I just finished Anthony Bourdain’s most recent book; Medium Raw. It was a very easy and interesting read. Having watched quite a few No Reservations episodes I found about a third of the book seemed quite familiar. Bourdain has a like him or hate him kind of persona. I’m still on the fence. Sure I’d like to have a beer with the guy, but likewise he seems like the kind of prick that would make me pay for it, along with the camera guy, sound guy, and whoever else. But that is also what there is to like about him, his opinions, and his writings…no reservations.
I skipped Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential mostly because at that time when it was released I was very impressionable and it most likely would have shoved me into a twisted and evil attempt at mimicking his misadventures. Something I’m glad has passed. His Cooks Tour also was something I had little interest in, not that I wasn’t interested in that book per-se, but rather I was knee deep in Art Culaire and Food Arts. Why did I pick up Medium Raw? And why the fuck did I read the whole damn thing? It called out some big wigs, talked trash about other chefs, spoke to me as a wage earning grunt, and encouraged me in a very weird and twisted way that someday, maybe if something very strange and wonderful happened I might too be sipping Mai Tai’s in a hammock in Vietnam with a seemingly endless expenses account and a reputation that rivals Hunter S. Thompson….. Who’s paying for this hotel anyhow, Travel Channel or Rolling Stone?
For quite a few pages Bourdain calls out the Hero’s and Villains of the culinary world. Not only that but he explains his stance. Very ballsy, as expected for him, but to commit that to print that is just PUNK. There are almost as many pages attributed to disparaging his previous employer, the Food Network. How he explains this relationship might be the most objective part of the book. Admitting they went on to be successful (in a soulless money grabbing way) without him was somewhat refreshing. The most revealing insight in my opinion is that Bourdain considered his upbringing in the teenage years to be both the best parenting yet the eventual downfall of his character. Coming from a privileged house hold with caring parents who did their best for him it seemed all he wanted to do was fuck it up, and for some amount of time he did, but he came out the other end to brag to the rest of us about it
Tony’s got a soft side. You can tell about how he talks about his relationships, and most of all about his daughter. This is something a reader of only Kitchen Confidential wouldn’t really understand. Sex, drugs, rock & roll, and cooking can actually result in a good father. Whether you’re interested in children or not there is some inspiration there.
I’m really glad I bought this book. It was a very cool read. It was rather emotional as well. There were times I hated Bourdain, others when I loved him. I laughed a lot, cried a bit, but was mostly encouraged by the book. I would suggest it to anyone who cooks, anyone who read Kitchen Confidential, anyone who has ever watched No Reservations, or any foodie worth his/her CSA.