It seems as though all great chefs have terrible upbringings. Some how what leads a person to the hectic, dangerous, exhilarating life of cooking is a hectic, dangerous, and exhilarating life of being left unattended while young.
These two books are autobiographies of chefs. They both start on hard times and end up in fancy kitchens serving artistic fare to the well-heeled. Both offer a fun behind-the-scenes look at the war zone that is the restaurant kitchen. I've been reading a lot of these books lately. They intrigue me.
Blood, Bones and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton, the founder of the restaurant Prune in the East Village, is about growing up in and around New York City, doing drugs, being a disaster while working the high paying, fast paced job of caterer. Her prose is tight and the book reads fast, probably due to her stint at grad school for a masters in writing.
The Devil in the Kitchen by Marco Pierre White the founder of Harvey's in London and youngest chef to win three Michelin stars in England, is about a man who began as the son of a cook in East England and had an equally unattended childhood after his mother died. Unfortunately, he doesn't write all that much about the food he made along the way to stardom, but the details about kitchen life and how he got where he is are interesting enough to make up the gap.
The life of the cook is so attractive. The raw energy, real tasks needed done quickly, the efficiency and discipline all entice. It is way late in my life to give a whirl, but after reading Heat by Bill Buford, where he describes getting the chance to join Mario Batali's kitchen, it would be so nice to be given the opportunity to live in that underworld for a time.
Both books are worth a read.