“Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line” by Michael Gibney (Ballantine Books, 214 pages, in stores)
A huge number of people dine in American restaurants, but few know much about what goes on in the kitchen.
Michael Gibney, chef and writer, lets us in on how big, upscale restaurants go about the business of feeding customers. He has observed the daily miracle in several venues and writes a story that is far more exciting than anyone would expect.
A day in a typical first-rate eatery in Manhattan is filled with exceptional planning, high drama, tension and hard work that leaves the staff bone-tired when their aprons are hung up. Somehow many of them find the energy to climb onto a bar stool and recount what happened during their long shifts.
In the kitchen hierarchy, the sous chef rates just below the chef. Gibney outlines the duties of the cooks, servers and all the rest of the staff right down to the dishwashers.
Preparation for an evening meal begins shortly after daybreak with checking to see all equipment is sparkling, that food has been ordered and properly stored and the executive chef has decided on the “specials” of the evening.
Being human, employees can disappoint and cause disruption. Take, for instance, the worker who tries to do his job despite the hangover that leaves a kitchen floor slick with vomit. Others then must assume extra duties. When 100 unexpected diners arrive in the midst of such turmoil, nerves can come near to breaking.
Cooking terminology and a rundown of hour after hour in a restaurant add up to a good yarn. Gibney’s name is not yet well-known in the literary world, but this story whets the appetite for more of his work.
— Dennie Hall,for The Oklahoman