The Kitchen Reader: On the Line

April 30, 2010

This month’s selection for The Kitchen Reader is On the Line, by Christine Muhlke. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at Le Bernardin, chef Eric Ripert’s 3-star Michelin restaurant in New York City.

This is a beautiful book with gorgeous photos and a great layout. When I started reading this, I thought about my own limited restaurant experience (bussing tables at a country club in high school) and felt that I couldn’t relate to the goings-on in a four-star big city restaurant. But then I realized that in the end, Le Bernardin is a business. There is a team of people who must work together to deliver a product. Coming from the corporate world, I can relate to that. But they are delivering that product several times a day – there is no room for lengthy delays and endless meetings!

Of course there are recipes for delicious-sounding seafood dishes and fabulous desserts. But the book contains five other sections: The History, In the Kitchen, The Dishes, The Dining Experience, and The Business. I found it especially interesting to read about the different roles in the kitchen and to learn that all cooks must work every station in the kitchen, no matter how experienced they are when they are hired. Cooks who do a good job and can take the heat, so to speak, have a good chance of moving up.

One of my favorite sections was the Cardinal Sins – the list of 129 details that employees should keep in mind at all times. I had to laugh, because I’ve experienced many of these while dining out! A few that I heartily agree with:

  • Approaching a table with another table’s dirty dishes.
  • Inability to answer basic menu questions.
  • Not continuing to service the table once you have presented the check.
  • Watching while the guest completes the credit card slip.

I took at look at Le Berdnardin’s website. The tasting menu is $138 per person ($225 with wine pairings) and a prix fixe dinner is $110. After learning about all of the people involved behind the scenes and the commitment to quality of food and service, I better understand why prices are so high. Whether you can afford it and whether you think it’s worth it is another story.

Thank you to Jennifer for this month’s selection. Come back next month, because I selected the book for May!


  1. The cardinal sins page was REALLY good! And it’s so true, so much of that really does happen!!!

    You wrote such a wonderful review and I agree, I always thought that restaurants like this are way too expensive, but now that I’m a little more aware of what goes on to make the meal and experience happen, it’s justifiable!

    Thanks for reading along with me!:)

  2. Nice review, Jill. I also found myself thinking that the prices seemed much more justifiable after reading this book. But what about the corporate Cirque de Soleil performance? And the customer who brought in loads of his buddies night after night?! -Lisa

  3. Hm… very interesting! Amazing what people will pay for a meal… and probably how worth it the meal is! Sounds like a very good book – I’ll have to search it out – thanks for the review!

  4. Great review! This sounds like a really interesting book about the restaurant business. I always like Eric Ripert when he appears on “Top Chef,” sounds like the book is definitely worth checking out.

  5. so true- it is easier now to see why the costs are so high- and what sets them apart from the local chain restaurant!

  6. I saw this book at amazon and wondered if it was interesting. Good review! I think I’ll get a copy to read myself.

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