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Celebrity chef tells all in 'Kitchen Confidential'

What really happens behind those closed kitchen doors?

book cover

July 7, 2000
Web posted at: 5:34 p.m. EDT (2134 GMT)

(CNN) -- Ever since author-chef Anthony Bourdain's book "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly" was published two months ago, people have been eating it up.

And who could resist when the CIA-trained Bourdain, now executive chef at New York's celebrated Brasserie Les Halles, reveals such earthy tidbits as this description of the genesis of your typical, three-star meal.

Rather than chef-as-artist, Bourdain explains, picture a collaborative effort by a team of "whacked-out moral degenerates, dope fiends, refugees, a thuggish assortment of drunks, sneak thieves, sluts and psychopaths," who are in all probability pierced or tattooed and unable to complete a sentence without an expletive.

"It's not as much an expose as it is a memoir, with some things that seem to have shocked and horrified some of the civilian population," says Bourdain, who also authored the culinary mystery novels "Bone in the Throat" and "Gone Bamboo."

Read the entire transcript:
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His most recent work was born from an unforgettable article Bourdain wrote last year for the New Yorker magazine.

"The things I talk about are not shocking to anyone who's worked in a restaurant for more than two weeks," he says. "It's a very insular world, like working on a submarine."

How true is it?

audioAnthony Bourdain, Author of "Kitchen Confidential" says the loss of the neighborhood eatery is a tragedy

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Why are chefs so temperamental? Bourdain gives us his perspective

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audioMaster Chef Jacques Pepin tells us the tell-tale signs of a bad restaurant

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Pepin says the rise of the superstar chef is surprising, but overdue

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"Being a chef is glamorous now, but it didn't used to be," agrees master chef, food columnist, cookbook author, television show host and cooking teacher Jacques Pepin. "Twenty-five years ago . . . mothers didn't raise their children with hopes they would become chefs. For some reason, we are geniuses now."

Geniuses with tempers and groupies, according to Bourdain. But he also reveals other secrets of the restaurant kitchen, such as tips on when to go (Tuesdays and Wednesdays) and what to look for in a restaurant.

"Look for busy restaurants with good buzz where the waiters look happy to be there," he says. "If the food looks fresh and smells fresh, it probably is."

New York Times food columnist Florence Fabricant knows whereof Bourdain speaks. And though she hasn't read all of "Kitchen Confidential," she recognizes some of the secrets he reveals.

"Not all of that is exactly true," she says. "It depends on where you are."

And where - and what - you want to have for dinner.

Peaches, pears, papaya: Pépin praises the sweet fruit
August 9, 1999

Les Halles -- French Brasserie and bistro
Jacques Pepin's World of Cooking

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