Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Kitchen Confidential: The Complete Series

A lot went wrong when producer Darren Star attempted to convert Anthony Bourdain's memoir Kitchen Confidential into a sitcom, starting with the decision to make it a virtual sequel to Sex And The City. Yes, the respective source materials were built on dishy anecdotes about New York nightlife, written by authors who didn't spare the sordid details. But Bourdain is no Candace Bushnell. He does go out gabbing after hours with his sous-chefs and line-cooks—and he's probably had sex in a few walk-in freezers—but the crazy mating antics and double-entendre punchlines of the sitcom Kitchen Confidential have almost nothing to do with the star chef who prefers punk rock and nicotine to currying favor with celebrities.


But considered as an entirely separate entity from the book that spawned it, Kitchen Confidential had a lot going for it, starting with Bradley Cooper, a skilled comic actor who's always struck a good balance between charming and sleazy. As Kitchen Confidential's "Jack Bourdain," Cooper anchored a fine cast that included Nicholas Brendan as an obsessive-compulsive pastry chef and John Francis Daley as a shell-shocked Mormon line-cook. The show diverged even further from Bourdain's life story by making Cooper some kind of mad culinary genius. (Even Bourdain would admit that he's merely a good chef with great taste.) But otherwise, Kitchen Confidential was smarter about the realities of its setting than a lot of other workplace sitcoms.

So it's all the more disappointing that Star and show-runner David Hemingson tried so hard to make Kitchen Confidential sexy and cute. A typical episode starts with a reasonable restaurant situation—like a shortage of the day's special, or a rivalry with a bistro across the street—and then builds to a level of absurdity that might be forgivable if it weren't so generally unfunny. The show is better when it stays close to Bourdain's spirit, like this Cooper comment about brunch: "You take Saturday night's garbage, shove it into a frittata, and slap last week's melon cup next to it." More of those kinds of jokes, and less of Cooper seducing vegans, and Kitchen Confidential might've stayed on the air for more than four weeks.

Key features: Nine previously unaired episodes, nostalgic commentary tracks by Cooper and company, and two featurettes—one shot while the show was in production, and one afterward.