SSoP Podcast Episode 02 — Restaurants: Hot Stoves and Steamy Relationships

SSoP Podcast Episode 02 — Restaurants: Hot Stoves and Steamy Relationships

Tuesday, 21 January, 2020

In his book Kitchen Confidential, superstar writer and food lover Anthony Bourdain said chefs were ‘like gods’ who ‘dressed like pirates.’ In a restaurant kitchen, the chef is the ultimate authority, a figure that can inspire fear, rebelliousness, and a cult of personality.

But it’s not only the kitchen boss that makes restaurants a hotbed for excellent stories. Every member of staff, from the bottom-rung dishwasher to the elegant hostess at the front of the house — and the waiters and bartenders and busboys in between — is a character worth considering, as are the customers who bring their own stories to the table.

The closed environment and hot kitchens force these disparate people into close quarters, physically and mentally. They form an oddball family of convenience, and in some cases, genuine feelings that can affect life inside and outside the restaurant. The nightly rush of customers creates strong bonds among the staff, while the tedium of a quiet night leaves plenty of time for telling jokes, making mischief, sharing a cigarette.

In this episode, the books we discuss will introduce you to relatable and loveable characters in vastly different circumstances. The settings include a Chinese restaurant in Maryland, a Lebanese café in Los Angeles, the last night at a Red Lobster in Connecticut, and a fine-dining experience with an unforgettable waiter in Oslo, Norway. We also get into the nitty-gritty of restaurant life with a nonfiction book — written by an accountant (!) — that’s surprisingly compelling.


Read the full transcript of Episode 02: Restaurants.

Number One Chinese Restaurant

buy | read review

Last Night at the Lobster

buy | read review

The Waiter

buy | read review

Restaurant Success by the Numbers

buy | read review


buy | read review

The Dishwasher

buy | read review

other books we mentioned


other cool stuff we talked about

World’s Largest Restaurant: Bawabet Dimashq Restaurant (Damascus Gate)

Located in Damascus, Syria, it opened in 2002 and has 6014 seats, making it the Guiness Book of World Records record-holder for largest restaurant in the world.



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This Chinese dish is almost a character in the short story 'Have you eaten'? by Rob Hart. We devoured the story, then created this recipe: tender chicken, spicy sauces, and savory rice. It's dangerously delicious.
The heat of a restaurant kitchen is a delicious catalyst for the drama inherent in professional rivalry, found family, true love, and everything in between. There's nothing quite like food to bring people together.
The Tom Collins is the ultimate highball, a combo of gin, simple syrup, lemon, and bubbly water. This classic is effervescent and refreshing — the ideal go-along for a literary thriller set on a retro luxury liner.

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