NAMED ONE OF THE TEN BEST NONFICTION BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY TIME
The back must slave to feed the belly. . . . In this urgent and unique book, chef Michael Gibney uses twenty-four hours to animate the intricate camaraderie and culinary choreography in an upscale New York restaurant kitchen. Here readers will find all the 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, Michael Gibney renders a beautiful and raw account of this demanding and sometimes overlooked profession, offering a nuanced perspective on the craft and art of food and service.
Praise for Sous Chef
“This is excellent writing—excellent!—and it is thrilling to see a debut author who has language and story and craft so well in hand. Though I would never ask my staff to read my own book, I would happily require them to read Michael Gibney’s.”—Gabrielle Hamilton
“[Michael] Gibney has the soul of a poet and the stamina of a stevedore. . . . Tender and profane, his book will leave you with a permanent appreciation for all those people who ‘desire to feed, to nourish, to dish out the tasty bits of life.’”—The New York Times Book Review
“A terrific nuts-and-bolts account of the real business of cooking as told from the trenches. No nonsense. This is what it takes.”—Anthony Bourdain
“A wild ride, not unlike a roller coaster, and the reader experiences all the drama, tension, exhilaration, exhaustion and relief that accompany cooking in an upscale Manhattan restaurant.”—USA Today
“Vibrantly written.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Sizzling . . . Such culinary experience paired with linguistic panache is a rarity.”—The Daily Beast
“Reveals the high-adrenaline dance behind your dinner.”—NPR
Forgoing the usual route of outrageous stories, name dropping, or straight ahead cookbooks, Gibney writes about what it's actually like to work in the kitchen of a fine dining restaurant. Told in the second-person, from the point of a sous chef a kitchen's second-in-command and a position Gibney first reached at the age of 22 the narrative wonderfully captures a single day's events, from morning deliveries and prep work through a busy service to the team's cathartic release at a local bar. An experienced chef with an M.F.A. in nonfiction, Gibney is as skilled with words as he is with his 11-inch Sujihiki knife. In fact, when writing about this trusty knife his prose sounds more like poetry: "her outward lip traces lines in flesh with surgical exactitude, the convex shape of her inward face attenuates surface tension, releasing the meat. Cuts go slack at her touch; fish bows beside her." This love of language permeates the whole book so that Gibney is able to tie together the off-color Spanglish dialogues of the staff with his drunken philosophizing on whether or not cooking is "just another form enlightened self interest" to create a story that is both cohesive and multifaceted.