18 NOVEMBER 2000, Page 54

Hugh Massingberd

I managed only to last a few weeks as this magazine's restaurant critic (retired hurt) and, judging by the startling revelations in Anthony Bourdain's rip-roaring Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (Bloomsbury, £16.99), I doubt whether I would have survived even a sin- gle day in the inferno on the other side of the swing-doors. For anyone with more than a passing interest in food, though, this is a compelling read — surely a classic of the genre, worthy to rank alongside George Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London. In contrast to Bourdain's hellzapoppin', post-Runyonesque prose, the gentle wit of another New Yorker, Leo Rosten, is beautifully displayed in the very welcome reprint of The Education of Hyman Kaplan (Prion Humour Classics, £8.99). The joy in language and human warmth is unsurpassed. Back on this side of the Atlantic, I particularly enjoyed The Charge of the Right Brigade by Robert Innes-Smith (Brawdy Books, £15.99), with its amusing evocation of a splendid collec- tion of eccentric reactionaries.