Sous Chef: 24 Hours on the Line
Michael Gibney takes us lucky readers behind the scenes, showing us what a typical 24-hour period in the life of a sous chef might be like. A sous chef is a restaurant’s second-in-command who answers only to the head chef. Gibney doesn’t target any single restaurant, but as he says, “I’ve compiled material from several different restaurants and several different periods in time.” He hopes by doing so to “provide a genuine impression of the industry…so that when you…wish to reflect on the craft of cooking, you can do so from a slightly more mindful perspective.”
I’d say he hit the nail on the head. The sous chef in this book starts his day at 9:00 on a Friday morning. He has to check inventory, prepare the specials for the day, supervise everyone in the kitchen to make sure they are doing their jobs, take over the work station for a sick employee who has to leave early, handle a surly boss, deal with the owner of the restaurant, and stay late because this was one of the busiest nights they’ve ever had. He ends up working from 9am to 1am, goes to a bar to drink with his buddies after work, falls in bed at 5am and is back to work at 9am the next morning. If this is truly what it’s like to be a chef, or sous chef, at a large upscale restaurant, please count me out.
"If this subject interests you in any way, you should find SOUS CHEF both entertaining and enlightening."
The text is peppered with jargon and acronyms for restaurant-related terms. Some Gibney explains; others he doesn’t. But he does include a glossary at the end of the book for ready reference. He also provides a layout of the restaurant he talks about, as well as a chart establishing the chain of command in the facility.
Gibney started in the restaurant business at age 16, when he landed a dishwashing job at an Irish pub, which was owned by the father of one of his friends. Less than an hour into his first shift, he had to clean some vomit off the floor of the restaurant foyer. He decided then and there that he wanted to be a chef, not remain on clean-up detail. Since then, he has been employed at all types of restaurants --- big, small and in-between --- and worked his way up from dishwasher to chef, working at every station in the kitchen. He obtained his first position as a sous chef at the age of 22.
Gibney has worked at several fine restaurants in the U.S. and with chefs from several of the nation’s finest establishments, making him an authority in his field. He passes his knowledge and expertise on to the reader, presenting his story in realistic terms and painting a colorful picture of life in the kitchen of a large restaurant. If this subject interests you in any way, you should find SOUS CHEF both entertaining and enlightening. Bon appétit!
Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin on March 28, 2014