Showing posts with label michael gibney. Show all posts
Showing posts with label michael gibney. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Six Degrees of Separation: 1984

Let's do a little Six Degrees today!

As a reminder: the Six Degrees of Separation meme was created by Emma Chapman and Annabel Smith.  Basically, they pick a new book each month, and you start with your thoughts on that book...then, through free association, you link it to 6 other books.

This month's book is  1984 by George Orwell.  AND GO!

A year or so after I graduated from college (2006), I started making my way through some of the classics that I was never assigned to read in high school.  1984 was one of them, and I loved it.  This may have been my first real taste of dystopia (before Hunger Games/Divergent/etc made dystopia cool).

Other than working on the classics, another little reading project of mine in 2006 was trying to read my way through the library's fiction section alphabetically.  Yeah, I know.  I gave it up well before I was halfway through the A's.  But one of the books I remember from that project was...

How I Paid For College by Marc Acito

Honest to God, the only reason this book continues to stick out for me is because of the title and the cover.  They are, admittedly, hard to forget.  That said, I just re-read the book description on Goodreads, and I have absolutely no recollection of that plot.  I also gave it a 2-star review, so apparently it was a little bit awful.  Don't you hate that though, when you read a book and then years later, you can't remember a single thing about it?

There are GOOD books with college themes too, though!  That happens to be one of my preferred settings for a novel.  An example would be...

I Am Charlotte Simmons  by Tom Wolfe

I have mentioned this book on the blog before (here!), and it continues to make the list of my all-time favorite novels.  I connected with so many elements of the novel as Charlotte made her way through a rocky freshman year of college.

Since we're talking about all-time favorite novels, let's give a shout-out to one of mine that I've never mentioned on the blog before...

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston

Fun fact: my original college major was pathobiology, and I wrote several of my college admissions essays about this book.  I read it during my junior year of high school, found it completely fascinating, and then decided that I wanted to major in pathobiology, go to graduate school for public health, and eventually work at the CDC to find a cure for Ebola.

Yes, you read that right.  This is, indeed, a book about Ebola.  Timely, yes?  (Also, I think we can all agree that changing my major to family studies was an unfortunate decision for the entire world circa NOW.)  Even though my career goals did not stay the same, I still have a lot of curiosity and interest in biological sciences, and this book continues to be a favorite.  An interesting read for sure if you don't know much about this disease (beyond what you hear in the media).

Nonfiction!  Haven't talked about that a lot around here lately.  I actually just looked on Goodreads and saw that my last nonfiction read was...

Sous Chef by Michael Gibney

WHAT?  I read that back in MARCH!  It's a bit atrocious that I have read zero nonfiction since then.  Thank goodness that Nonfiction November is coming up.  This book was very entertaining though, and reminds me of why I need to get back into the groove with nonfic.

So let's see, what other nonfiction books are on my favorites list (other than The Hot Zone)...

My Life by Bill Clinton

Me sharing the former president's autobiography as a book on my favorites list does absolutely nothing other than reveal the fact that I am an unapologetic liberal and fan of Bill Clinton.

Wait, you're not supposed to discuss politics in mixed company!  Quick, think of a good memoir that's less political for us to talk about!

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Phew, that's better.

This is the strangest train of book thought I've ever had...although, I just realized that I started with 1984 and ended with Steve Jobs...and Apple had that famous commercial based on 1984 way back when.  CRAZY, RIGHT??  I'm a genius.  (Not really, just very sleep deprived, as Tater Tot has croup at the time of this writing.)

Have you read any of these books, friends?  What did you think?  And feel free to share your six degrees as well!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Book Review: Sous Chef by Michael Gibney

Title: Sous Chef
Author: Michael Gibney
Publisher: Ballantine
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
Source: ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley for an honest review

Summary from Goodreads

The 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.

In a kitchen where the highest standards are upheld and one misstep can result in disaster, Sous Chef conjures a greater appreciation for the thought, care, and focus that go into creating memorable and delicious fare. With grit, wit, and remarkable prose, Michael Gibney renders a beautiful and raw account of this demanding and sometimes overlooked profession, offering a nuanced perspective on the craft and art of food and service.

My Review:

As followers of this blog know, it's a big goal of mine to read down the massive pile of books from my at-home TBR this year.  This means less NetGalley surfing and more home-shelves selections.  But then NetGalley goes and sends me an email telling me all about Sous Chef, and I'm like, "FOODIE NONFICTION, GET IN MAH BELLEH."  Couldn't help myself.  Had to review.

I've read my fair share of books that take place in professional kitchens, but Gibney manages to make his POV unique.  He takes you through a full 24-hour period in the life of a sous chef in a Manhattan restaurant--presumably based on his own experiences as such.  It's written in the second-person, which you don't see very often, and in this case, it immerses you in the action of the kitchen from page one.

Despite that, I did have some reservations about the book when it first opened.  The beginning (when Gibney is walking you through the preparations for dinner before customers arrive) felt a little "textbooky" to me: a lot of very specific explanations about cooking techniques and sanitation regulations, which got bland after a while.  However, once the restaurant opened for business, I was transfixed.  Honestly, it left me rather in awe of the skill and synchronicity of the cooks in that kitchen.  I've read a lot of foodie nonfic, and I have a fairly good understanding of how difficult professional cooking can be, but this is the first book I've read that really brings you through that entire process, soup to nuts.  (Pun intended, because I am lame.)  The precision and attention to detail of these chefs is truly impressive, but is also balanced by the reality of how tough their jobs are, both physically and mentally.

The last part of the book focuses on after service--when the chef leaves the restaurant, goes out to get drinks with his fellow chefs, and later returns home.  This part of the book lost me a bit.  Gibney gets too overly poetic here, as he reflects upon how difficult it is to balance his job with his personal life.  His basic point is that this is a very demanding line of work, one that requires much of you and forces you to closely examine your priorities in life.  I can appreciate that.  However, I could have done without the over-the-top philosophizing, complete with contemplations of the moonbeams shining down on him as he walks home (yes, this was a thing).  It felt like he was trying too hard, and the points could have been made more simply.

So, if I break this book into three sections, I'd recap them like this:
Before Service: interesting and draws you in, though perhaps a little overly technical at times.
During Service: absolutely stellar, will leave you in awe of both the skill and difficulty of professional cooking.
After Service: makes some good points, but tries too hard to wax poetic.

Despite my back-and-forth reactions, this book sticks with me as a great read, probably because that middle section is so well done.  If you've had good luck with other foodie nonfiction (Bourdain, Ruhlman, etc.), Sous Chef is definitely the next one to add to your plate.  (Yes, more lame food puns!!)

Sous Chef is being released March 25.  Have you read any great 2014 releases yet this year?
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