One of my first jobs was waiting tables on the third shift at Waffle House, an institution in the southern US, famous for (almost) never closing. I waited tables for 2 dollars an hour, serving coffee and greasy food to drunks for 9 hours and then driving 45 minutes home at 6 in the morning. Most of the time, the cook working with me was too high to work so he slept in the back while I cooked eggs, bacon, and waffles for a couple tables each hour. That job, making $20 dollars in tips on a great night, was enough to show me I was never going to make it in the service industry. Luckily, I’m a little better at the work I do these days and I make a lot more money for work that feels a lot easier than cooking, taking orders, and trying to avoid getting robbed all at once in a Waffle House at 3 AM.
Kitchen Confidential is not really for me — I washed out of the service industry after a couple of months while Anthony Bourdain made cooking his life and he explicitly wrote the book for long time back of house folks like him. Despite that, Kitchen Confidential was a great read. His writing is honest, engaging, and sharp, like most of the work he did later in life as a TV host. Some of the content has not aged not well, but, based on my experience in the service industry, much of the behavior he describes was the reality for life-long cooks and chefs.