Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line, by Michael Gibney

sous chefI admit it. I, like many others, am food obsessed. In the Western world, we’ve entered an age where eating is no longer just a means to an end (to keep from not dying) and has become instead a form of art. Today most of my friends are into making meals out of organic, local, and fresh fruits and vegetables, or feel guilty about it when they don’t have time. Living in Vancouver, I’m in one of the food capitals of North America, home to star chefs and fabulous restaurants and farmers’ markets in every neighbourhood. People here are fascinated by food and I count myself as one of them. When I heard about the book Sous Chef, I was quick to order it. I’d just finished reading Delancey and the nonvella Foodville, by Timothy Taylor, who muses about this new age of food. I was eager to continue on my food theme a little longer. Sous Chef did not disappoint. As I do the bulk of my reading in the hour before I go to sleep, I found myself excitedly anticipating going to bed each night. I love books where you are immersed in another person’s reality. The funny thing about the life of a chef is that you can almost picture what their days must be like – after all, you cook dinner, right? You eat out at restaurants? But actually the life of a chef is so demanding, physically and mentally exhausting, yet incredibly skilled that unless you’ve done it, imagining the day-to-day life of a chef is akin to imagining a day in the life of an astronaut or a ballet dancer or some other equally foreign profession. Michael Gibney does an excellent job of giving the reader a peek at his gruelling job as a sous chef. You will finish reading it and wonder why anyone would want that life. How anyone can sustain that level of intense focus in a daily environment characterized by tight deadlines, hung-over and unpleasant co-workers, and the constant fear of making a mistake, is beyond me. However it makes for an excellent read. The funny thing about the book is that it’s written in the second person. I found this a highly effective tool for putting myself in Gibney’s shoes. Although it does take some getting used to, it feels so much more personal. Gibney also does an excellent job of explaining the layout of the kitchen, all the tools, and the roles of the other kitchen personnel. The first couple chapters are a bit dry as he gets all this necessary information out of the way, but the book quickly picks up pace. It’s one I’ll likely read again and I highly recommend it!

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