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Out of the Sautoir*   Leave a comment

Sous Chef

If Michael Gibney’s writing is anything like the food he prepares, I’m ready for him to make me a meal. In Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line Gibney provides a life in the day of, you guessed it, a sous chef. By definition, the kitchen’s second in command.

Beginning at 9 a.m. on a cold December Friday in New York City, Gibney offers a behind-the-kitchen-door view of what it takes to get dinner on the table. The particular night he recounts does 300 covers (servings). The restaurant is never named, but judging from the food descriptions, it’s an upscale eatery.

Gibney relies on second-person voice, which is awkward at times. The point must be that even though this is his story, it is universal to all sous chefs. Gibney’s attention to detail is strong, and interesting. He explains each person’s role, the type of prep work necessary to ensure a smooth service, the hierarchy among the staff and preparation of several dishes.

From the moment Gibney arrives at the restaurant, and before he puts on his chef whites, he’s in kitchen mode. He describes the quiet, almost serene, atmosphere before others arrive to begin their shifts. Slowly, as the day progresses, that serenity evolves into controlled chaos.

By the time Gibney’s shift ends, it’s after midnight. He has to be back in eight hours. Nonetheless, he and his colleagues meet at a local bar. Eventually, Gibney makes it home, although the kitchen is never far from his thoughts.

Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line
Four Bookmarks
Ballantine Books,2014
214 pages, including “Selected Kitchen Terminology”

* A sautoir is a shallow frying pan

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