This review can’t begin without the kind of disclosure that reveals even more than I know to reveal.  Kitchen Confidential annoyed me when I read it.  I was grudging.  The guy could write—this fucking hack cook.  Annoying.  He could really write.  Not only was I jealous, but I also saw it as a danger.  This guy was so compelling, so romantic in his portrayal of cooks, I worried for all the young cooks about to move into this world. There couldn’t possibly be a worse role model for young chefs than the author of Kitchen Confidential, and yet the hordes were following this piper gleefully and indiscriminately (would they too like to be selling their old paperbacks at 95th and Broadway in winter for heroin money?).  Also his book was more successful by far than anything I’d written or have written since or likely ever will write.  (You writers out there know exactly how annoying that is—writer envy runs deep.)

“Who was this fucking poser?” I thought.

Well, he turned out to be the kind of poser who, when asked by The New York Times Book Review to review my book Soul of a Chef, delivered paragraph after paragraph of book-selling praise.

Ok, so maybe the guy wasn’t so bad after all, I thought.

When we ultimately met, he was a pleasure.  Funny, straightforward, a drinker and smoker, the sort I like to hang out with.  We met Eric Ripert at Siberia, shortly before its demise, and drank more before Eric and I flew off to Puerto Rico to work on A Return To Cooking.

The following spring, Tony took Eric to Masa for dinner for an article he was writing (I happened to be in NYC then and begged to join them).  Masa was awe inspiring, but vast quantities of alcohol were consumed at Baraonda after, and when I finally crawled out of bed, late the next morning, trying to figure out where I was and how I’d got there, I found that Bourdain was slandering me right and left on the internet, basically calling me a sociopath in khakis and blazer and a menace to society.

Really, it got so bad, that when it was all over, Tony wrote a huge apology to my wife when he inscribed his cookbook to her, “for the shame I have brought on your house,” it concluded.

He went on to do TV, very very well as it would turn out.  I’d be on his show, he featured my beloved city and did an incredible job; he got Cleveland right in ways no outsider has ever, and for that I remain incredibly grateful.

But he also made me eat Skyline Chili, ridiculed me on camera calling me “Mr. French Laundry Cookbook” as he dragged me into this Cincinnati based chain; I invited him into my house afterward where he promptly dropped a Skyline bomb in our downstairs bathroom, the effects of which still hover somewhere over Lake Erie (I am glad to note however that “Cleveland steamer” appears in the book as a metaphor for a truly bad move).

He has gone on to make more Emmy Award-winning television, the book soon to be reviewed spent many weeks in the top-ten bestseller lists and remains on the extended list.  And he STILL gets me in trouble.

When Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook came out, frankly, I thought great, fine.  (Another rehash of travel stories and opinion on foie gras and chefs, detritus sloughed off during too-long plane rides and passing time in airports.  Repurposing material because he’d taken a chunk of cash from his publisher and had to deliver something.)

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Medium Raw is as good a follow-up to his seminal Kitchen Confidential as one could hope for.  His first book, and the television show it ultimately lead to, No Reservations, utterly transformed his life, and here, Bourdain outlines that transformation in honest story and opinion, his travel, his relationships, and the events that have shaped his life since The Book.

He is every bit as funny and ruthless as ever, and yet there’s the wisdom these years have brought to someone who is very aware of the world around him.  It hasn’t been all wine and ortolans.  He details the alcoholic drug-fueled depression that could easily have killed him on St. Maarten, a hilarious and horrifying trip to St. Barts with a wealthy insane cokehead, which solidified his disgust for the rich.

That chapter is followed by one called “Lust,” which contains some of the best food writing I’ve encountered in ages; his ode to the Vietnamese dish pho is both over the top and on the money at the same time, captivating even to someone who is tired of reading about food.

He recounts the truly creepy encounter with the “Hell Spawn of Kathie Lee and Betty Crocker” at the Julie & Julia afterparty, answers why he’s softened on Rachael but can’t abide pre-chopped onions, and why Emeril and Mario continue to do what they do in the service of their empires even though they could easily retire to a tiki bar on their own island (Bourdain is in a position to get the genuine answers—he’s deep inside this world).  He addresses the current restaurant scene following the economy tanking.  He devotes a whole a chapter to heroes and villains.

