Cooking Dirty: Jason Sheehan Indulges in Ham

How does a book like Cooking Dirty: Life, Love and Death in the Kitchen (Farrar Strauss Giroux 2009) by Jack Sheehan, come into existence?

See, there is this superstition among publishers: if someone else comes up with a hot-selling books, knock it off. You know, Hollywood style. You’ve seen it: one studio does a volcano movie, so do the others. One does a meteor movie; the others do, too. So, since Anthony Bourdain‘s Kitchen Confidential is still selling like hotcakes, time to print out yet another copycat. Right?

Wrong–at least with Jack Sheehan. While at moments his pen flows smoothly, for the most part, all he can do is cuss and tell wild stories–but without any of the panache of Bourdain. Sure, there’s plenty of swearing: everything seems to be a f_cking b_tch. There are lots of fast-paced, long paragraphs, neatly punctuated by one-liner asides.

Unfortunately, Sheehan is neither profound nor wickedly funny.

In fact, he is so self-conscious as a writer, he even confesses his own shortcomings:

The scene was certainly set for all manner of hammy self-indulgence… I could make myself appear deep, introspective or wise. If I wanted to seem a tough guy, I’d just have me to suck it up, light a fresh smoke and stride off purposefully, bravely into an ambiguous future. (p. 11)

What more to say, other than quote the author himself?

This book is rife with hammy self-indulgence.

Will someone pass another Bourdain, please?

Other reviews:
National Post
Austin Chronicle
Dallas News

2 comments on “Cooking Dirty: Jason Sheehan Indulges in Ham
  1. D. Zimmer says:

    In short, Jason Sheehan is a “shock jock”?

    Thanks for the warning: I think I’ll re-read Kitchen Confidential instead.

  2. Telco says:

    Read it. Readable. A poor man’s Bourdain.

    Best material word for word Bourdain: work ethic, “last meritocracy in America”, etc.

    Worst: drugs (sigh), more drugs (snore) and booze (deep REM sleep).

    No Kitchen Confidential, but don’t regret the time to read it, and pp. 143 (on how one used to get to be a Chef), 156 (internal sense of right and wrong), and 306 (dealing with career collapse) are downright enjoyable. Others… not so much, too self referential about what was at best an undistinguished career.

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