Sous Chef by Michael Gibney


18142414The 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.


An engrossing look at what life is like for a sous chef at a three star restaurant and a must read for any foodie. Throw out any preconceptions you have of a second person narrative, as it works great here. The pacing is tight and I took an extra long bath just to read through service – “I’m in the weeds! The fluke is ruined! How will I get out of this one?!” I may have also watched a random ep of Hell’s Kitchen to help me get in the mood, bwahaha.

And oh, the food porn. Watch Chef plate a dish:

Finally there is the monkfish – a stupendous picture. It starts with a gob of carrot puree, dragged across the plate with the bottom side of a small offset spatula. The result is a cadmium orange swatch that looks more like oil paint than food. After that come the lentils, which he arranges in patches like shiny black moss on a forest floor. Then, with a pair of forceps, the endive goes down, its sharp cowlick of leaves saluting the sky. And then, finally, comes the fish. He cuts the shaft into four identical coins and shingles them down the center of the plate. As he does this, you notice that inside the roulade the foie gras has gone molten, which means you’ve cooked it perfectly.


I liked that Gibney explains a lot but not everything; there’s a glossary of cooking terms in the back for that. Some reviewers don’t like the untranslated Spanish, but this is a kitchen in New York City. Of course there’s Spanish. The context tells you what’s going on anyway, and sometimes you get an ad hoc translation in the next paragraph. My view is probably skewed because I live in my second language and am used to sussing things out but really, suck it up.

An entertaining read that I can see myself picking up again when I want to head back to the kitchen.