An experienced sous chef and first-time author skillfully deconstructs a 24-hour work cycle of a sous chef in a New York kitchen.
Gibney builds his narrative around the intimate, intense and demanding dance occurring within the kitchen of a busy NYC restaurant, and his intent is clear from the beginning: He wants readers right beside him during the entire journey. The author includes a floor plan of the kitchen with its 17 zones and a diagram of the kitchen chain of command, from executive chef to busboy and food runner. For readers unfamiliar with a Honesuki (“a triangular Japanese poultry boning knife”) or which part of the pig a guanciale comes from (“unsmoked Umbrian salumi made from salted and spiced pig jowl”), the author’s inclusion of kitchen terms makes following along all the more fun. Gibney began working in restaurants at age 16, more than 13 years ago. When he was 22, he landed his first sous chef gig. “In that time,” he writes, “I’ve seen all manner of operation—big, small, beautiful and ugly. I’ve climbed the ladder from dishwasher to chef and cooked at all the stations in between.” In addition to the author’s skill in the kitchen, Gibney displays solid storytelling ability. He breathes life into the mix of outsized personalities inhabiting the confined, hot, noisy space of the kitchen and illuminates the range of knowledge and skills required by his profession. Following a few pages enumerating the answers to possible questions wait staff might pose about a new dish, he writes, “You need to know everything about everything that’s in every dish, and you must be able to identify which items may conflict with which dietary guidelines.” Gibney ably relays mountains of information in this remarkable trek through his storehouse of knowledge.
Sumptuously entertaining fare.