Sunday, February 23, 2014

Book Review: Kitchen Confidential

I first came to know Anthony Bourdain via TV, not via his books or his cooking and was drawn in by his straightforward manner and absolutely brutal honesty (whether right or wrong) about everything he encounters.  Perhaps some of it is for show at this point, I don't know, but his writing seems to predate his fame and thus I'm tempted to believe more than less of it.

Personally I don't care a ton about his opinions on food, I don't know a demi-glace from a duck confit and foie-gras and escargo sound downright nasty to me, regardless of how I'm told it tastes.  That said, I'm more interested in his travels and social experiences with others.  He has a way of describing his interactions that is brash and bracing.

He covers his rich boy upbringing, his time spent in Provincetown, MA as a cook there, and his time bouncing around various NYC establishments.  Bourdain doesn't discard his own shortcomings covering his drinking, drug use, womanizing, and overall loutish behavior.

Because he is honest with his readers about his own behavior, you believe him when he details the reasons behind the success or failure of a restaurant or an assessment of what makes a good chef or crew member.  It is here, with his assessment of himself and others that the true value of the book is found.  Bourdain might be an unrepentant smoker, drinker and former coke/heroin addict and current pot enthusiast...but he does have a code, valuing truth, honesty and simplicity--you could do worse.

I wouldn't choose to live my life like he has his, and I won't every be a "foodie" but I respect the vigor and courage with which Bourdain has lived his life while valuing his opinion on life, food, travel and politics simply because you know its going to be pure and unfiltered, which can be a rare thing.

The book is likely of much more value to those who know the chefs and cuisines Bourdain references but even to the lay reader there are laughs, fun and insights to be had and you can't ask for too much than that--a perfect work to accompany one on a trip, at the beach or any other time you want some quick, not completely mindless entertainment.

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