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Anthony Bourdain: he’s a world-famous chef, seems to be rather brilliant, definitely passionate about food, and fiercely loyal to others who are passionate about food without being a villain. He also seems to be one of those individuals who exist at extremes.
His first book Kitchen Confidential was completely unapologetic in his scathing reveal and skewering of restaurants and kitchens where he worked. In Medium Raw it is ten years later and Bourdain looks back on that time and the decade since. He seems somewhat apologetic, with a sprinkling of self-loathing as he shares about the darker parts of his past including heroin addiction and his self-destruction in relationships. There is interesting introspection too, comparing his fame, progress, and “selling out” to that of other famous chefs in his circle. His writing style is compelling and descriptions are so rich. I felt transported to the places he described, face to face with the sights and smells he experienced… and that wasn’t always a good thing. He describes eating an illegal dish of endangered Ortalan bird: “As I swallow, I draw in the head and beak, which, until now, had been hanging from my lips, and blithely crush the skull.” Vivid.
There is still some scathing to be had, of Alice Waters, of James Beard House and others in the ‘Heroes and Villains’ chapter, and of journalist and food writer Alan Richman in the chapter ‘Alan Richman is a Douchebag’. Those chapters were fun to read as were the chapters about chefs he considers heroes, several of whom I’m not familiar with but will now check out to find out why. Hopefully not only because they eat almost extinct French birds.
The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: brilliant and well-dressed is the host The Armchair Squid who describes it thusly: “The idea is simple: on the last Friday of each month, post about the best book you’ve finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same. In this way, we’ll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts with other enthusiastic readers.” Check out The Armchair Squid blog to see more book reviews.