Heroes: Fergus Henderson, writer Jonathan Gold, Jamie Oliver, Terrance Brennan (for cheese), Jim Harrison, Arianne Daguin (foie).

Villians: among them, Wolfgang Puck for cowing to the anti-foie gras activists, Food Network head honcho, Brooke Johnson (for being right, and raising food network share quarter after quarter: “every clunky, bogus, critically vilified clusterfuck that drops from FN’s hind quarters still steaming and seemingly dead on arrival turns out to be an unprecedented ratings success”), Alain Ducasse (for ADNY, dumping that “gigantic Cleveland steamer into a small pond”), the Beard Foundation for reasons that have been well covered.

One person gets Hero and Villain, status, Regina Schrambling, editor, journalist and blogger—“my favorite villain… easily the angriest person writing about food….immaculate in her loathing.” That’s actually the hero part.  The villain part is for referring to the people she’s pissing on with cutesy names rather than actual ones (Malto Ego for Mario, Panchito for Bruni, etc.).  I agree—who does she think she’s kidding?  And she’s a good enough and funny enough writer to get away with calling bullshit where she sees it, by name.

Is the book perfect?  No.  I frankly, don’t want to see Tony dancing with his two-year-old along with a dozen other Filipino nannies and their charges.  Fergus Henderson, chef of St. John in London, is certainly a hero, but the treatment he receives here is a little too close to fellatio for my own comfort (yes even for  me, who has contributed plenty to the chef adoration annals).  Henderson’s Nose to Tail/The Whole Beast is unquestionably a great book, a book I own and admire, one the food world is lucky to have, but Tony calls it “one of the classic cookbooks of all time”—of all time.  Hm, well, OK.  But is Henderson truly “the most influential chef of the last ten years”?  On this, much as I admire Henderson, Bourdain fails to convey the reasons for the depth of his personal reverence to the reader.

Even so, this passage, like all that comes before and after in Medium Raw, Bourdain is unfailingly smart and entertaining.  He knows deep in his bones that the writer’s mortal sin, short of actual child abuse, is that of boring the reader.  This, he never does (the dancing business excepted, but it’s mercifully brief).

Another small issue with the book I have is his taking the degustation menu to task, eviscerating Alinea and Per Se for the meals he ate there (two world-renowned restaurants, run by chefs I  work with, like and admire). I don’t have a problem with his not liking (actually, hating) the meals.  The thing is, before he does so, he writes a long passage about how chefs, even those who serve these elaborate menus, don’t like to eat them.  Himself included.  Why?  Because he, and Marco White and Thomas Keller and Ferran Adria can scarcely show their heads in a restaurant without the kitchen wanting to bury them in food.  So it seems a rare lack of self-awareness to go off on these two restaurants from his rarefied perch in the food world.

This chapter leads him to the antidote to these restaurants, David Chang, a chapter that could have been yet another reach around for the over-written about chef, but is in fact a great look and explication of where we are in our restaurant culture, what it means to be a cook and a chef today.  David Chang has gotten where he is, I believe, by doing one thing and doing it well: Saying fuck you to everyone, and just cooking.  Chang is driven exclusively by fear and rage, Bourdain writes.  Fuck you media and fuck you food writer and fuck you VIPs, just leave me alone and let me cook what I want.  If you want to pay me for it, have a seat, if not, go away.  I love this about Chang, whom I’ve never met but whose noodle bar and Momofuku Ko have served me awesome meals.  Face it—chefs know what’s good and great, they know what to cook.  Listen to them and eat of their love-labor.  It’s paying off for Chang and I hope the ethos of cook-what-you-love, as opposed to cook what you think you can sell, is embraced by all chefs.

As for the food media, well I can’t contain my affection nor overstate my respect for Bourdain for coming straight out and calling John Mariani flat out corrupt, a conviction everyone in the industry shares but few say, and that he downgrades Alan Richman from douchebag, a relatively harmless trashtalk term, to “a cunt,” and backs it up, convincingly.

