Cooking Up Some Entertainment: Beaten, Seared, and Sauced, Apron Anxiety, & Kitchen Confidential (the series)

4 Sep

With the increasing amount of reality shows focusing on restaurants and cooking competition, chefs have been taken out of the kitchen and into the spotlight.  But being a chef is also a job that requires hard work and many hours on one’s feet in a hot kitchen.  Here are two nonfictions reads and one TV comedy series, those interested in the lives of chefs both in and out of the kitchen will enjoy.  Both books are available in print from the Hoboken Public Library and can be downloaded as ebooks on elibrarynj (

Beaten, Seared, and Sauced: On Becoming a Chef at the Culinary Institute of America   by Jonathan Dixonbeaten

Jonathan Dixon was almost forty when he decided to make a career change and went to the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) to learn to be a chef.  This work originated from a blog he began as a student there.  Dixon’s experience is not necessarily the typical one for a CIA student, the majority of whom he notes were just out of high school.  His age gives him an added seriousness about his studying, but also makes it harder for him to submit to the drill sergeant like tactics employed by some of his instructors and the physical demands of the work.  His externship at the now closed NY Indian fusion restaurant Tabla draws attention to some of the more negative aspects of working in a restaurant kitchen including the long hours and their impact on trying to maintain a relationship.  No recipes are included in the work, but as Dixon moves through the different courses, readers will pick up some tips of the trade.

Apron Anxiety: My Messy Affairs In and Out of the Kitchen
by Alyssa Shelaskyapron-anxiety-alyssa-shelasky-book-cover

While in Beaten, Seared, and Sauced Dixon mentions the impact of his course work and externing at Tabla from his point of view, Alyssa Shelasky’s Apron Anxiety gives the perspective of what it is like being the partner of a chef.  I overlapped reading the two books and it was interesting to compare their two perspectives.  In this case the chef in question is Spike Mendelsohn, who competed in the fourth season of Top Chef; in the book she refers to him, however, as simply “chef.”  Shelasky did not start out as a foodie, but is drawn in to the world by “chef.”  The book has a chicklit memoir feel and at first I was off put slightly by Shelasky’s overly privileged party girl persona, but her humor and her spunk won me over in the end.  The book chronicles how it is possible to go from melting a plastic coffee pot on the stove while trying to boil water for cocoa and thinking taleggio is a European DJ, to throwing a fabulous dinner party for friends and family.  Although her love affair with “chef” ends, her love affair with food seems to have only just begun.  Recipes that reflect each chapter’s exploits are included.

Kitchen Confidential (the series)kitchenconfidential

For those who enjoy the humorous side of life in the kitchen, Kitchen Confidential is a 2005 television series loosely based on Anthony Bourdain’s book of the same name.  Although some characters and situations will be familiar to fans of the book such as an overly obsessed bread baker, the show diverges from the source material and adds a great deal of absurd humor and exists in a heightened reality only found in dramadies.   The show was produced by Sex and the City creator, Darren Star which it reminded me of, though in this case replacing the female friendship with male workplace bonding and with more “PG-13” content reflecting its broadcast TV origin.  Bradley Cooper, of Hangover fame, stars as Jack Bourdain, who has renounced his former hard partying ways and sees a chance to finally get back to helming an upscale restaurant.  The cast includes Nicholas Brendon (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) as a pastry chef, John Francis Daley (currently on Bones) as a constantly hazed newbie, Jaime King (currently on Heart of Dixie) as a ditzy waitress, and Owain Yeoman (currently on the Mentalist) as bad boy sous chef.  Unfortunately despite the winning cast, in part due to scheduling issues, the show only lasted four episodes on TV in the US, but all thirteen are available as a DVD set, which can be borrowed from BCCLS libraries.

One Response to “Cooking Up Some Entertainment: Beaten, Seared, and Sauced, Apron Anxiety, & Kitchen Confidential (the series)”


  1. Three of My Favorite Mystery TV Shows that are based on Book Series: Murdoch Mysteries, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, and Bones | Hoboken Library Staff Picks - January 21, 2015

    […] Angela Montenegro, a forensic artist, to find love together as well.  You may recall from a previous blog I mentioned John Francis Daley’s role as an often hazed newbie chef on the short lived Kitchen […]

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