Friday, April 4, 2014

Review: Sous Chef 24 Hours on the Line by Michael Gibney

In this urgent and unique book for fans of Blood, Bones & Butter and Kitchen Confidential, chef Michael Gibney uses twenty-four hours to animate the intricate camaraderie and culinary choreography of an upscale New York restaurant kitchen. Here readers will find the true details, in rapid-fire succession, of what it takes to deliver an exceptional plate of food—the journey to excellence by way of exhaustion.
Told in second-person narrative, Sous Chef is an immersive, adrenaline-fueled run that offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the food service industry, allowing readers to briefly inhabit the hidden world behind the kitchen doors, in real time. This exhilarating account provides regular diners and food enthusiasts alike a detailed insider’s perspective, while offering fledgling professional cooks an honest picture of what the future holds, ultimately giving voice to the hard work and dedication around which chefs have built their careers.
In a kitchen where the highest standards are upheld and one misstep can result in disaster, Sous Chef conjures a greater appreciation for the thought, care, and focus that go into creating memorable and delicious fare. With grit, wit, and remarkable prose, Gibney renders a beautiful and raw account about this demanding and sometimes overlooked profession, offering a nuanced perspective on the craft and art of food and service.

I'm a fan of Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential so I figured this would be right up my alley.

In Sous Chef, you are taken through a typical day in the life of a sous chef. This includes what happens before and after a busy shift.

At first, the second-person narrative threw me off. It was kind of like reading a choose-your-own-adventure book wherein you couldn't really choose how anything happens. As I got accustomed to it, however, I appreciated the style because it made me feel like I really was a sous chef in a fancy restaurant (albeit a male one, instead of a female).

I watch a lot of cooking reality shows and I've read a couple of books about life in restaurants so I had an idea how stressful and hectic it is. This book, however, really makes you feel how complicated it can get. If you're easily stressed or not a very good multi-tasker, life in a kitchen life is not for you.

There were a lot of things I didn't know before reading this book that I now know. For example, I didn't know that in a high-end restaurants and such, it's typical to have two sous chefs. The chef in charge of the fish also has one of the toughest jobs because cooking fish is no easy task.

Though I don't really cook, I did appreciate all the little trivia and tips that make it into this book, such as how fish should be stored and how some of them should be cooked.

I do have a few things that I didn't like so much about this book. One is the use of so much terminology and abbreviations. This tells me that the book was meant for an audience made up of chefs, cooks and aspiring chefs. Those who have only a passing interest in cooking, or those who are just curious about life as a chef may feel overwhelmed by the details. There's a glossary at the end, and some of the terminology is explained within the book, but it takes the flow out of reading when you constantly have to refer to the glossary. Second, there isn't a lot of humor in the book. It would have been nice to read a few lines, even tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic comments that can elicit a laugh and make the book's tone feel lighter. Finally, the ending felt abrupt to me. The last line didn't feel like a closing statement to me and it made me think like there should be another chapter that follows.

Thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for the e-ARC.


  1. You really get to feel like you're a sous chef.
  2. You learn a lot of useful kitchen terms and tips.
  3. You get to appreciate the efforts of the staff in restaurants. 


  1. It feels like there should be another chapter after the last one. 


  1. You're an aspiring chef.
  2. You want to know what life is like in the kitchen.
  3. You think being a chef is an easy job.




Note: This post contains Amazon and Book Depository affiliate links.

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