I’ve really been getting into Sweetbitter this season! Cheese and crackers to accompany our wine is a staple in our house and we’ve really been getting into talking about food and service. The husband (who also works in hospitality) reminded me of how he used to sit at the bar and read Kitchen Confidential to the waitresses while we closed up which inspired this list!
So here are our top picks for 10 excellent hospitality memoirs:
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain
A deliciously funny, delectably shocking banquet of wild-but-true tales of life in the culinary trade from Chef Anthony Bourdain. A classic that every front of house and chef can relate to! The writing is no-nonsense, super funny and spawned numerous tv shows and follow up books. New York Chef Bourdain gives away secrets of the trade in his wickedly funny, inspiring memoir/expose. Kitchen Confidential reveals what Bourdain calls “twenty-five years of sex, drugs, bad behavior and haute cuisine.” A Cook’s Tour and Medium Raw are both excellent follow up books and if you haven’t watched the tv series starring Brandon Cooper I highly recommend it!
2. Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles and So-Called Hospitality by Jacob Tomsky
Heads in Beds is a funny, authentic chronicle of the highs and lows of hotel life. As told by a keenly observant insider who’s seen it all. Prepare to be amused, shocked, and amazed as he spills the unwritten code of the bellhops, the antics that go on in the valet parking garage, the housekeeping department’s dirty little secrets. Not to mention the shameless activities of the guests, who are rarely on their best behavior. Prepare to be moved, about what it’s like to toil in a highly demanding service industry at luxury level, where people expect to get what they pay for (and often a whole lot more).
3. Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and
Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste by Bianca Bosker
Like many of us, Bosker saw wine as a way to unwind at the end of a long day, or a nice thing to have with dinner and that was about it. Until she stumbled on an alternate universe where taste reigned supreme! A world in which people could, after a single sip, identify the grape it was made from, in what year, and where it was produced down to the exact location. Astounded by their fanatical dedication and seemingly superhuman sensory powers, Bosker abandoned her screen-centric life and set out to discover what drove their obsession. And whether she, too, could become a cork dork.
4. Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton
Before Gabrielle Hamilton opened her acclaimed New York restaurant Prune, she spent twenty hard-living years trying to find purpose and meaning in her life. Blood, Bones & Butter follows an unconventional journey through the many kitchens Hamilton has inhabited. The rural kitchen of her childhood; the kitchens of France, Greece, and Turkey; Hamilton’s own kitchen at Prune, with its many unexpected challenges; and the kitchen of her Italian mother-in-law. By turns epic and intimate, Gabrielle Hamilton’s story is told with uncommon honesty, grit, humor, and passion.
5. Life, on the Line: A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat
by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas
Life, on the Line, tells the story of a culinary trailblazer’s love affair with cooking but is also a book about survival, nurturing creativity, and about profound friendship. Already much- anticipated by followers of progressive cuisine, Grant and Nick’s gripping narrative is filled with stories from the world’s most renowned Kitchens-The French Laundry, Charlie Trotter’s, el Bulli. Sure to expand the audience that made Alinea the number-one selling restaurant cookbook in America last year.
6. The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection by Michael Ruhlman
Michael Ruhlman journeys into the heart of the profession. He observes the Certified Master Chef exam at the Culinary Institute of America, the most influential cooking school in the country. And enters the lives and kitchens of rising star Michael Symon and renowned Thomas Keller of the French Laundry. This fascinating book will satisfy any reader’s hunger for knowledge about cooking and food. It explores the secrets of successful chefs, at what point cooking becomes an art form and more.
7. Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip-Confessions of a Cynical Waiter by The Waiter
According to The Waiter, eighty percent of customers are nice people just looking for something to eat. The remaining twenty percent, however, are socially maladjusted psychopaths. Waiter Rant offers the server’s unique point of view; with tales of customer stupidity, arrogant misbehavior, and bits of human grace transpiring in the most unlikely places. Through outrageous stories, The Waiter reveals the secrets to getting good service, proper tipping etiquette, and how to keep him from spitting in your food. The Waiter also shares his struggle, at age thirty-eight, to figure out if he can finally leave the first job at which he’s truly thrived.
8. My Life in France by Julia Child
The bestselling story of Julia’s years in France–and the basis for Julie & Julia, starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams–in her own words. Julia’s unforgettable story–struggles with the head of the Cordon Bleu, rejections from publishers to whom she sent her now-famous cookbook. It covers her wonderful, nearly fifty-year-long marriage that took the Childs across the globe. It unfolds with the spirit so key to Julia’s success as a chef and a writer. And brilliantly captures one of America’s most endearing personalities.
9. The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pépin
The man whom Julia Child has called “the best chef in America” tells the story of his rise. From a frightened apprentice to an Emmy Award-winning superstar who taught millions of Americans how to cook and also shaped the nation’s tastes. The Apprentice is the poignant and sometimes funny tale of a boy’s coming of age. Beyond that, it is the story of America’s culinary awakening and the transformation of food from an afterthought to a national preoccupation.
10. Heat: An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting
Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford
When the opportunity to train in Mario Batali’s three-star New York restaurant, Babbo, Buford grabbed it. Heat is the chronicle—sharp, funny, wonderfully exuberant—of his time spent as Batali’s “slave”. It tells of his far-flung apprenticeships with culinary masters in Italy. In a fast-paced, candid narrative, Buford describes the experience of working in Babbo’s kitchen. Covering the trials and errors, humiliations and hopes, disappointments and triumphs as he worked his way up the ladder from slave to cook. He talks about his relationships with his kitchen colleagues and with the larger-than-life, hard-living Batali. He learns Batali’s story as their friendship grows through (sometimes despite) kitchen encounters and after-work all-nighters.