cover image Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line

Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line

Michael Gibney. Ballantine, $25 (212p) ISBN 978-0-8041-7787-0

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. (Mar.)