Kitchen Confidential
Anthony Bourdain
Contributed by Margherita Wickersham
Chapter 3

I Make my Bones

Bourdain gives the readers a glimpse into the life after CIA, where he scored a position as a chef in a restaurant located inside the Rockefeller Center. The restaurant was filled with chefs who were much older than he was, and with sous-chefs who did not go past four weeks after not being able to put up with these veterans. Bourdain readily puts up a struggle to ensure that he gains as much as he can. The kitchen in this restaurant can best be described as hot since some chefs end up fainting in the middle of food preparations. As any new chef is treated, Bourdain is, jokingly or so he thinks, tormented by Luis, who inappropriately mishandles him. The young chef takes on to teaching Luis a lesson through the use of a fork to his hand. He gets to a point where he gets to serve food to the veterans in the banking industry. These are the people who have worked in the banking industry for many years which is an honor in itself as this is one of the duties of the chef in this restaurant. Bourdain operates long hours given his position as chef, with early mornings and late nights. He works in every station in which he is needed. He makes a realization that these working times may not be working for him or the girlfriend that he has at home, which he takes on with the boss. This does not work out well and he now fully focuses on his work as a result, with his private life being long gone. Bourdain runs for the shop steward position only to resign from it shortly after which he resigns from his job at the restaurant.

The Happy Time

Bourdain, Sammy, and Dimitri had all worked together before, and they found an opportunity to become the senior chefs in the restaurant, Work Progress. They were motivated to run the restaurant of their dreams, given all the dreams they had of one day being in charge of such a business. They ended up agreeing and disagreeing on what was to be provided to the public. They took on past habits as they had back in Provincetown, where drugs helped them work longer hours and serve their customers for longer. To develop the restaurant’s own menu, the trio borrows menu items from other chefs, cookbooks and from their most favorite items from the past. They looked down on the owners, seeing how they were clueless about running the restaurant business, and used their ideas instead. They played tricks on both the management and the staff with certain traditions they took when one of the staff members left. The restaurant, however, came to a close sooner than later following its failure resulting from diners not being overly impressed by the menu items. Bourdain found work as a chef, following his cousin’s efforts, while Sammy and Dimitri were left behind trying to revive the restaurant (Stern, 2011).

Chef of the Future!

After Work Progress, Bourdain took on a chef job, or an “overpaid line cook” as he viewed himself, at Tom H. The restaurant belonged to two lovers who were viewed to be funny and loveable, and had friends in high places who managed to eat at the restaurant every so often. The loveable and funny natures came as a result of the dinners that they held, which encouraged an increase in visits for the friends they had. The previous chef had left things in a sad state, and Bourdain taking on the responsibility would neither make the situation better or get the business up and running again. Routinely, the restaurant would be busy for several hours and subsequently inactive for three hours after that. The owners had certain meals readily available as they made them right, where the customers, as they thought, enjoyed them. The owner duo spent a lot of money on the long-term lease of the building in which the restaurant was situated, as well as spending even more lavishly on the auctioned bar in France. With the increasing costs of Tom H., however, the restaurant business lost its customers following the failure from cost mismanagement by the co-owners. Bourdain and Dimitri took on work in Tribeca’s Rick’s Café, which was also said to be a sinking ship following the efforts of previous chefs. Bourdain was getting overpaid for work in restaurants that were not going to be left standing for long. They both viewed it as a gain, with money streaming in but little work on their part. They would work here until they found good jobs as chefs.

Apocalypse Now

Bourdain got called in for work by Sammy, his old friend at Gino’s New York. However, he had to quit his job at Columbus Avenue. The Silver Shadow, who was the restaurant’s owner, directed him to Dexter’s, then Gino’s in Baltimore. Here, even with all the investment Shadow had done in this restaurant, the customers were few, which means that business was slow especially for the chefs who did not have customers to prepare food for. Bourdain had free accommodation, but when he had had enough of sticking to a business that was not working his chef muscles, he got the job at Gino’s New York where he worked with Sammy and, eventually, with Dimitri, too. This restaurant had people working for Shadow in the drugs business with guns, and even someone to oversee the drug selling business on behalf of Shadow. Once Bourdain was in the chef’s position, he was able to get in touch with Shadow so that the boss would be part of the process of fine-tuning the menu. Getting in touch with the owner, meant that Bourdain had an opportunity to meet him, something that other restaurant crew members did not have. This restaurant, unlike the one in Baltimore, had traffic leaving and coming in for meals. It was a busy restaurant that had business running. Bourdain was at a point where he was ridding the restaurant of all the people that he thought were inactive and not required for the job. Waking up to hire people became the norm, and he became disappointed at the idea of looking people in the eye, and only to let them go. While Silver Shadow was impressed with Bourdain’s ability to cost-cut, Bourdain, however, got tired of the constant hiring and firing, and decided to quit by informing the general manager. He was tired of holding that position, and his motivation has always been in cooking. Later, Silver Shadow ended up facing bankruptcy and having his entire family business and empire suffer from the same. He faced charges for tax evasion and was placed behind bars.

