'Kitchen Con' - its name an overt homage to Anthony Bourdain's career-making 'Kitchen Confidential' - is the first book by The Dubliner magazine editor Trevor White. It is a loose, and occasionally very rambling, collection of essays that range through entertaining anecdotes and personal memoir to social critique of restaurant criticism, restaurant goers, chefs and restaurateurs in what he calls "the 21st Century Dining Room."
White, whose entrée into the world of food came as a result of his parents owning acclaimed Dublin restaurant White's on the Green, has a broad frame of reference and a great eye for a quote. References to Mrs Beeton, Lenny Bruce, Dr Johnson and Morgan Spurlock's film 'Super Size Me' rub shoulders with comments from Gordon Ramsay, AA Gill and Conrad Gallagher. The comprehensive bibliography at the end of this book also brings the reader's attention to many thought-provoking treasures, including 'Last Chance to Eat' by Gina Mallet, Bourdain's aforementioned 'Kitchen Confidential' and 'Les Halles Cookbook', Felicity Lawrence's 'Not on the Label' and 'Shopped' by Joanna Blythman.
The autobiographical elements of 'Kitchen Con' - childhood recollections of White's, his experiences writing for the Zagat food guide and of putting a billionaire's phone book called 'America's Elite 1,000' together - are amusing and White also hits gold with his accounts of celebrity chefs at home and abroad, pronouncements on the practice of tipping, and a thoughtful chapter on food quality.
He can also be irritating, smug and long-winded and an almost chapter-long transcript of an interview he did with Bourdain feels like padding by someone desperately trying to make up a word count. When White is good, he is very, very readable but, when he is bad, he can be rather boring. Maybe he should have taken Bourdain's suggestion and put some sex every 48 pages.