For those of you who have ever thought about entering the restaurant business for a living, or for those of you who already have, the writings of Anthony Bourdain are an absolute must. Chef Bourdain has never been attributed superstar status, in the same way that, for instance, Charlie Trotter or Wolfgang Puck have. He is, however, a true frontline chef: one who accepts no complaints, no easy excuses and certainly takes no prisoners. His world, which includes many of the most fashionable (successful and not-so-successful) restaurants in New York City, is a world full of dysfunctional misfits and also-rans, cranking out hundreds of meals a night for a virtually insatiable public. His writing is true Gonzo: a sort of Hunter S. Thompson goes on a cooking binge for 20 years without a break. Bourdain never lets go of his love of great food, despite all the forces that continually thwart his attempts to produce it. Many casual (or serious) diners will heartily despise his book Kitchen Confidential. Many might recognize devastating portraits of themselves, and shrink away in shame and terror. Certain chef acquaintances of mine refuse ever to mention his name, so contemptuous is he of prima-donnas and wannabes. More pity to them, as Bourdain is a hard-core foodie of the highest caliber. We should all wish there were more like him.
Bourdain"s more recent work, the almost equally brutal and excoriating A Cook"s Tour, finds the intrepid chef traveling the world in search of the perfect meal. As usual, the chef"s prose is taut, spare and to the point. This book is the companion piece to the late-night Food TV show of the same name. Aware of the ironies of being on the same network as his nemesis Emeril Lagasse and the nauseating Bobby Flay, Bourdain gamely, and with a strong sense of hubris, takes on the good ol" boys at their own game. Whether he wins or not is a matter for debate: I"ve always felt that Bourdain looks just a bit uncomfortable before the camera"s dispassionate gaze. It"s on the page and in the kitchen that this articulate and thoughtful artisan is at his strongest.
Fans of Bourdain will have the opportunity to meet the great man at a booksigning at Borders in Carmel on Wednesday, Nov. 6 at 5 p.m. Watch this space for further details.