The Wilderness Years

Leaving Gino’s left Bourdain almost unemployable, now stabilized on methadone as opposed to the heroin he had become used to. He worked in different restaurants in Amsterdam, Columbus, and Second Avenue. He works at Bill’s, named after the son of the owner, and the staff in this restaurant were convicts requiring work to prevent their returning to jail, which means that they were focused on the jobs. The boss, and those he was working with, were well known in the industry and would mostly get what they wanted at very decent prices. With Bourdain working with the convicts, he was, at one point, asked to fire anyone who had tattoos on their skin or wore gold chains or bracelets. Billy’s attracted the well-known and famous people in various industries to the restaurant, which meant that the business was raking in money. He then worked in an all-Chinese restaurant where he got to meet all kinds of people. One of the friends of the boss received meals for free and even held parties in his apartment as a way to help cover the rent. Bourdain saw the likelihood of turning into him, which scared him. This then became a reality check for the chef, given that all the culinary experience and two years in a prestigious school was not being reflected in his life at the time. He decided to make a change.

What I Know About Meat

Bourdain almost got to a low point in his life, and his career in the kitchen. He was sending out applications to various restaurants as he was virtually desperate for a job to help him meet his growing financial commitments, while also taking care of his wife. After all, he had been in jobs that were below his experience and knowledge acquired from CIA. Some of the establishments that had called him up for jobs had bad reputations. One of the restaurants which had called was focused solely on steak, and Bourdain knew he had the capability of doing a good job in this restaurant without failing his owner-to-be. Subsequently, the Park Avenue steakhouse called him for an interview, and he knew that he would definitely land the job, which required him to loosen up before going in for the kill. He walked in with several other interviewees. His turn came and unsurprisingly aced the interview, up until the point in which he did not understand the question asked on his knowledge of meat. His hearing had caught knowledge about the owner as opposed to knowledge about meat, which he realized shortly after leaving the interview. He failed to get the job.

Pino Noir: Tuscan Interlude

A lot of time was spent at home, passing time as Bourdain continued sending out applications and still without a job. His friend from earlier on, Rob, called him and mentioned that La Mardi, one of the restaurants belonging to Pino Luongo, was looking for a sous chef and that the chef wanted to meet him. Bourdain got the job at La Mardi. Bourdain was then able to work together with the restaurant’s general manager and Rob, now his workmate. Pino, the owner of the restaurant, was then able to offer Bourdain the opportunity of becoming the executive chef of the yet-to-be-opened Coco Pazzo Teatro, another restaurant belonging to Pino. Together with his chef de cuisine, he managed to get sous-chefs and people to work within, and even outside, the kitchen. The restaurant was a beautiful sight to behold. Bourdain was busy working 17-hour days and seven-day weeks. It got to a point where, together with the chef de cuisine, Bourdain got people laid off. Moving forward, his chances of staying at the restaurant were also getting slimmer, as pointed out by his friends as well. The general manager, as Bourdain expected, met with him over a martini to give him the position of the chef de cuisine, to which Anthony declined and left the restaurant. However, despite all this, Bourdain was able to gain much from Pino, including the use of three to four ingredients to provide beautiful food, preparing pasta from scratch and learning techniques and recipes that the chef took to using even the days after. He learned how to embrace opportunities and, with his next job, pulled along several people to work with him from Pino’s restaurant.


This chapter can be said to be one that shows the lessons that Bourdain gains from following poor decisions made along the way. It shows the potential chefs what to expect in the culinary field including the unending challenges that help mould them into professionals. He points out the importance of working with both those restaurants that are big in the industry as well as those that are small since they all aid in the growth of the person as they acquire skills along the way. Bourdain goes ahead and offers advice regarding proper preparation for interviews since they may be the make or break for the person. At the same time, he encourages the potential chefs and people in other fields to put all their efforts into the work given as they may have a second opportunity of being part of the restaurant or business.

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