Friday, June 02, 2006

The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps and Bones

I'm proud to say I devoured Tony Bourdain's newest book in two days over the long weekend. All I can say is that if you love food, the food world, chefs, and restaurants, READ THIS BOOK!

Bourdain gets it. He really does. He gets that it's about great food whether it be old school French or street food in Singapore. He gets that no matter where you go in this world, you can find something to appreciate. If you don't, you're not trying hard enough. He's anti-food snob and anti-celebrity chef while somehow getting directly to the heart of why many of these chefs are remarkable. Now, the greatness and the talent -- *that* he appreciates. In this collection of essays and previously published articles, he zeros in on what foodies love -- and takes to task the bullshit artists who revel in pretension. In the meantime, he fully recognizes that he may himself have become what he most feared -- a celebrity chef.

Bourdain can be abrasive, opinionated, and to some even nasty, but at least he's honest. His sometimes naive sincerity comes through in every line, but it's what makes his writing work. Only Bourdain could describe a $500 a person dinner at Masa (Pure and Uncut Luxury) followed by an essay on the best recommendation for a chicken house in Singapore (Die, Die Must Try). He takes us on a tour of Ferran Adria's fantastical food lab and brings us to the table for a tasting menu full of the leading edge chef's creations. He leads us all over the world, from Brazil to New York, China to Spain, and, in his usual way, shows us the inner workings of a kitchen. He even takes us on a fun romp on the high seas. Don't miss Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman reliving their own Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas -- the article that *should* have run in Gourmet.

Only one recommendation -- read the preface (about his seal hunting and eating adventure shown in an episode of his popular Travel Channel show No Reservations), then start at the back and read the articles in reverse order. Make sure you read the commentary to each story as you go. And the short story at the end? Save that for last. After such a great book, it's like the surprise taste of dessert the chef sends over with your after-dinner coffee.

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