Four Kitchens: My Life Behind the Burn­er in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv, and Paris

Lau­ren Shockey
  • Review
By – October 31, 2011

Work­ing as a kitchen intern in restau­rants is edu­ca­tion­al but def­i­nite­ly not easy. Lau­ren Shock­ey knew she had been well taught at the French Culi­nary Insti­tute (she had also earned a Mas­ter of Arts in food stud­ies from New York Uni­ver­si­ty), but real­ized that hands-on expe­ri­ence was vital. She records her appren­tice­ships in four kitchens, where in two cas­es, she didn’t speak the local language. 

Recipes are shared but what makes the book come alive are the sto­ries. Shock­ey clear­ly under­stands what it takes to get along with the var­ied and often ego dri­ven personalities. 

In the main, the recipes are not kosher and we learn a lot about crabs and their prep and cook­ing. What we do admire are Shockey’s sense of ethics in the kitchen and the labo­ri­ous efforts of behind the scenes restau­rant line pro­duc­tions. We trav­el with the author to the back rooms of kitchens and learn how work is divid­ed as we pick up tips on food prep in the US, Viet­nam, Israel, and France. 

The four kitchen adven­tures are chal­leng­ing and Shock­ey makes the most of each one. The smells and rhythms of the coun­tries per­me­ate her writ­ing, as does her appre­ci­a­tion of what she is learn­ing. After this excit­ing year, Shock­ey real­izes that while restau­rant cook­ing is not what she wants, she real­ly loves home cook­ing, with all the warmth of hearth and peo­ple that it involves. She tells us, I dis­cov­ered what I loved: cook­ing for my friends and fam­i­ly and shar­ing the boun­ty of the table togeth­er. And the friends I made along the way taught me that home can be any­where, and so can your home kitchen. It’s those you share it with who real­ly matter.”

Danièle Gor­lin Lass­ner (wife, moth­er, grand­moth­er) retired after 35 years at Ramaz where she served as Dean of Admis­sions, For­eign Lan­guage Depart­ment chair and teacher of French and Span­ish. She owns hun­dreds of cook­books. She has trans­lat­ed sev­er­al chil­dren’s books from French into Eng­lish. She has recent­ly trans­lat­ed “ A Mem­oir of Sanc­ti­ty “ by May­er Moskowitz (Mazo Pub­lish­ers, Jerusalem, Israel) from Hebrew into Eng­lish. No mat­ter the lan­guage, food is a con­stant.”

Discussion Questions