Notes & Quotes: Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

The following are my favorite quotes from Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.
  1. Never having had a Friday or Saturday night off, always working holidays, being busiest when the rest of the world is just getting out of work, makes for a sometimes peculiar world-view.
  2. I had my first oyster. Now, this was a truly significant event. I remember it like I remember losing my virginity -- and in many ways, more fondly.
  3. I'd learned something. Viscerally, instinctively, spiritually and even in some small, precursive way, sexually -- and there was no turning back. The genie was out of the bottle. My life as a cook, and as a chef, had begun. Food had power. It could inspire, astonish, shock, excite, delight, and impress. It had the power to please me...and others. This was valuable information.
  4. I have since found that almost everybody in the meat business is funny -- just as almost everyone in the fish business is not.
  5. A guy who's come up through the ranks, who knows every station, every recipe, every corner of the restaurant and who has learned, first and foremost, your system above all others is likely to be more valuable and long-term than some bed-wetting white boy whose mom brought him up thinking the world owed him a living, and who thinks he actually knows a few things.
  6. Cooking is a craft, I like to think, and a good cook is a craftsman -- not an artist.
  7. I won't eat in a restaurant with filthy bathrooms. This isn't a hard call. They let you see the bathrooms. If the restaurant can't be bothered to replace the puck in the urinal or keep the toilets and floors clean, then just imagine what their refrigeration and work spaces look like. 
  8. Chicken is boring. Chefs see it as a menu item for people who don't know what they want to eat.
  9. Here's all you will ever need in the knife department: ONE good chef's knife, as large as is comfortable for your hand.
  10. Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.
  11. Bigfoot understood that there are two types of people in the world: those who do what they say they're going to do -- and everyone else.
  12. All the food was simple. And I don't mean easy, or dumb. I mean that for the first time, I saw how three or four ingredients, as long as they are of the highest and freshest quality, can be combined in a straightforward way to make a truly excellent and occasionally wondrous product.
  13. I like to tell selected people things in supposed confidence a few times a week, for fun. Later, when it comes back to me it provides an interesting road map of data transfer, a barium meal, revealing who squeals and to whom.
  14. Having a sous-chef with excellent cooking skills and a criminal mind is one of God's great gifts.
  15. Working through pain and injury counts for a lot with me.
  16. As an art form, cook-talk is, like haiku or kabuki, defined by established rules, with a rigid, traditional framework in which one may operate. All comments must, out of historical necessity, concern involuntary rectal penetration, penis size, physical flaws or annoying mannerisms or defects.
  17. For every schlock meister with a catch-phrase and his own line of prepared seasonings who manages to hold American television audiences enthralled, there are scores more who manage to show up at work every day in a real kitchen and produce brilliantly executed, innovatively presented, top-quality food. I am, naturally, pissed off by the former, and hugely impressed by the latter.
  18. Scott [Bryan] learned early that he might have to actually work for a living, whereas I, a product of the New Frontier and Great Society, honestly believed that the world pretty much owed me a living -- all I had to do was wait around in order to live better than my parents.
  19. Be fully committed. Don't be a fence-sitter or a waffler. If you're going to be a chef some day, be sure about it, single-minded in your determination to achieve victory at all costs.
  20. Lazy, sloppy and slow are bad. Enterprising, crafty and hyperactive are good.
  21. "Why is he/she treated better than me?" "How come the chef gets to loiter in the dining room, playing kissy-face with [insert minor celebrity here] while I'm working my ass off?" "Why is my hard work and dedication not sufficiently appreciated?" These are all questions best left unasked. The answers will drive you insane eventually. If you keep asking yourself questions like these, you will find yourself slipping into martyr mode, unemployment, alcoholism, drug addiction and death.