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Kitchen Confidential: The Complete Series DVD Review

Kitchen Confidential: The Complete Series

May 30, 2007

Director: Darren Star, Michael Spiller, Dennie Gordon, Fred Savage,
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Nicholas Brendon, Jaime King, Bonnie Somerville, John Francis Daley, Owain Yeoman, Frank Langella, Sam Pancake, John Cho, Frank Alvarez,

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DVD Review

Based on the American chef Anthony Bourdain’s professional memoir of the same name, Kitchen Confidential was a short-lived television sitcom that Fox abandoned after only airing four episodes in North America. Thirteen had actually been made, all of which are included on this DVD set. Bourdain’s book was a scathing, no-holds-barred, behind-the-scenes look at restaurant kitchens and the T.V. show attempted to do the same thing with varying degrees of success.

Bradley Cooper plays the Bourdain-esque Jack Bourdain, a mercurial ace chef with a self-destructive streak. After years of working as an assistant in several dead end jobs and finally getting sober, he is hired as head chef at a swanky New York City restaurant. So, he assembles a hand-picked team of specialist cooks that all exhibit the same kind of maverick attitude as Jack.

However, he has to watch his back as the restaurant’s floor captain, Mimi (Somerville), who, incidentally, is the owner’s (Langella) daughter, doesn’t trust him or his cooks. She is looking for any excuse to get Jack fired and each episode showcases this on-going conflict and his continuing struggle to keep his kitchen in perfect working order.

Kitchen Confidential relies on slightly edgy, dark humour as evident in the pilot episode when the restaurant staff frantically look for the severed fingertip of one of the cooks (Yeoman) that may be in a meal currently somewhere in the dining room. The show also juggles the daily chaos in the kitchen with some sort of dilemma in the dining area. For example, in one episode, a master chef (John Larroquette), who was also Jack’s mentor, tells him that he’s dying from years of a bad diet of food. He wants Jack to kill him with meals of rich, decadent food, while in the kitchen one of the chefs insults a dishwasher and is forced to kowtow to his every whim.

Cooper, who was so underutilized in Alias, hits all the right notes as a reformed bad boy trying to resist the urge to cut loose, constantly being tempted by his former partner-in-crime and fellow chef, Steven (Yeoman). Owain Yeoman brings a wicked sense of humour to the show as he represents what Jack used to be and could easily regress to if he gives into temptation. The show had one of the strongest ensemble casts with the likes of Nicholas Brendon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Bonnie Somerville (NYPD Blue), and John Francis Daley (Freaks and Geeks). They all play so well off each other and one feels that if the show had continued, this chemistry would have only improved over time.

If Kitchen Confidential had been given a chance to get an audience, it had the potential to be another breakout hit like Scrubs with the same kind of wacky humour and outrageous characters grounded in a realistic setting. Sadly, the show’s first two episodes did not get strong enough ratings and as punishment, the network interrupted its run with coverage of Major League Baseball playoffs. The show never recovered. Hopefully, it will be rediscovered on DVD and earn an appreciation that it should have received when it initially aired.

Special Features:

The first disc features an audio commentary on “Exile on Main Street” by director Darren Star, writer Dave Hemingson and actor Bradley Cooper. They praise Frank Langella and are clearly in awe of him and his reputation. In fact, this is a big love fest as the three men compliment the cast as they appear on-screen. They also laugh and dish anecdotes about filming this episode.

Disc two includes a commentary on “And the Award Goes to…” by writer Karine Rosenthal, Hemingson, Cooper and writer Dean Lopata. The actors ate a lot on the set and Cooper points that they gained weight over the short season. Everyone touches upon the comradery amongst the cast, particularly the ones in the kitchen. There are more lulls on this track as everyone tends to get caught up in watching the episode as opposed to talking about it.

“Tour of Nolita” has Cooper taking us on a guided tour of the set which was actually a replica of a restaurant in Los Angeles. He shows us various stations in the kitchen and how they all work together.

“A Recipe for Comedy” is a retrospective look back at the show. Originally, it was going to be a movie starring Brad Pitt and directed by David Fincher and then it was suggested that it could be a T.V. show. The actors talk about how they got cast and their favourite stories working on the show. They also lament about the show’s premature cancellation giving this extra a slightly, bittersweet feel.

Finally, there is a trailer for the show.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance

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Rating: 80%

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