''Kitchen Confidential'' is Fall '05's wild sitcom. Take one raunchy memoir, combine with a tip of a severed finger, and season with an ''Alias'' alum

By Clarissa Cruz
Updated September 02, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT
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John Larroquette wants to kill himself. With a cheese plate. Guest-starring as Chef Gerard on Fox’s Kitchen Confidential, his character — who’s suffered multiple coronary maladies — has asked his former protégé Jack Bourdain (Bradley Cooper), now a chef at a trendy restaurant called Nolita, to prepare a meal that’s so sinfully rich he could die. Literally.

”It was exquisite,” Larroquette says to head waitress Mimi (Bonnie Somerville) on his sumptuous repast. ”Tell Jack he outdid himself.” He turns to leave, then pauses, a grimace crossing his face. Peering at him from behind Nolita’s kitchen door, Jack and his fellow cooks Steven (Owain Yeoman) and Seth (Nicholas Brendon), who have a bet as to when Chef Gerard will croak, watch attentively as the older man suddenly clutches his chest.

False alarm. Gerard pops an antacid and is fine — for now.

It’s a fitting scene for this new Fox sitcom, which the network has stuffed with a host of decadent ingredients: a best-selling memoir that features sex in a walk-in pantry, megaproducer Darren Star (Melrose Place, Sex and the City), a dream cast of cult-TV alums (Alias‘ Cooper and Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Brendon, to name a few), and a sparkling, sprawling set — loosely modeled after the posh Los Angeles restaurant Meson G, where the pilot was shot — that would make Martha Stewart green with appliance envy. (Not avocado green either.)

Based on the best-selling 2000 memoir of the same name by New York City chef Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential plays on the idea that chefs are this generation’s rock stars — with the egos, torrid romances, and chemical demons to match. ”Our appetites seldom end with food,” says Bourdain, who chronicled his years of shady associations and substance abuse in Confidential (he’s now drug-free) and is a consultant on the show. ”You can’t cook if you don’t enjoy other aspects of…well, we’re in the pleasure business. I think it’s our job to understand our subject” — he lets out a chuckle — ”as best as possible.”

Confidential the show picks up with a newly sober Jack (exec producer-writer Dave Hemingson changed the character’s first name so he could more easily fictionalize Bourdain’s experiences) trying to resist the temptations that are thrown at him every night as the new head chef of a trendy New York City eatery. ”I’m very similar to this guy,” says Cooper, who worked in several restaurants through high school. Really? ”Without getting too into it,” he demurs.

Sexy fodder for a TV show, though the journey from book to screen was as bumpy as a Kumamoto oyster. Bourdain sold the rights to the book in 2000 to New Line, who envisioned it as a David Fincher-directed vehicle for Brad Pitt. (”The translation for me is that it meant ‘We’re paying for lunch and you’ll be lucky if it’s not a Hasselhoff comeback vehicle,”’ cracks Bourdain.) The film adaptation fell through and the project languished for a couple of years until New Line approached Star to help develop the TV show — ideally on HBO, where there’d be more freedom to explore Bourdain’s seedy side. But HBO wanted Star to commit to writing the series and staying with it throughout its run, which he wasn’t eager to do. So they shopped the project to other networks before Fox and Hemingson (American Dad, Just Shoot Me) signed on for the pilot.

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