A piece of a foodie mind

Posted on: February 8, 2011

I finished reading Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential 2 days ago. I must say, Tony’s (as what he is called) writing style is really a unique one. Some of the sentences are very long with lots of comas. Others are cooking terms and French that left me puzzled. Anyway, this book is more about Tony’s early career. How he worked his ass off and his initial motivation to cook that was mainly for money (and drugs as he admitted several times).

Unlike some of the reviews said, I found it just a tiny bit of this book reveal the truth behind restaurant business. Yes, I agree with Tony that as an owner of a restaurant, passion is NOT enough to keep the restaurant to survive. You have to be smart in having relationship with your supplier as your main resource, your chef & cooks as your ‘engine’, your waitress as your ‘customer service’, even have a little understanding about your menu and your customer won’t hurt you. Then Tony also gives some tips about never ordering fish on Monday since most of the restaurant won’t get any fresh seafood on the weekend. bla bla bla…

But there are 2 main points that really stuck in my mind.

First is “Line cooking done well is a beautiful thing to watch. It’s a high-speed collaboration resembling, at its best, ballet or modern dance”. This is totally true! Most people – as restaurant customers- oversee the line cooks’ job, yet they are the core of the kitchen. How do I know this? My best buddy was a line cook. And yes, line cook was the lowest position in term of cooking duty in a restaurant kitchen. Line cooks are the prep guys/girls who peel pounds of pounds of potatoes, cook hundreds of beef patties, butterfly pounds of chicken tenders, chops leafy greens, etc. Then during the service, they are the ones who are pressured to keep up the speed for our orders.

I used to be annoyed when a big restaurant made me waited a long time to serve their main course, especially on hectic lunch/ night. Now, I totally understand them. To prepare a great food, the cook needs a ‘specific’ amount of time ~ unless you want your food raw. In a fully booked restaurant, the cooks are pressured even more to prepare the order in a light speed. And remember, kitchen is a hot environment, literarily! So, I salute those chefs and cooks who got my steak in perfect doneness even though I have to wait a little bit longer. So, next time you step into a crowded restaurant, there are 2 questions you have to ask yourself: do you have enough patience to wait a little bit longer for your perfect meal? or do your stomach order you to find quieter restaurant who serves fast?

The second point that I found interesting while reading this book is “To [Anthony Bourdain], life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living.” AMEN to that! And I also amen to “… your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” Finally, someone who totally agrees with me! YAY…

Yes, I studied food and nutritional sciences in the university. Does it mean that I have to restrict myself from eating frozen pizza, ramen with good pork fat, or chocolate gelato? NO WAY! Most of my friend somehow have assumption that as a food science major, I would totally freak out about my diet. In fact, food scientists are the ones who create creative things with food. Surprise, surprise… but for your information: toying with food IS our enjoyment! Otherwise, who would drink bitter Acai berry or sour pomegranate in their juice? Or who would thought that ‘frozen yogurt’ is still yogurt even though its texture is similar to soft ice cream? I come from Asian background and as many people know, Asian eats everything. So what, if I ate yummy frog legs, buttery sweet durian, turtle-snake-dog-alligator (or even rat) meat, pig intestine & blood, cow tripe, chicken heart, drooling crawfish!

But no offense to vegetarians and vegans out there, though….. I’m not against vegetarian or vegan. I strongly believe, it’s a matter of choice. If you feel that vegetarian or vegan is your option, then good for you. Also, please excuse our Asian history on why we tend to eat every single thing they could eat. Poverty was number one. As food was scarce, people want to max out their money to satisfy their stomach. Maybe I should thank my dad that encouraged me to try every food when I was young. As I’m growing up, trying new food is more about curiosity, it’s about new experiences and I LOVE every single moment of it! Some food may look unpleasant, but you’ll never know if it tastes good or not if you haven’t put it in your mouth. What people say about one thing may not be the same as the sensation when you chew the food. So, my advise for you: be bold! You only live once on earth. As long as the food doesn’t harm your body, I don’t see why you can’t eat it 😉


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