You may be asking: How could they make a movie out of Making of a Chef? Michael Ruhlman's fine nonfiction book followed a small group of students as they progressed through the standard two-year program at Culinary Institute of America.Their experience was pretty much the same as any of the 16 groups of students who enter the CIA each year: Aspirants fork over $40,000, take classes in each of the cooking disciplines, and graduate. It was a great read, but Trade School Confidential it wasn't. Yet we should never underestimate Hollywood's ability to take a story devoid of compelling drama and make it into a movie.
Here's how Ruhlman described the status of the project in an interview on web site Why "Jack" Bourdain? "The decision we made was that the series was very much in the spirit of Anthony Bourdain; that pirate, that brigand, that sort of anarchic, energetic spirit," explains David Hemingson, one of the creators of the show. "But we felt like, 'OK, let's make it Jack Bourdain. Let's make it the spirit of Anthony but commemorated in this new character we created.'" So, the producers acquired the rights to Anthony Bourdain's autobiography and created a new character loosely based on it. Found money for Bourdain, but wouldn't it have been easier to just invent a character?
The show's first episode was packed with many unlikely events. The good news was that Jack Bourdain lands the open chef job at Nolita. The bad news was that he had but 48 hours to assemble his kitchen crew and get ready for opening night--when, as luck would have it, the all-powerful food critic from the New York Times (who happens to be a jilted ex of love-'em and leave-'em Jack) would be visiting to review Nolita. Seem like a recipe for disaster? It got worse. A clueless hostess seats the Times critic at a table where she is repeatedly banged by the women's restroom door. Then the critic is served a dish with a portion of severed finger in it (the writers must have been following the Wendy's story). Yet after all this, and despite having been previously dumped by Jack, the Times critic gives a glowing review. Nolita is on its way.
Realistic? Of course not. Likely to last? Ratings were so-so for the first two episodes, but TV critics mostly gave a thumbs-up to the production.
It's too early to tell how well the show will do. We're predicting a longer run than the ill-fated Emeril sitcom had on NBC a couple of years ago. But Kitchen Confidential seems likely to attract plenty of new talent for back-of-the-house positions at restaurants like yours. At Nolita, everyone is young, funny and exceptionally good looking, and no one seems to work very hard or get their white uniforms dirty. Potential employees who think the restaurant business is glamorous when viewed from afar are going to be convinced of it after seeing this show.