The Sunday Magazine

Confessions of a dishwasher and gambling addict who became a bestselling novelist

Stéphane Larue had the least glamourous job at a restaurant: a dishwasher. But it gave him an inside look at the hard-living characters working in frenetic, stress-filled kitchens. He turned those experiences into a novel, The Dishwasher, that takes the reader into the demi-monde of restaurant kitchens. It became a sensation and a big award-winner in Quebec and has just been translated into English.
Stéphane Larue is the writer of The Dishwasher, a novel based upon his experiences as a dishwasher in a restaurant. (Le Quartanier/Justine Latour, Biblioasis)

Restaurants are all about mirage, mystery and a little magic. 

You sit down with a glass of wine and you order "osso bucco with citrus gremolata" on a bed of mashed potatoes. 

Miraculously, these dishes appear at your table from an unseen kitchen, about which you know nothing at all made for you by people you never see, under conditions that are hidden behind closed doors. 

Quebec novelist Stéphane Larue takes us into the behind-the-scenes world of restaurant kitchens in his novel, The Dishwasher. It conjures a vivid and unnerving portrait of a work-world that throbs with stress.

When you get your fix in gambling, it's the moment you want to last.- 

Larue found that writing the novel helped him handle the high-octane lifestyle of the service industry, where he still works. "My writing helps me cope with what would render my life meaningless because I am drinking and partying," ​​​​​​he told The Sunday Edition's host Michael Enright.

Larue's anonymous narrator is barely out of his teens. He's a newbie in the restaurant biz, and he scrambles to adapt to the organized chaos of a kitchen. And he wrestles with a gambling addiction — as did Larue.

"When you get your fix in gambling, it's the moment you want to last," he said. 

Larue found that writing down his experiences helped him to exorcise his own demons. "Sometimes in fiction you hide much less from yourself than in reality," he said. "Fiction allows you to stop protecting yourself while writing."

The Dishwasher is Larue's first book. When it was published in French three years ago, it became a breakaway critical and popular success in Quebec, winning many awards. 

Larue spoke to Enright about the stress of the service industry, his own gambling addiction and his novel's runaway success.

Click 'listen' above to hear the interview. 


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