But what I admire most about this book, besides Bourdain’s obvious gifts of humor and the innovative raunchy turns of phrase, his ability to tell stories, is what does not exist in Kitchen Confidential.  Balance and depth.  When he comes at a victim, whether it’s Wolfgang Puck or Alinea, it comes from a vantage that is now worldly, one not fueled by ex-junkie, hack-cook anger. He has extraordinary respect for Grant Achatz and Jonathan Benno and Thomas Keller, deep and vast, is the first to admit that he could never do what they do, a fact that in a way shames him.  But to paraphrase the title of one the chapters here—on a Bernardin fish butcher, some of the best reportage and observation on food I’ve read in a long long time (itself worth the cost of the book)—Bourdain’s aim is true.

He concludes where he began, Kitchen Confidential, where he is now, where that cast of characters are today, and what he’ll never taste again because of it.

I honestly wish I didn’t have to say this.  He doesn’t need me to say it.  He’s got a great TV show, huge audience, gets paid serious cash for showing up in podunk cities across the country to shoot his mouth off for a couple hours and field a question or two.  He takes great gleeful pleasure in slandering me in public, a world he treats like his own personal schoolyard playground.

But the facts are these. In the same way that great food writing is about more than just the food, so too is Medium Raw commentary on matters well beyond the incestuous world of restaurants and cooks. This book of memoir, travel writing, food writing and reportage is entertaining, informative, thought provoking, and genuinely artful in its structure and satisfactions.  He would surely lose what little respect he has for me were I to say this to his face, but Bourdain proves himself here to be the most insightful commentator on food and restaurants and chefs writing today.  By far.  By a mile.  I seriously hope this is the last book he writes.  He’s a freak of nature, and somehow it’s just best that way, that he remain untouchable.

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51 Wonderful responses to “Medium Raw
Review by a Frienemy”

  • Marc Johnson

    Bourdain is funny, smart, snarky, witty, sometimes mean, but most of all, lovable, flaws and all. What we see in this book, and on recent seasons of N.R., is him finally growing up a bit. It scares him and saddens us a little, but in the end he’ll still be lovable and I think he is beginning to understand that. Great book.

  • Skawt

    That was excellent, Michael. He still needs a punch in the balls, but then an ice pack and a beer afterwards. At least Ottavia’s usually around to kick his butt when he gets too uppity. :)

  • David Dadekian

    I’m reading along here, and reading and reading, waiting for you to mention that chapter about the fish butcher. That beautiful, almost tear-inducing story. You are so right, worth the price of the book. Thanks for a great piece of writing of a great piece of writing.

    • Connie

      The fish butcher chapter was pure genius. I have read it four times already. Amazing writing about an amazing man.

      • w4werwr

        Must tell you that you are preaching to the choir with the sweet potatoes fries…. But I must tell you frying them is ruining them in my eyes. I use a new fangled nu-wave oven and it air fries them delicious and I enjoy them without all that oil inside them. A truly healthy sweet treat. I can season them with “Season Complete ” from Badia and they are sweet and thank you صحيفة صحيفة that very nice
        صحيفة
        thank you صحيفة صحيفة that very nice
        صحيفة
        savory. A great crispy side for a French pot roast if I quarter them. (meat browned in the nu-wave and slow braised on low overnight in the crockpot).Try it sometime.
        Matter of fact I just reloaded the pantry for this very dish as I head into my week end. Last time I made the dish I used yukon golds and cooked them to perfection on the microwave.. then I married the roast and the potatoes in the sauce to finish it. Great great dish…

  • Tags

    I hear Brooke Johnson just issued an edict making it mandatory for all FN hosts to adopt 2-year-old girls and dance with them and their nannies before each commercial break.

  • John Newkirk

    Liked the review but couldn’t help but wonder if you misspelled two of the names of Bourdain’s lamentable foes (RachAel Ray and John MariAni) on purpose.

    …or maybe I should ask why you didn’t misspell Richman?

    No matter. Clearly they’ve dealt with worse insults than misspellings of their names.

  • Natalie Sztern

    Oh goodness Michael I had no idea you were as disgusted by the first book as I. I remember sitting on an airplane and the feeling of being crushed at the thought that all the cute Chefs like Ming Tsai and Todd English could they actually be the same scumbags this guy is? Is it possible? Then I came to know him more through this blog than his shows because, and I am sorry, No Reservations is not my cup of tea in the world of food shows nor travel.

    THEN came this book. As much as I hated him before is as much as I fell in love with him now. There wasn’t one thing he wrote about that I did not agree with: we were somehow kindred spirits. And you know, from me, that ain’t an easy task.

