I am presently reading Anthony Bourdainâ€™s â€œKitchen Confidentialâ€ and I must say, â€œwhat a blast!â€ It is not only for foodies, but also a must-read for those who love to eat (arenâ€™t we all??), those who want to go into the food/resto biz or simply those who want to know what goes on behind those busy restaurant kitchens. One would be surprised that a lot of drinking, drugs, & sex lie behind the scenes, pretty much like rock and roll. I havenâ€™t yet finished yet reading this tale of Bourdainâ€™s â€œAdventures in the Culinary Underbellyâ€ but there are interesting tidbits so far.
Take for example the chapter on â€œFrom Our Kitchen To Your Table.â€ In his direct and engaging style, Bourdain dishes out very interesting tips for the casual and/or serious diner. To quote :
1.Never order fish on a Monday. I know how old most seafood is on Monday â€“ about four to five days old.
2. I don’t eat mussels in restaurants unless I know the chef personally, or have seen, with my own eyes, how they store and hold their mussels for service. (Blogger’s note: So true. I’ve had a bad case of food poisoning from spoiled mussels)
3. ‘Brunch menu.’ Translation? “Old, nasty odds and ends, and 12 dollars for two eggs with a free Bloody Mary.” One other point about brunch. Cooks hate brunch. A wise chef will deploy his best line cooks on Friday and Saturday nikghts; he’ll be reluctant to schedule those same cooks early Sunday morning, especially since they probably went out after work Saturday and got hammered until the wee hours.
4. How about seafood on Sunday? Well..sometimes, but never an obvious attempt to offload aging stuff, like seafood salad vinaigrette or seafood frittata, on a brunch menu.
5. I will eat bread in restaurants. Even if I know it’s probably been recycled off someone else’s table. The reuse of bread is an industry-wide practice.
6. I won’t eat in a restaurant with filthy bathrooms. If the restaurant can’t be bothered to replace the puck in the urinal or keep the toilets and floors clean, then just imagine what their refrigeration and work spaces look like. Bathrooms are relatively easy to clean. Kitchens are not.
7. Beef parmentier? Shepherd’s pie? Chili special? Sounds like leftovers to me.
8. Chilean sea bass? Trendy. Expensive. More than likely frozen.
9. Vegetarians and vegans are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not wiorth living.
10.Pigs are filthy animals, say some, when explaining why they deny themselves the delights of pork. Maybe they should visit a chicken ranch. Commercially available chickens, for the most part, are loaded with salmonella. Chickens are dirty. They eat their own feces, are kept packed close together like in a rush-hour subway, and when handled in a restaurant situation, are most likely to infect other foods, or contaminate them. (Blogger’s note: STILL, I want my chicken!)
11. Shrimp? All right if it looks fresh, smells fresh, and the restaurant is busy, guaranteeing turnover of a product on a regular basis. But shrimp toast? I’ll pass.
12. Look at your waiter’s face. He knows. It’s another reason to be polite to your waiter: he could save your life with a raised eyebrow or a sigh. If he likes you, maybe he’ll stop you from ordering a piece of fish he knows is going to hurt you. On the other hand, maybe the chef has ordered him, under the pain of death, to move that codfish before it begins to really reek. Observe the body language, and take note.
13. Watchwords for fine dining? Tuesday through Saturday. The food that comes in Tuesday is fresh, the station prep is new, and the chef is well-rested after a Sunday or Monday off.
14. If the restaurant is clean, the cooks and waiters well-groomed, the dining room busy, everyone seems to actually care about what they’re doing, chances are you’re in for a decent meal.