Cooking Dirty

A Story of Life, Sex, Love and Death in the Kitchen

By Jason Sheehan
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Paperback, 9780374532277, 368pp.)

Publication Date: July 6, 2010

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"Cooking Dirty "is a rollicking account of life "on the line" in the neighborhood restaurants--far from culinary school, cable TV, and the Michelin Guide--where most of us eat out when we eat out. It takes the kitchen memoir to a rough and reckless place.

From his first job scraping trays at a pizzeria at age fifteen, Jason Sheehan had the full range of kitchen experiences: in a French colonial bistro and an all-night diner; a crab shack just off the interstate and a fusion restaurant in a former hair salon. Restaurant work, as he describes it in exuberant, sparkling prose, is "the last true American meritocracy. No one cares about your past or what you do on the outside. Can you cook? That's all anyone cares about." The kitchen crew is a fraternity with its own rites: sneaking cigarettes in the walk-in freezer, having sex in the basement, surviving the wartime urgency of the dinner rush. Cooking is a series of personal challenges, from the first perfectly done mussel to the satisfaction of surgically sliced foie gras. And the kitchen itself, as Sheehan tells it, is a place in which life's mysteries are thawed, sliced, broiled, barbecued, and fried--a place where people from the margins find their community and their calling.

About the Author

Jason Sheehan the food writer for Westword, won a James Beard Award in 2003. His essay “There’s No Such Thing as Too Much Barbecue” was reprinted in This I Believe. His work has appeared in Best American Food Writing five times.

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