    I have finished that book and I miss reading that book so very much. Anthony come on it can’t end there…you must do a sequel and continue….you have left me, for one, hanging. Truly because now I am stuck with Jeffrey Steingarten so you know its bad.

    I loved your frankness and actually found myself at times, in total agreement simply from what I’ve read of these characters. Especially Alan Richman because I remember that show he had tasting plates from restaurants around town which sat for hours under television studio lights….

    I do take issue however, with the comments made in Toronto Now. If your friend will be reading this I would ask him why he recounted on Alan Richman ( http://www.nowtoronto.com/daily/story.cfm?content=176716)
    and Paula Deen. Why? Why? ‘Cause we’re Canadian and, like, you have to be nice?

    Well I will forgive you, if you do one thing for me. Apologize, too, to the chef at the White House for linking him to the Mafia because he chose to work in another form of the ‘industry’. (see last post)

    And for god’s sake please be writing again.

  • Toast

    I’m about halfway through Medium Raw, and what strikes me more than anything is the way Bourdain *owns* his fuckups past. He doesn’t shy away from them, gloss over them, or omit them. Some of the early chapters read almost as self-eviscerations. It’s bracing, but also startling. And it’s a mark of the wisdom you allude to; the realization that, if you’re going to make a living taking a katana to everyone and everything in your business, there’s no justification for sparing yourself.

    My wife and I are going to see Tony speak in Springfield, MA – somewhere about midway between Metropolis and Podunkville – tomorrow night. I have no doubt it will be worth every penny.

    • ruhlman

      he takes great glee in owning up to his fuckups and even his own corruption, he himself is a character in his own story, and deserving of the same treatment.

  • Matthew

    That chapter about the fish butcher was… there are no words to describe it, to capture the perfect beautiful essence of that piece. When I first read it, I sat mesmerized by Bourdain’s genius, something that has never happened to me before. I’ve long enjoyed his books, maybe a little too much, but that story, and the way it was told, not just any writer could do that.

  • Vicki

    I loved the chapter about his daughter. Made him somehow more human. But then I don’t know him personally, so I’m not tempted to compare the possibly fictional with the real. I loved the whole book.

  • Rhonda

    Ruhlman,

    This is not a “Frienemy” piece. This is the type of feedback that you get from your very BEST friends. Friends who love you and respect you enough to tell you what they really think.

    Michael, this is wonderful and although you are calling out a good friends’ bullshit, it was done in a very F. Scott Fitzgerald way.

    Tony is a great writer. In a different way than you. Different voice.

    I must add, that I find this ironic that a classically trained writer who works very, very hard every day to improve his craft is pissed off that a Cook, swans in, speaks his voice and sells a multitude of copies.

    You are a Fantastic writer, my friend, and there is no more need to follow the rules. You are not at the West Palm Beach Country Club anymore, Dorothy. You are dealing with cooks.

    You are the most, best, frienemy, EVER!

  • sharon

    wonderful… wonderful review. Love and hate throbbing right through it. Passion over all. Thanks Michael Ruhlman. That was some very good review.

  • Lara

    Like others, the fish-master chapter was incredible, maybe even his best. The chapter on Alice Waters had everyone at our kitchen table roaring with laughter as I read it aloud.

    The thing with Tony is that I know he likes to push the boundaries, and sometimes, I wonder how much is true, and how much is his poor self-esteem imagining things.

    So, please, my facebook friend in this very public place :-) How exactly did he ruin your relationship with the Food Network, and should we letter bomb someone to bring you back, because, frankly, they need you. Well, I need you. You bring class and intelligence to the Anton Ego’s of the foodnetwork (and NO i don’t mean alton)

  • Greg Dendler

    I agree about Regina Schrambling. She’s delightfully vicious, but roughly half the time, I (who am only vaguely orbiting the food world) have no idea about whom she is speaking. And she is the sister of my primary accountant. She is a treasure!

  • Carri

    I, too, thought this would be just another ‘Nasty Bits’ of recycled articles and the like…now that I know different, I look forward to reading it on that retreat I’m heading to for recovering workaholic cooks…yeah, it’ll be great.

  • txvoodoo

    Michael, I hope you both continue writing for years. Both of your voices are wonderful to read.

