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

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

Jason Sheehan

Language: English

Pages: 368

ISBN: 0374289212

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


 Cooking Dirty is a rollicking account of life “on the line” in the restaurants, far from culinary school, cable TV, and the Michelin Guide—where most of us eat out most of the time. 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 worked on the line at all kinds of restaurants: a French colonial 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 a way of life in which “your whole universe becomes a small, hot steel box filled with knives and meat and fire.” The kitchen crew is a fraternity with its own rites: cigarettes in the walk-in freezer, sex in the basement, 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 he 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.

With this deeply affecting book, Sheehan (already acclaimed for his reviews) joins the first class of American food writers at a time when books about food have never been better or more popular.











on Monday afternoon. It’s not like the chubbos ate much, anyway. Too guilty. Double up on the bottled water, put out a half-count of sandwiches and consider it money in the bank. “Chef, you got a minute?” “Does it look like it?” He took a drag off my cigarette. “It’s important.” Jeff stopped, looked up at me sideways. He must’ve known what was coming even if I didn’t exactly. “Jesus, you’re not gonna cry for me are you?” “No, Chef. I’m not going to cry.” “You coming out of the closet?”

reserved for the Sunshine Club. “The fuck’s a Sunshine Club?” I asked Jake, imagining a gathering of granola-eating, unicorn-humping hippie Girl Scouts or mob of elder queers. Jake just smiled like someone’d fishhooked him in the jowls and pulled. “Sunday at seven. And wear a clean shirt.” THE SUNSHINE CLUB turned out to be a loose association of swingers, wife-swappers, closet fetishists, bi-curious dry-humpers, and gang-bang enthusiasts who, in a city such as Rochester, which still clung to

half-flat behind me and put up cakes,” I say, inclining my head toward Wendy. “FNG on toast. He can drop cakes for me when I can’t. He’ll learn fast.” “Really?” James asks. I look up. “Wendy, you a fast learner?” “Yes.” “You ever eaten a pancake before?” He looks confused, as if this is some kind of trick question or double entendre. “A pancake, dumb-ass. Round thing? Syrup on top?” “Yes.” I nod to James. “He’ll figure it out.” Hero says, “He better.” James shakes his head. “I have very

smart. When he was little, he used to dress up all the time. One day he’d put on an army helmet and a backpack and be a soldier. The next day he’d wear this adorable little Boy Scout uniform and carry this bird book around with him. And I’d always get a call from Mrs. So-and-So down the end of the street and she’d say, “Cindy, Jason’s running away again. And he’s dressed like a spaceman or something.” But he always came home, didn’t he? He always came home and he was always so sweet. See? Look

I turned to Diego and asked him (in Spanish) what’d happened and why he was about to commit premeditated murder at the garde-manger station. “Motherfucker tried to touch me,” Diego said, not lowering his knife. Fixing my attention back again on the new chef, I asked, “You tried to touch him?” “His hand,” the schoolboy stammered. “And why were you trying to hold my man’s hand, exactly? Do you love him? Are you going to ask him out on a date?” “No!” said the chef, his face twisting into a mask

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