Welcome back to the Reader’s Den. This month we are reading Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. Jenny’s post from last week gave us some background on Bourdain. We are progressing in the book onto the second course now, which outlines “what strange beasts lurk behind the kitchen doors” as well as several don’ts Bourdain has learned from working in the industry for so long. While he freely admits that good food “is about risk,” he also can’t overlook some truths he’s found out along the way. Below you'll find some of his anecdotal rules for eating out.
Regarding seafood, most restaurants are offloading their poorly selling and old goods for Sunday brunch and for specials on Mondays according to Mr. Bourdain. Best to confine your seafood consumption to Tuesday through Thursday. If it's served with a fragrant sauce, chances are they are hoping to disguise something. Mussels you are better off not ordering at all. He does make a concession for places he knows are careful and discerning, like Le Bernadin, the restaurant of fellow Top Chef judge Eric Ripert. By the way, Ripert has a new cookbook out, reserve it here.
Other recommendations include ordering what seems to be popular with other diners or what the restaurant is known for. Ordering the risotto at a steakhouse might not be your best option for a meal. He posits that the broiled mackerel and calf liver special look “good on the menu” but might have been sitting around for a while. And the cleanliness of the bathroom is directly proportional to how clean the kitchen must be. Also, Sunday brunch is served by the B level cooks and "hollandaise is a veritable petri dish of biohazards" and Canadian bacon is trotted out only on the weekends, otherwise it can have a long, lonely life on the kitchen shelf. That's something to keep in mind this weekend...
Despite these cautionary tales, Bourdain still loves to take the risk with food. How about you? Do you like taking the risk? Will you change your eating out habits because of these tips? Do you find his off the cuff style off-putting or have you been converted?
Stay tuned for the Third Course, Dessert and Coffee and a Cigarette!