  • Sean

    Michael,

    I’m not sure I dig this review, even though I happen to agree with you. You do, in fact, point out the best chapter in the whole book about the fish guy at Le Bernadin. That said, this reads more like one of your chef write-ups than a critique of the book. I’ve read all of your books and really like your stuff, but on the whole I get the same tone of reverence for him that you use for your writing about chefs and their food.

    C’mon Ruhlman, bring back some of the Cleveland-episode chemistry and what makes you guys so good together. Eviscerate the man. Publically. I love you guys together because it’s like watching a banker and a bail bondsman going out and trying to talk about what’s on the plate in front of them using two totally different languages.

    I just read so many suck-up blogs and food reverence articles, so I don’t want to find this stuff here. I expect better.

    He’s a completely loveable asshole that writes the truth in many ways, but don’t go for the reach-around. Give him your harshest critique. You both maintain jobs that many of us would kill to have. In MR, there’s a few sections of shabby writing, because he loses his center for once. Call him on it. If nothing else, he’s the kind of guy that would right it the next time.

    Keep writing,

    Sean

  • Victoria

    When I read Soul of a Chef, I had the same reaction to it that Carol Blymire described in French Laundry at Home. I curled up with that book, and once I started reading, continued ever so s-l-o-w-l-y wishing it wouldn’t end. It sits on a shelf close at hand, next to Home Cooking and More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin, three books I want to be able to grab to peruse or re-read at a moment’s notice.

    I love your writing.

    Since my drive out of the city on weekends is three hours’ long, and Walter can’t listen to fiction because it puts him to sleep, I’m always on the lookout for Audible books we will like to pass the time. Medium Raw is for sure a good read, but hearing Anthony Bourdain read it himself – tell it himself – was also a real treat.

  • Mike

    You’re an actual real life writer, so it might not have been such a big deal for you, but when I wrote my review of ‘Medium Raw’ it was so nerve racking because you want to the review to live up to the book.

    Your review and perspective certainly did.

    I appreciate the unique perspective you have from your personal experiences with Bourdain himself and the people he wrote about. Really fine job.

    Ok…you can zip back up…blow job over. Ha!

    Oh, and I’d love to hear you let loose on Richman and Mariani. There aren’t two people in the food writing world more deserving of a substantive public flogging. Corrupt, unethical, talentless assholes.

  • Wilma de Soto

    I wept after I read the chapter on Justo, the fish butcher at Le Bernandin and how at long last got to enjoy the fruits of his labor at the restaurant. If nothing else, that chapter alone was worth it. What a revelation!

  • Rich Sims

    I thougt the book was good, i think charcuterie was was even more compelling. But then again , i:m a little strange when it comes to food writing. Love your posts!

  • Jennifer

    I thought Medium Raw was just fantastic. It’s fascinating to read Tony’s thoughts post-Kitchen Confidential craziness – how he’s maneuvered through the fame, how he’s really come into his own with his family and the culinary world at large. I think your review is spot on.

  • dan

    bourdain is cool. I wish he didn’t mess up his show on Romania the way he did, by hiring a Russian guide to take him through culinary Romania (wtf was with that? I wouldn’t even walk on the same side of the street where those places are…). He really didn’t “get” Romania at all. But who cares, not even most Romanians… I do, but I don’t know why…

    • Brendan

      ooops, though I was posting on the other entry. The excerpt. I’ll go leave it there as well and then slink off with my tail between my legs. (embarrassing)

      • Tags

        No tails between the legs here, Brendan.

        You cross your arms, stick out your face, and Mussolini your way out of it!

  • Tana

    I think of all the qualities you possess, Michael, your attentiveness is your most precious. It holds you still while you observe and record your surroundings—be it a kitchen or a chapter in a book. It’s a quality that many have surrendered in this fast-paced world, and it also enhances what I believe is your desire to shed self-consciousness.

    Bourdain is observant, yes, but his in excitable kind of observation. That’s why you complement each other. Sean’s “banker and bail bondsman” analogy is very apt.

    Now I have to get this book. Thanks for taking the time to be so thorough.

    Gratefully,
    Your Biggest Flan

  • Jim handert

    Michael

    I couldn’t disagree more. This book was poorly written and lacking in the emotional depth that made KC so great. Do I care what Bourdain has to say about food tv personalities? Hell no because he is one. He is a characiture of himself here, the faux personality he created. He once said that a FL meal was the greatest of his life and now he skewers per se and Alinea— why? Because he is a populist out to sell books.

