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Two Must-Reads from Anthony Bourdain

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Kitchen Confidential
By Anthony Bourdain (Ecco Press, 2001)

In 2001, Anthony Bourdain, executive chef of the Les Halles brasserie in New York City, hit the publishing world by storm with his best-selling book Kitchen Confidential. For those who missed out, this is still a classic memoir/survival manual for restaurant diners and a must-read for anyone who has ever worked in or eaten at a restaurant.

Amazingly, the book project started as an unsolicited article submission to The New Yorker. Once asked to write a book based on the piece, Bourdain hit full stride. He takes the reader from his first experience with cold soup (vichyssoise) during a family trip to France as a small boy through his many experiences in the professional restaurant business.

The book's subtitle aptly captures the substance of the narrative: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. With harsh yet descriptive language and a hilarious, acerbic tone, he exposes what really goes on behind the scenes at top restaurants—everything from sex to drugs to eye-opening tales of food preparation and kitchen pranks. He answers questions like why one shouldn't order fish on Mondays or steak well done. All of this is done while he consistently displays and expounds upon a sincere passion for good food.

Between the stories, reminisces, gossip and warnings, the reader also follows Bourdain's growth as a chef, a restaurant professional and an individual. This personal side to the book works with the rough and shocking side to result in an enjoyable read for just about everybody.

A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain

A Cook's Tour
by Anthony Bourdain
(Ecco Press, 2002)

If you're looking for more of Bourdain's entertaining writing, join him on his adventures around the world to find the perfect meal in A Cook's Tour, released just last year.

He basically just took the best-selling style of Kitchen Confidential and added travel. He avoids the big four (France, Italy, China, India) to search for his presumably unattainable perfect experience on roads less traveled, and he seems to find interesting meals just about everywhere he goes: the still-beating heart of a cobra in Saigon, deep-fried Mars bars in London, lamb testicles in Morocco, and the list goes on.

Passages like that describing a pig slaughter in Portugal may be difficult to stomach for some, but Bourdain is simply describing a reality as seen through the eyes of an American very much off the beaten path.

Bourdain brought along a camera crew, so a complementary weekly television series, aptly named A Cook's Tour, can currently be viewed on the Food Network.

(Updated: 09/26/08 LH)

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