If I were a guy, I’d be him. For there I was in the eighties, slinging hash at some of the best restaurants in New Orleans, hanging out with the fringe people I cooked with, drinking and doing drugs, while AB was doing the same in New York. I’d once considered moving to New York but New Orleans was a perfect city for this island girl; the Big Apple seemed a bit too big for me.
My memoir is peppered with some of my kitchen stories (I was the First Female Line Cook at Arnaud’s and My Silver Medal, to name two). But after listening to AB’s Kitchen Confidential, I see now how completely caught up I was in restaurant culture, how I thrived in the microcosm of the kitchen. I was one of those sauté bitches, otherwise dysfunctional outside the kitchen, who could organize mise en place and cook circles around my male counterparts. I fondled cooked food with my bare hands and got it onto the plate on time and looking beautiful. I got paid less than the guys. I was obnoxious because of it. I worked hard and proved myself in the kitchen and at the bar after shifts. Later, when I became Executive Chef at high-volume World Exposition Restaurants, I showed my hundred staff how it was all done: the planning, the care, the focus, the concentration, the partying afterwards.
I no longer work in restaurants and clubs, I threw in the cooking towel after twenty years and began to design commercial kitchens. Motherhood pulled me away from the life but not the kitchens I so adored and hated. Now I build them for others, with the same energy and care with which I used to produce food.
There are still signs of this person who used to me — the cook, the baking girl, the chef: my daughter has been able to crack an egg one-handed since she was ten; she always brags about her parents being chefs; on construction sites when men apologize for swearing, I say, “Don’t worry I used to work in kitchens;” and, of course I have fantastic dinner parties.
So, Anthony Bourdain, thanks for giving the world some insight into kitchen culture. With the world a little more receptive now my outrageous stories may even seem believable.