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Publisher's Summary

The back must slave to feed the belly.... In this urgent and unique book, chef Michael Gibney uses 24 hours to animate the intricate camaraderie and culinary choreography in an upscale New York restaurant kitchen. Here listeners will find all the details, in rapid-fire succession, of what it takes to deliver an exceptional plate of food - the journey to excellence by way of exhaustion. 

Told in second-person narrative, Sous Chef is an immersive, adrenaline-fueled run that offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective on the food service industry, allowing listeners to briefly inhabit the hidden world behind the kitchen doors, in real time. This exhilarating account provides regular diners and food enthusiasts alike a detailed insider’s perspective, while offering fledgling professional cooks an honest picture of what the future holds, ultimately giving voice to the hard work and dedication around which chefs have built their careers. 

In a kitchen where the highest standards are upheld and one misstep can result in disaster, Sous Chef conjures a greater appreciation for the thought, care, and focus that go into creating memorable and delicious fare. With grit, wit, and remarkable prose, Michael Gibney renders a beautiful and raw account of this demanding and sometimes overlooked profession, offering a nuanced perspective on the craft and art of food and service.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2014 Michael Gibney (P)2014 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"A terrific nuts-and-bolts account of the real business of cooking as told from the trenches. No nonsense. This is what it takes." (Anthony Bourdain)
"This is excellent writing - excellent! - and it is thrilling to see a debut author who has language and story and craft so well in hand. Though I would never ask my staff to read my own book, I would happily require them to read Michael Gibney’s." (Gabrielle Hamilton, author of Blood, Bones & Butter)
" Sous Chef is a marvelous, superbly written, intelligent, and accomplished book. I know no other book that so vividly renders the experience and complexity of life in a big restaurant kitchen. The sheer amount of knowledge demonstrated here of the particulars of cooking is immense, and the dynamic, seesaw relationship between chef and sous chef is especially well achieved. I was gripped by the author’s culinary passion and literary sophistication. Bravo!" (Phillip Lopate)

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What listeners say about Sous Chef

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  • Overall
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Delicious,fast paced, well written and performed

What made the experience of listening to Sous Chef the most enjoyable?

This story was non pretentious and believable. Even thrilling at times.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The narrator. Most of the story is about him. he is an ordinary dude with passion for his extraordinary job.

What about Fred Berman’s performance did you like?

His passion and despair shine through in his voice.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Nothing extreme. Just thoroughly enjoyed it. I wanted more.

3 people found this helpful

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Cuisine vérité

What made the experience of listening to Sous Chef the most enjoyable?

For any home cook who has ever fantasized about doing it for a living, for anyone in the profession who enjoys seeing it honored, for anyone who thinks this is the life for them.

2 people found this helpful

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Only as good as your last plate.

Written in the risky second person style, you, the reader, are the sous chef, arriving for a new day's work at 8.00am on what will be a busy Friday service. The checking of new food deliveries, the freshness of everything from fish (wonderful hints on storage) to meat, to any other produce, as well as personal equipment readiness and the cleanliness of each stage of the kitchen. Then greeting the kitchen team as they arrive, arranging who should prep what and generally prepare for the anticipated busy night ahead. Brief breaks for cigarettes and to meet the girlfriend as she makes her way to work, just calling in to say hello. If the reader has any interest at all in how much work is involved prior to the first customer even setting foot inside the restaurant, not all of which goes smoothly, then this first section is interesting, tension growing as the witching hour of service allroaches. But it is the explosive rush of service itself which really reads more like an action thriller than a job of work. Each plate must be delivered fast and be more than good: it must be perfect, especially when one table has reporters from the Times. And to achieve perfection requires total commitment and precision from the whole team. With 300 anticipated diners just one person's failure risks disaster for the whole evening. There's anxiety, fear, anger, chaos, bad language and even one of the team throwing up into his waste bin. Finally, it's all over. Time to dress back into civies, speculate on the success or otherwise of the evening and life in general before heading to the bar with your colleagues. Home, a (very) few hours of rest before it's time to head back to the kitchen, late and slightly hung over, to start all over again. I loved this book. Although a little slow at first, as the pace in the kitchen increased, so did the excitement and involvement. It is your kitchen, your job, your success or failure on the line. Some conversation is in Spanish, untranslated. There are terms used for some equipment, cooking terms or ingredients for which there is no time to explain the meaning - this is all covered in the really excellent extended glossary after the conclusion of the book - the pressure of the hours of service are tangible. And all of this is perfectly captured by Fred Berman, the narrator. He takes the text and runs with it following every nuance, despair, pride, aspiration, hope and sorrow. His pleasant mid tone voice picks up every nuance, his Spanish sounds impeccable. This is a masterful performance which greatly adds to the pleasure of the book. Different in character to Bourdaine's masterful Kitchen Confidential, Gibney's Sous Chef is still a book I most heartily recommend to anyone either thinking of entering the profession, or, like me, simply fascinated by what goes on behind the scenes to produce fabulous food so quickly in a quality restaurant. It really does have that thriller quality.

1 person found this helpful

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Sous Chef is one of my favorite literary meals

I have listened to this book so many times that my brain actually thinks I lived these 24 hours myself.

The writing is amazing. Michael Gibney has an extraordinary skill of taking the reader and allowing them to become him. One of my favorite passages is preparing the fluke for dinner service. I could feel the fish on my cutting board and part of me knew that if I had the right knife and a fluke in front of me I would portion it perfectly. His writing allows your brain to step into his skin and live a day as a sous chef.

The narration is nothing short of perfect. After initial introductions to each character the listener knows exactly who is speaking without names being needed because Fred Berman's range is incredible and distinct. Male/Female, South America, Bronx,Midwest, etc... he has them down.

Enjoyed this book the first time and still enjoyed it the 23rd time!


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Loved it!

This was a great book that provided a vivid picture of the restaurant world...behind the scenes. The narrator does a great job with this book as well.

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As a professional chef, this is spot on...

I am myself a professional chef. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this. It was like almost hearing a story of myself in the life of me. Michael did an amazing job with this book and is a must read for people in the business as well as people not. Would read a Nother book by am

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Really well written and narrated.

I really enjoyed this story. Based on the wonderful descriptions moment by moment, I felt like I was standing next to the characters. If you are interested in what happens decide your plate hits your table, get this book. The characters are superbly described and play off each other with out missing a beat. Loved this book!

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Can not recommend enough.

I am a professional cook and have worked in all corners of the industry. This book is an incredibly engaging and authentic expose of life in the kitchen. But it did more than ring true; it inspired me and reminded me of the magic that can be found behind the curtain in restaurants. The only complaint I could possibly make about this book, and it’s performance, is that there isn’t more of it. This is a rather forgivable offense, however, for one mustn't dwell in the glory of inspirational literature, but use it as a platform from which to launch one’s own development. Gibney has my awestricken gratitude, and my most respectful envy for his intimately knowledgeable articulation of a day in the life of those who choose to cook instead of more profitable and less demanding career choices. P.S. This is the first review I have ever left for ANYTHING. This book is THAT good.

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listened to it in one go!

Beautiful book, I am a sous chef and this hit all the good spots. Thank you for words that express how I feel about this job. Awesome book can't wait to listen again.

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This is the blood and guts of the industry.

As a chef it's a warm comfort to read what happens in the industry a