Wife of the Chef by Courtney Febbroriello

279 pages;  No photographs or sketches.  Hardcover

Clarkson Potter, New York, 2003

Reviewed by Kyung-Jin Rhee for Good Cooking, Spring/Summer 2004

"There were lots of insights into what goes on in the kitchen and in front of the "house," some unwritten rules in the kitchen and the relationship between the chef and sous-chef, based on ten to twelve hours a day of intense interaction."
Courtney Febbroriello, the co-owner of the restaurant Metro Bis in Connecticut and the wife of its chef, wrote a fascinating story about her place, detailing everyday tasks and challenges in a direct and straightforward tone. It is fair to say that she seems to complain somewhat; her husband is the chef, so naturally he gets all the credit. She has the role of keeping things running - untangling the immigration laws, cajoling lazy suppliers, handling many unreasonable customers, taking over dish-washing duty, and a host of other emergency duties. However, she's the wife, so she remains behind him. I sense that she deserves more credit than she usually gets.

Courtney Febbroriello, the co-owner of the restaurant Metro Bis in Simsbury, Connecticut just outside of Hartford and the wife of its chef Christopher Prosperi

The more engaging and interesting aspect of reading this book was, though, that it gave me greater understanding on how the restaurant business really works. There were lots of insights into what goes on in the kitchen and in front of the "house," some unwritten rules in the kitchen and the relationship between the chef and sous-chef, based on ten to twelve hours a day of intense interaction.
Above all, it taught me how severe the competition among restaurants is: roughly half of the new restaurant business folds in a year and only a tenth survive five years. This statistic is quite frustrating as a matter of fact. Courtney wrote that people easily dreaming of owning a restaurant made her sick. I never thought that the restaurant business would be easy. However it was tougher than I thought it would be. On the other hand, these tough conditions made me realize how rewarding the success might be, and naturally how Courtney may have felt when she wrote this book. Every hard-won success is sweet after all.
Courtney and her husband's philosophy about food was very impressive. The creation of a dish is a very personal expression of the chef's talent and taste. She said that a culinary creation is like a painting. The flavors have been blended together like different shades of paint. The ingredients have been meticulously placed to appeal to all five senses.
Chris, her husband, thinks that for a chef, food is basically a craft, not an art. Only a pastry chef is doing art. For Courtney as well, food is the product of a craft that they sell. The combination of ingredients on a plate is not an art; it is a craft, she agrees. 
I did not have any experience working in restaurants in the past. The restaurant was not the place where I wanted to go to work. While taking the culinary course at Boston University, I felt that I definitely needed more training and then a restaurant could be one of the best places for me. Courtney makes me realize what I am getting into in a convincing voice.