Tuesday, May 21, 2013


A story of life, sex, love and death in the kitchen

Thank goodness Sheehan acknowledged his writing is very similar to Anthony Bourdain (whom I've read a lot of), because at first it comes off like he is just riding the coattails of Bourdain and doing a little copy cat plagiarism type stuff. But, as you read through this book Sheehan's narrative and writing style soon become strikingly different. I can't help but compare this book to Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. They are both brash, cuss filled, memoirs of kitchen life that highlight the worst possible things that happen behind the scenes of a restaurant. Similar topics include disgusting food handling, drug/alcohol addiction, workplace violence, harsh work conditions, injuries, and just the terrible lifestyle choices that seem to be common place in every kitchen. Even though the topics are almost identical Sheehan's writing is much more personal. He gives us a glimpse into his soul; raw emotions, motivations, passions, and vivid descriptions of his deepest thoughts. He clearly articulated his highest ups and his lowest lows, which I found extremely interesting. His lifestyle, and it appears the lifestyle of almost all cooks, is so far removed from my 9-5 suburban family man life that it is hard to imagine, yet, intriguing to read about. Sheehan explains it all in such a fun and insightful way. Sometimes he is sarcastic and pokes fun at the crazy life he lived, and sometimes he is serious and lays out some heavy stuff. Both styles made me want to keep reading.
Sheehan takes us from the beginning where he stumbled into a dishwasher job, worked his way through the ranks, failed time and time again, then finally burnt out and moved onto food writing. He lets us in the backdoor the restaurant and shows us the strange world that few know about. He writes about the pirate mentality of the kitchen, the comparisons to war and the battlegrounds, the machoism, and the insular world of restaurant workers. He brings up the paradox of how when he was cooking he was so passionate and alive, yet at the same time despised the toll it was taking on his life. Once you get caught up in the work there is no other life outside the kitchen. I found it a bit surprising, and sad, that for a decade or more Sheehan seemed to have only dysfunctional relationships with everything and everyone (his job, his girlfriends, his family) due to the demands and lifestyle of a cook.
Finishing up this book I'm left with a greater insight (and respect) for those who work the grills and fryers of every restaurant. How it does take a different sort of character to work the odd hours and every holiday that most of us take for granted. It also leaves me with a guilty feeling that I do not want my children going into the 'food services' industry and be caught up in the strange (and very unhealthy) lifestyle that seems to go along with it. However, I would encourage them to read about it and would even buy them this book.


*Must read non-fiction book and Read before you die rating as well. In other words, I really really liked this book and you should too!

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