a getaway to Provincetown. Keeping up with drugs and residing in a foreign town called for finances for upkeep. This led to Bourdain acquiring a job in dishwashing at the Dreadnaught. Together with his friends, he slowly learned the various skills that were required to keep the restaurant’s customers coming back for more sea food. The kitchen crew that Bourdain and his friends found there contributed to them learning the basic culinary skills that would be vital throughout their careers.

Food is Pain

This sub-chapter explores the lack of renowned chefs during the 70’s. Provincetown was no different. Aside from locals knowing their small-town chefs, chefs were not renowned past these confines. One of the renowned chefs in Provincetown was Howard, a man who worked at the Dreadnaught, with culinary and literary capabilities to his name. Howard was a man for whom Bourdain and his friends had the greatest admiration. Despite this truth, there was a mismatch between the capabilities he had and the drunkenness that described him. However, there was still hope for Bourdain and his friends with regard to developing love for food and its preparation. Dreadnaught became a good practicing ground for the peers for their growing culinary arts during the restaurant’s peak season. Following its closing for the year, Bourdain was motivated to return to the Dreadnaught with higher hopes of climbing up the kitchen ladder only to find that the restaurant had been bought by Mario from the Mario Restaurant. The boys who previously worked at the Dreadnaught, including Bourdain, were given the opportunity to audition for previous positions at the Mario Restaurant which was successful. With determination, Bourdain was able to be positioned under Tyrone, the Mario’s broiler man, to help Bourdain learn the p’s and q’s of the job. Learning included Tyrone excessively teasing and humiliating Bourdain following a formation of a blister on his finger. Bourdain decided he would not take this sort of treatment any longer and set the new goal to attend the Culinary Institute of America. With fight and ambition, Bourdain set off to the CIA to prove his sense of worth to the Mario chefs and attain the same level of power they had (Bourdain, 2013).

Inside the CIA

With connections, Bourdain managed to get into the Culinary Institute of America after just two weeks of applying. He wanted to prove his authenticity to the Mario boys. In the midst of many new and fresh faces from community colleges, Bourdain stood out being one of the older students. CIA required all students to have white buttoned-up chef coats, check pants, a neckerchief and knife roll-ups. He first learned the basics of cooking, accompanied with traditions from the 70’s. These traditions were quite different from today’s way of preparing and presenting food. Although some of the chefs were strict on students, Bourdain enjoyed most of his classes. Some of the chefs were harsh, while others brought out bitterness towards certain countries. Chef Bernard’s class was the final one before graduation and many students folded under the immense pressure. Unlike others, Bourdain excelled under pressure, as he had learned how to turn the high tension into a relaxation and dreamy exercise. Chef Bernard even allowed Bourdain to watch the daily voiture decoration. Through this institution, Bourdain was given an opportunity to showcase his mastery skills, which led to many students being thoroughly surprised and confused by his superior food-making skills. After graduating from CIA, he was armed with a diploma, vocabulary, and field experience.

The Return of Mal Carne

Halfway into his time at CIA, Bourdain returned to Provincetown to show-off his skills and superior vocabulary. Dimitri, who was of Russian and German descent, was the other person in Provincetown who attended culinary school. The two were able to understand each other quite well, given how they both shared similar intellectual and snobbish backgrounds. Knowing their culinary education and experiences in Provincetown, Mario called them to be in charge of catering the annual garden party.

After successfully conducting the annual garden, the two were further motivated to take on bigger tasks and opportunities. Such motivation encouraged them to leave their jobs and focus on more demanding ventures, which led to the provision of their services where needed, while demanding prices that worked for them. Although they began to gloat to their former co-workers, their journeys continued to progress.


Bourdain, in this first chapter, provides details about where his love of food stems from as well as the many challenges he undergoes in a quest to quench his thirst of becoming a chef. This chapter is a good pointer to a potential chef can slowly grow through various avenues in which they are then able to learn and, therefore, grow and develop in the culinary industry. The various challenges also act as the stepping stones for Bourdain which are good, real life examples for those people who experience a lot of challenges as they aim for growth and development as chefs or potential chefs. Potential chefs are encouraged by Bourdain on how many skills and abilities are acquired along the way so that the love for what they do grows with time. It is a chapter directed at motivating the potential or upcoming chefs. It is also an eye opener for the upcoming chefs on the people they get to meet along the way and how instrumental they become to them and their careers.

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