Apr 2007

A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal – Anthony Bourdain

About: A Cook’s Tour is the written record of Anthony Bourdain’s travels around the world in his search for the perfect meal. All too conscious of the state of his 44-year-old knees after a working life standing at restaurant stoves, but with the unlooked-for jackpot of Kitchen Confidential as collateral, Mr. Bourdain evidently concluded he needed a bit more wind under his wings.The idea of “perfect meal” in this context is to be taken to mean not necessarily the most upscale, chi-chi, three-star dining experience, but the ideal combination of food, atmosphere, and company. This would take in fishing villages in Vietnam, bars in Cambodia, and Tuareg camps in Morocco (roasted sheep’s testicle, as it happens); it would stretch to smoked fish and sauna in the frozen Russian countryside and the French Laundry in California’s Napa Valley. It would mean exquisitely refined kaiseki rituals in Japan after yakitori with drunken salarymen. Deep-fried Mars Bars in Glasgow and Gordon Ramsay in London. The still-beating heart of a cobra in Saigon. Drink. Danger. Guns. All with a TV crew in tow for the accompanying series–22 episodes of video gold, we are assured, featuring many don’t-try-this-at-home shots of the author in gastric distress or crawling into yet another storm drain at four in the morning.

You are unlikely to lay your hands on a more hectically, strenuously entertaining book for some time. Our hero eats and swashbuckles round the globe with perfect-pitch attitude and liberal use of judiciously placed profanities. Bourdain can write. His timing is great. He is very funny and is under no illusions whatsoever about himself or anyone else. But most of all, he is a chef who got himself out of his kitchen and found, all over the world, people who understand that eating well is the foundation of harmonious living. –Robin Davidson, Amazon.co.uk

My thoughts: The verdict is in—I don’t like Anthony Bourdain. Sure, he says some humorous things now and again about the Food Network, but I hate how he can’t go a chapter without referencing his penis or someone’s rack. How irrelevant and uncouth! He’s also a little racist (or maybe just brainless) because he titled his chapter on Nha Trang, a beach town in Vietnam, “Can Charlie Surf?” Are you kidding me?

What bothers me the most about Bourdain is that he fancies himself as a no nonsense chef with street credibility; the antithesis of Rachael Ray and company. When in reality he needs to embrace the sell-out within because he most definitely did sell-out. His continual biting of the hand that feeds him is lame. Own it Bourdain!

While my feelings for the man are lukewarm at best, the book was actually a decent read when Bourdain wasn’t being vulgar or offensive. His travels to Russia and Morocco were especially interesting because their cuisine is often overlooked and under-appreciated. He made borsch and cous cous sound like world class offerings. His dinner at the French Laundry was also a pleasure to read.

The book’s concept was interesting, but I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more if someone other than Bourdain wrote it. Say, Ruth Reichl?

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One thought on “A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal – Anthony Bourdain

  1. The chapter when he was in France was very well written. I appreciate Bourdain b/c he’s willing to ruffle a few feathers and be himself in his writing. Better opinionated than tepid. But I see your point too, he has been a little too crass.

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