After reading several memoirs from industry professionals, "Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line" by Michael Gibney was a "recommended choice" by an Internet algorithm.
I was expecting an Anthony Bourdain-style expose of the service industry from the sous chef's perspective, but what I got was a behind-the-scenes look at the drunken shenanigans and poor management styles of an upscale New York restaurant kitchen.
This fictional account is based on Gibney's experience and training as a chef and writer. Mostly, it's about the overworked and the over-tired individuals in the service industry - but, doesn't that describe most jobs?
The book moves along quickly as Gibney begins his day early at the restaurant.
There is food that needs to be stocked and placed, prep staff who need their orders, scheduling changes and requests and the inevitable issues that arise from people of different personalities working closely together in an extremely tight and warm environment.
I'm always amazed when what I order at a restaurant is served to me in mere minutes and usually tastes better than what I would make at home.
It's hard to believe that those working behind the scenes may not speak English, may be working while hungover or ill (gross) or working at (don't think about it) unsanitary prep stations.
Gibney's resume is impressive, and it's obvious that he knows what he's talking about.
His bio says that he began working in restaurants at 16 and assumed his first sous chef position at 22. He eventually became executive sous chef at Tavern on the Green in New York City, where he managed an 80-person staff.
The book moves quickly, as the pace is set by those working in the restaurant who always are under pressure to work faster. But Gibney uses a lot of restaurant jargon without stopping to explain it, so the extensive glossary at the end of the book is necessary and somewhat distracting.
It's apparent that serving 300 people several courses in only a few hours is a stressful situation.
But what annoyed me the most about this book was the bland ending. It seemed that the other drama in Gibney's life was seeing his long-time girlfriend for drinks after his shift and then working so late she goes home alone.
There was a lot of back-and-forth banter about if they would meet up or not, which didn't really fit with the rest of the book and made the author seem weak and whiny.
I'm also not sure of the point of the book - nothing was accomplished other than the satisfaction of a completed night of service. Nothing new was exposed and the content was pretty stale for anyone who's watched more than an hour of Food Network.
I can think of better ways to spend 24 hours on the line.