In German, when you want to say someone (or yourself) has gotten themselves into deep trouble, you can use the expression that they have "come into the devil's kitchen", Teufels Küche.
The book I finished reading last night is entitled "Teufelsköche", which obviously plays with that expression, but literally means the devil's cooks, or devilish cooks.
Don't worry, it has nothing to do with black magic or poisonous brews; instead, it is a collection of 16 stories about cooks from all over the world (strictly speaking, that is not true - Asia and Australia are missing); cooks who have something special in either their own biography, or about the place they work at, mostly a combination of both.
Juan Moreno is a journalist and Mirco Taliercio a photographer. The two of them have worked together often on articles, and their cooperation on this book makes it really what it is: a delightful, interesting, sometimes very serious read, ranging from funny and humorous bits to stuff that is hard to swallow.
Not all of the cooks portrayed are famous. Some you will have never heard of, such as Faith Muthoni, the woman who has a tiny, ramshackle restaurant in the middle of Nairobi's biggest dump site, cooking there for those fortunate few of the many, many people working on that site who are able to afford a meal. Or take Brian Price, who for many years worked (as an inmate) in a Texas prison and prepared the last meal for about 200 men condemned to death. That chapter made me think long and hard, and it connects with what Frances Garrood often writes about on her blog. For one of the 16 cooks, cooking has meant the difference between life and death; two of them have maintained their distance to the most pressing political matters in their respective countries, in spite of having worked for their heads of state, and one of them is willing to risk his life in order to fulfill his dream of becoming a cook at - McDonald's, of all places.
Some others are well known; there is Vincent Klink, who is quite the household name in Germany (at least here in the South, where he is from), Nurse Tifa (do not google her when anyone under 18 is near you), Frank Pellegrino, at whose New York restaurant people are willing to pay 40.000 US-$ for a table, and Juan Amador, whose name has become a label for a chain of tapas bars, restaurants and products.
But I am quite sure that, even in those chapters, the reader will find find something they didn't know yet.
For the most part, the book is well done. There are several typesetting errors, though; not as many as to bring the whole book down, but too many to make it a really good piece of craftsmanship. In the chapter about Vincent Klink, the author has attempted to repeat Mr. Klink's Swabian dialect in direct speech - unsuccessfully so, and in my opinion, if one is not entirely sure about the correct terms and spelling of local dialect, they should not use it, but instead write in normal German. In the chapter about the cook who dreams of working at McDonald's, the hamburgers are described as tasting "as if they had been formed in the armpits of the employee of the month", and the buns "like joint sealer".
Of course, I should mention that each chapter is accompanied by a recipe for a dish most typical for the cook who is portrayed in the chapter. There are dishes such as FuFu (maniok flour, salt, pepper and water), but also a most elaborate composition of Granny Smith apples, goose liver, goat cheese and apple seed oil, the preparation of which resembles more an experiment set up in a chemical lab than anything I would attempt to make in my own kitchen.