Friday, April 21, 2017

Kitchen Confidential - Anthony Bourdain

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary UnderbellyI originally had Bourdain's book No Reservations slated for my reading challenge this year, but absolutely nowhere had it available.  So I picked another book for that category and got this one from the library instead.  It's probably better that way, since this was Bourdain's first book and laid the groundwork for a lot of his career, which is of course what I've been watching on Netflix.

This is the updated edition, which has a bit of a foreword and an afterword that serves as a kind of "where are they now" catch-up section, and a PS section that has discussion, an interview, etc.  I didn't care about the PS stuff but the added foreword and afterword were a nice touch.

Here's the thing.  Having watched collections of "No Reservations" (the show, not the book) and "The Layover" on Netflix, I could totally hear Bourdain's voice.  He lays out what he sees as the fundamentals of the restaurant world and the path of his own career.  But then he goes back later on and turns it all on its head, showing that not all cooking crews are the sort that he experienced and seems to seek out.  He doesn't really go into how his life of booze and drugs affected his career at various points, but he also doesn't hide that away, and finally mentions that he hit a point where he knew if he didn't stop, he probably wasn't going to.

And here's the other thing... Bourdain is an ass.  Anyone who's seen him on any of his shows can tell that pretty easily.  But he's so up front about it, without really making himself seem better than others, and I found that I could move past it pretty easily.  There are, of course, moments, when I step back and go, "Wow, Anthony, you're an asshole."  But for the most part, I felt like I could step away from that terribly abrasive part of his personality and still enjoy his writing and his tales of "the culinary underbelly," as the book refers to it.  Bourdain seems to prefer what he calls "pirate crews" which are basically a bunch of former (and sometimes current) criminals and drug addicts and overall people who are just as unsavory as he can be.  But at the same time, as I mentioned before, he brings up kitchens that run as smoothly as a well-oiled clock or a well-choreographed and rehearsed dance.  While he greatly speaks from his own experience, he doesn't pretend that his way is the only way, and I can respect that.

Overall, I found this book a very enjoyable read.  Though I can't say that I look up to him as a person or would ever want to work with him.  But that doesn't meant his stories aren't good or shocking or that this book wasn't good (though sometimes shocking) because it was.

4 stars out of 5.

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