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Kitchen Confidential and Industry Sub-cultures

How lessons from restaurant culture translate to glass and fenestration

On a recent flight home, I ran across the film Roadrunner. If you haven’t heard of the movie, it’s a documentary about Anthony Bourdain and his career as a chef, writer and host. After watching the documentary and reflecting on Bourdain’s life in the wake of his tragic passing, I thought I should probably read his book, Kitchen Confidential. It didn’t take me very long to start drawing comparisons from the restaurant world to other industries—such as the glass and fenestration industries—as Anthony began to describe the “sub-culture” of the kitchen.

Finding your industry

In the very beginning of the book, he speaks about being comfortable in the kitchen and what drew him in. It makes sense. He was a dishwasher, a line cook and eventually a chef. This is what he knew. The kitchen is where he grew up and spent his time—long nights, weekends and all. In retrospect, the progression of his skillset seems natural.

Isn’t this how any industry or career goes? Somehow you got pulled into the business, the fenestration business of glass, frames, aluminum, steel, hardware and more, and you got hooked. I’ve been around long enough to know everyone has a story about how they got started in this industry. Personally, I met friends playing in a men’s lacrosse league that eventually led me to TGP. How did you end up in this business…?

The 'secret society' of glass and fenestration

Regardless of how you got in, once you’re in, you are now part of this secret society. You walk around and look at things differently. You look at doors and storefront entrance systems. You look at glass and curtain walls, or at locks and hardware. You know buildings by name and how different cities view the built environment. You learn a new language that has its own language and glossary (newly updated by the NGA).

You also learn what keeps the industry progressing, and it’s not always what or who you think. There’s a spot where Anthony refers to the line cooks as being the real unsung heroes of the kitchen. Isn’t that the truth in our industry as well? How many people are working behind the scenes in the glass industry every single day to bring projects to fruition? There are so many people who make this industry tick—and we are all the better for them.

And then, after several years, you can look back at your experience. Sometimes it was good, sometimes it was bad, sometimes it was ugly. Anthony compares his cooking life to the following, “But like a love affair, looking back you remember the happy times bestthe things that drew you in, attracted you in the first place, the things that kept you coming back for more.”

I have not finished the book yet. But like many of you, I know I keep coming back for more.


Dave Vermeuelen

David Vermeulen

David Vermeulen is the North America Sales Director at Technical Glass Products (TGP), a division of Allegion that supplies fire-rated glass and framing systems, and other specialty architectural glazing. Contact him at 800/426-0279.