05 April 2014

Weekend Cooking: Sous Chef by Michael Gibney

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

Sous Chef by Michael GibneyMichael Gibney has been working in restaurant kitchens since he was a teenager, starting as a pot washer and working his way up to sous chef, second in command at an upscale New York restaurant. His decades on the line were broken only by his education, including an MFA in writing.

In Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line, Gibney cobbles together a typical day-in-the-life, taking us into the back of a restaurant to reveal the difficult and unglamorous side of being a professional chef. Although he hardly covers new ground here (see my review of Bill Buford's Heat, for example), Gibney's account is nonetheless interesting, informative, and well written.

Sous Chef starts when Gibney arrives at the restaurant on a Friday morning and then details exactly how the staff prepares for the evening's dinner service, from food prep to plating. The sous chef oversees all these tasks plus makes sure the wait staff understands the day's specials and acts as liaison between the head chef and the rest of the employees.

Rounding out the descriptions of the food, kitchen layout, and equipment, Gibney writes about the complex dance (as he calls it) that allows the cooks to work smoothly on the line, serving over three hundred customers in a single evening. This is grueling, hot work and tempers are on edge, but if the staff can't find a work together, the restaurant will not succeed. A competent sous chef is key to keeping everything under control.

Gibney's cock-sure attitude could be hard to take, but he recounts enough of his blunders to soften his personality. On the other hand, by the time he stumbles into the restaurant on Saturday morning to begin prep for the weekend brunch, Gibney is going to need that self-assurance; only the strong (or crazy) survive to cook another day.

If you've read the likes of Anthony Bourdain, Bill Buford, and Marcus Samuelsson, you won't be surprised by Michael Gibney's Sous Chef. Regardless, whether you're new to restaurant memoirs or an old-time foodie, make room on your shelf for this informative and nicely crafted tale of the trade.

I listened to the unabridged audiobook edition (Random House Audio; 5 hr, 46 min), read by the capable Fred Berman, whose enthusiasm for the book kept my attention throughout. My full (and positive) audiobook review will be available from AudioFile magazine. Note that the introduction to the audiobook is read by the author himself; unfortunately, Gibney's performance is not very engaging and it's a shame that the audio sample comes from his section and not from Berman's fine narration.

Published by Random House / Ballantine, 2014
ISBN-13: 978080417787
Source: Review (audio) (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


rhapsodyinbooks 4/5/14, 7:13 AM  

I love these kinds of books. It amazes me that anyone takes on the challenge of restaurants!

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 4/5/14, 7:39 AM  

I have this e-galley on my Kindle and haven't gotten to it yet - you reminded me to move it farther up my list! I read both Buford's Heat and Kitchen Confidential and love the "behind the scenes" restaurant memoirs.

Anonymous,  4/5/14, 8:13 AM  

This sounds fascinating, I'm adding it on to my list!

Unknown 4/5/14, 8:29 AM  

I'm glad to hear this one is good - it's sitting in my virtual TBR pile staring at me. Alas, I have nothing to add to Weekend Cooking this week. I need to get my post on my grandmother's gumbo ready one of these days.

Beth S. 4/5/14, 8:35 AM  

I do love Anthony Bourdain and Marcus Samuelsson so I think I need to definitely check out this memoir.

(Diane) bookchickdi 4/5/14, 8:48 AM  

My husband and I loved Heat, and I have this one on my TBR list.

Mary R. 4/5/14, 9:51 AM  

The Books on the Nightstand podcast talked about Sous Chef as well and your review reinforces what they said. I am adding this to my TBR list.

SuziQoregon 4/5/14, 10:03 AM  

I just added myself to the library wait list for this one. Unlike you I am new to food related memoirs. It sounds good.

Sheila (Bookjourney) 4/5/14, 10:10 AM  

I have been wanting to read this one.

Joy 4/5/14, 11:47 AM  

This sounds so interesting. I have yet to read any of the behind-the-scenes restaurant books, but I get more curious the more opportunities that I have to enjoy great restaurants.

Joy's Book Blog

Carole 4/5/14, 3:48 PM  

Thanks for hosting again! Cheers

maria helena 4/5/14, 4:08 PM  

I have to add this one to my tbr pile.

bermudaonion 4/5/14, 4:50 PM  

Ooh, I have this on audio. It sounds really good to me.

shelleyrae @ book'd out 4/6/14, 4:30 AM  

Sounds interesting, glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing

Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

Couscous & Consciousness 4/6/14, 5:04 AM  

Sounds like a great read, Beth. Thanks for hosting again.

Laurie C 4/6/14, 7:40 AM  

I just saw a review of the print book somewhere (Library Journal?) and liked the sound of this one, but maybe I'll go with the audio. I never read Heat, though, and it's supposed to be fantastic writing. That's too bad the sample is taken from the introduction; maybe the publisher will see your post and have a different sample uploaded.

Cecelia 4/6/14, 9:58 PM  

I haven't begun reading chef memoirs in earnest yet, but I'll put this on the list for when the mood strikes. Thanks for sharing!

Heidenkind 4/7/14, 1:19 AM  

I have this book and was considering starting it a few days ago. Now I know I should!

Sue Jackson 4/7/14, 5:58 PM  

I've been hearing lots of good reviews about this book - several of my regular book podcasts covered it in the past couple of weeks. Sounds fascinating!

BTW, I would love to hear how you prepare celeriac so we could try again - I think the problem was in the preparation. Though, then again, it is really a pain to peel! lol


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