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.”