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Food for Thought, Reader’s Den

November Reader’s Den: About the Author of "Kitchen Confidential"

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Welcome back to this month’s Reader’s Den, co-led by Jenny Baum and Ursula Murphy, about Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.

Anthony Bourdain is a polarizing figure and, as such, elicits strong responses, as strong as a few politicians I can think of. Cable channels like the Food channel, the newer Cooking channel and the Travel channel where his show No Reservations finds its home have all embraced his ethos. He even had a short-lived, though well-received, fiction television show, also with the title Kitchen Confidential, about a chef named Jack Bourdain. He was Executive Chef at Brasserie Les Halles and is still associated with them, despite being a “chef-at-large.” Their site boasts a list and reviews of some of Bourdain’s books, including his fiction works Bone in the Throat and Gone Bamboo. [A brief digression: impress your friends with the proper pronunciation of “Les Halles.”] While I am not a die-hard fan of Bourdain, here are some things I admired from Kitchen Confidential:

  1. Kitchen workers are a hardy, motley bunch and while they may sometimes be heavily tattooed or foul-mouthed or socially flawed or all the above, their professionalism shines through in the face of burns, irate patrons, etc.
  2. Some handy rules about the best days to order seafood, etc.
  3. Encouragement to "be a traveler, not a tourist" as an ad for his show No Reservations recently said. I take this as an encouragement to be more adventurous gastronomically rather than any sort of personal attack on tourists. This often comes across in his penchant to seek out the most maligned foodstuffs, a.k.a. “the nasty bits,” which he revisits in The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps and Bones and which his fans have embraced in various ways.
  4. Pulling no punches when it comes to criticism, especially criticism of other celebrity chefs. In Medium Raw, he seems to have lightened up a bit, stating that he stopped saying bad things about Rachael Ray because she sent him a fruit basket. Indeed, his comments about vegans prompted the (now defunct) Hezbollah Tofu blog, dedicated to veganizing his recipes. You can read about the whole kerfuffle here.

For more information, here's a bio about him from Biography in Context.

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