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Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line
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on March 14, 2018
I am something of a "foodie" and so I like non-fiction books that are professional restaurant centered. This one, depicting just 24 hours on the line in a West Village restaurant in NYC, was particularly informative and captured the controlled frenzy of a fine dining restaurant kitchen. The action is seen through the eyes of one sous chef, second in command to the executive chef. The layout of the kitchen, as prescribed by Escofier more than a century ago, is minutely described; the duties of each station explained; the ingredients and techniques used in this kitchen are detailed. That might be a bit much for the casual cook or diner, but I liked the very visual scene and the work ethic involved. The legendary hard work/hard play of those in the field is apparent in this book too. Finishing work at 1:00 a.m., drinking until 3:00 a.m. and back on the job just a few hours later seems to be the norm. Maybe that's not an admirable lifestyle to some, but the hard work and focus of cooks, to me, is admirable. I'll try to remember that when I dine out. Two issues with this book are because of the Kindle configuration rather than with the author. One is that the kitchen hierarchy tree was so faint as to be unreadable. The other is that the glossary of terms is at the back which would be less of a problem in a print book. With a Kindle, it's very awkward to go back and forth from text to glossary. I kept my Culinary Arts Dictionary at hand instead.
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on June 24, 2014
I didn't expect a book about cooking to be a page-turner, but boy was I wrong. Read it in 24 hours, and at the end, I was exhausted!

These chefs work hard. It's not just about the food, but about people on both sides of the "service." In a real sense it's not even so much about cooking as about doing something right, the best way that you can, being passionate about your work. I once read a translation of Aristotle's definition of art as "the right making of a 'thing to be made.'" And in that sense these chefs are artists.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, it turns out the the author has two fine arts degrees, BFA in painting, MFA in writing: and it's that perspective he brings to his profession, and what makes this book different, "bigger."
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on March 17, 2018
Loved this moment-by-moment view of what is happening inside the kitchen of a fine restaurant. The moments of calm seem few amidst the chaos of bringing a great dining experience to customers who most often are unaware of what's happening in the back. Gibney's prose moved as fast as the minutes ticking away when the orders are fired. The after-hours comaraderie is enlightening as well. The staff is its own community and many very clearly have the backs of their team. Moved with the pace of and rythm of an action sport. Be prepared to learn about the many roles people play behind the scene. Hard, rewarding work making good things happen to prepare beautiful, nourishing, memorable meals. Thanks Michael Gibney!
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on March 29, 2018
Not only is Chef Gibney a good cook, he is also a very observant and articulate writer. Based on fact but fictionalised it is still a very believable and definitely readable account of the life and thoughts of a sous chef. Having been a professional ballet dancer in one of the most prestigious companies, I recognise the same passion and familial work ethics. The similarities run very parallel in an odd way, and many dancers are avid cooks! I would recommend it as a wonderful read for any artistic or passionate professional, who knows you have to live by the rules and respect your fellow workers. His philosophy is right on too, we are after all just here to serve be it food or entertainment, and what matters is that you do it well or soigné !
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Top Contributor: Petson March 6, 2017
I really like TV cooking competition shows and it was very interesting to read this "behind the scenes" view of what happens in a real kitchen. I could never work in food services - that's brutal, hard, work; but I never knew how military the kitchen and levels of workers are. Thanks for all you folks do!
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on June 8, 2014
This is a superb book, helped along by the author's expertise as both a writer and a sous chef. I cannot think of anything in particular to take issue with, other than to maybe have made it 48 hours? An action-packed 24 were nearly as nerve-wracking to read as it must be to live. The description and the suspense is fantastic. I would like to hear the tales of chefs in kitchens outside New York City, because there are surely plenty of similar books that take the reader into an NYC kitchen. Well worth the read!
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on March 28, 2017
I enjoyed reading this account of a 24 hour period in a restaurant kitchen. It would have been easier to read if the technical terms were explained. I wish I could have touched the word and had a definition appear.

I enjoy cooking, but wouldn't make it in a professional kitchen. The pace alone would kill it for me.
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on November 16, 2014
If you dine out and wondered who makes your food come out perfect here is an inside look. A compilation of experiences and memories are converted into a narrative of a day as a Sous Chef. Written so well that you will feel the pressure and live the stress of a Sous Chef enduring another day on the line. You will live the challenging life that is understood by few outside the culinary world and you will try to understand why anyone would choose this occupation.
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on June 3, 2014
This book goes by very quickly--since it only covers 24 hrs on the line and the "chef" is busy for most of that time. You are caught up in the pace of the kitchen and his life.
I enjoyed it, read it quickly as an e-book, and was left about as wrung out as the narrator when the book is over.
The various other kitchen people were personalized fairly well given the limited time covered.
I know I would never have the discipline or strength or talent to execute performance on such a quality level--day in and day out. It is not inflated to say the effort and intensity highlighted in the arena of the restaurant's kitchen resembles a top-notch surgeon or maybe a fire house if you have read books in that vein.

Eye-opening--- and makes you feel the difference in the last meal you ate at local restaurant and one of this level.
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on February 24, 2017
A good read for anyone who wants an inside look of the real day to day workings of a good restaurant and the people who toil behind the scenes. This is the first cooking book that puts you behind the grill. If you are thinking about becoming a chef or working in the food industry, this is a must read. Kudos for giving us a good picture of what it takes to create a fine dining experience. Thanks for introducing readers to the folks who toil behind the scenes to provide quality meals. Glad to have a better understanding of the passion it takes to be a true professional chef.
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