I read anything and everything I can get my hands on, especially if I can inter-library loan it (I doubt my husband and I will ever be wealthy enough to support my book addiction independently. I’m not even sure Bill Gates could cover it.). When Cujo’s friend, currently working as a waiter, suggested that I check out Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, I put it on my mental list of Books I Must Read.
I checked out both Kitchen Confidential and Medium Raw for good measure. I’d seen Anthony Bordain’s TV show No Reservations and found it sometimes enjoyable, sometimes repulsive. I suppose I would say his books are more of the same.
I’m a little shocked that I made it through both of them in two days, to be honest. I enjoy cooking and trying new foods, but I mostly enjoy ethnic food like Thai, Vietnamese, and Indian. Bourdain’s book referenced hundreds of French food items and cooking techniques that I not only have never heard of, I’m not quite sure how to pronounce. I’m not an insider on the NYC restaurant scene–I’ve never even been to NYC. All of his references to famous chefs went over my head–including most of his references to the Food Network chefs, since I never, ever watch the food network.
So why did I keep reading? Because Bourdain knows how to bring in all of the senses when he writes. He paints a picture where you not only see the food, you can practically taste it, smell it, feel the juice dribbling down your chin. And when he writes about the characters of the restaurant underbelly, he brings them to life. I may not have had any idea of who these people were, but I could appreciate their quirks and their camaraderie.
If I had to chose one, however, Kitchen Confidential is leaps and bounds better than Medium Raw. Bourdain wrote Kitchen Confidential while he was working as head chef at Les Halles. He was in the kitchen up to 17 hours a day, 6-7 days a week. Everything he wrote comes through unfiltered, with an honesty only found if the author’s fairly certain no one will read it. In fact, much of Medium Raw seemed to try to explain Kitchen Confidential. Apologize for it. Soften the blow. He stepped on people without having any idea how far the reach of his writing would be–and while it brought him wild success, his later book suggests it came with a high cost. When he’s not addressing his past, he’s describing elaborate restaurant meals that, prior to Kitchen Confidential, he’d never have found the time to enjoy, let alone afford. His book reads like someone who has too much time, money and guilt. After all, his job allows him to live the dream, for all the schmucks who would love to travel and taste the world, but have to work nine to five. It seems like he as an underlying sense of: why the hell did I get so lucky? And maybe that’s why his audience can’t quite bring themselves to hate him for his success–he is so honest about his flaws, his major f***-ups (of which there are many). Who can hate someone who agrees: I don’t deserve any of this–but I’ll share it, through words and film. Even though I don’t agree with him on many of his philosophies, I appreciate his candor.