    Waste of an opportunity and a true one hit wonder. You are doing yourself a disservice by calling him a writer.

  • Jeff

    I have everything both of you have ever written. The difference between your two works is that as much as I enjoy Bourdain, once finished, his stuff goes on the bookshelf. Your stuff on the other hand remains on the table or counter top (as the case may be) referred to constantly and enjoyed repeatedly, I have already read the covers off of two copies of “The Soul of a Chef” and am in desperate need of another “Ratio”. Simply put, Bourdain is Britney Spears to your Bruce Springsteen.

  • Maven

    What a treat to read this review. I haven’t read the book yet, though I’ve been aptly tantalized by this and the exerpt posted last week. I can’t wait to read it – especially the fish master chapter which has me intrigued.

  • Aaron

    Thanks Michael – a great review, and one conflicted enough to be utterly convincing. I mostly enjoyed Kitchen Confidential, but had no real intention of buying this latter book. However, after reading this piece I felt like I had no choice; it’s now on its way and I’m looking forward to it.

  • Michael

    As always, you and Bourdain complement each other nicely. You’re like the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis of the food world. Or could it be Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Either of those two couples seems to work nicely in describing the relationship you two have, though I certainly wouldn’t want to hear either of you sing or try and watch you dance.

    Your review is well written and very thoughtful which matches what I have come to expect from you after reading all your Chef series and blog. My wife and I had the pleasure of seeing Bourdain in Cincy and I was hoping that you would make the trip and show up unannounced which would have made the evening that much better. Oh well.

    Your comments weren’t from a frienemy though it’s easy to see why you would use that term. Like most of the others, I notice that you and Bourdain are friends. My wife (again, surprisingly) picked up on something about Bourdain that also applies to you as well. She said she would be afraid to be friends with him because he’s brutally honest. A term that has been applied to me by some I have worked for.

    So, Michael, in closing I apply that honored term to you as well. You are brutally honest in your review of Bourdain’s book. You neither went overboard or downplayed your relationship with Bourdain. You were spot on. Now I have to run because my 10 month old is waking up and wants to dance before I go to work.

    Greely

  • SWoody

    OK, I’ll put Medium Raw on my next order from ecookbooks.com. Satisfied?

    I’m still of the opinion that Kitchen Confidential is the third best book Bourdain has written (and I re-read it a few weeks ago). The best is the Les Halles Cookbook. Great recipes that I actually use, and laugh-out-loud commentary.

    Second is the book everyone forgets he wrote, Typhoid Mary, some of the best historical journalism I’ve come across. That’s the book that proves, to me, what a good writer Bourdain is – clear prose, insightful about the characters without trying to make them likeable or sympathetic, just making them understandable. He enlightened me, best compliment I can pay him.

  • David

    I tried to read it.
    Got partway through the first chapter and blew it off.
    I’ve read his other books, and went to hear him speak once in Vancouver.
    I respect the guy but his TV shows have become tedious repetitions of meat and alcohol bingeing, and the book starts off with a description of celebrities experiencing gourmandgasms biting the heads off of endangered-species illegal mini-birds.
    I really don’t care any more.

  • Felisha Wild

    Anthony Bourdain is what many of us admire and fear, an honest person. I greatly admire how he has not only been honest and open about culinary matters but about his failings. His viewpoint is one that is valued not only because of his position but also his tarnish.

    My favorite expose Mr Bourdain did was of how the Mexican people have impacted the culinary heritage of the United States through their blood, sweat and tears. What he says and writes are not always popular but he has a platform and states what needs to be highlighted.

    Thank you Mr Bourdain! Also thank you Mr Ruhlman for having the humor and humility to share your thoughts on his book. I loved your review.

    Many Regards,

    Chef Felisha Wild

  • MorganLF

    His wordsmithing remains screamingly funny and evil (practices frottage with impugnity), although Ruhlman your Skyline bomb comments made me laugh out loud!

  • Sean B

    Just finished this book. Lovely. From a pure prose vantage, miles away (and above) Kitchen Confidential. Tony’s ability to be candid without being salacious is admirable. The best food book since Heat.

  • George

    I actually think MR is better than KC, which feels like a series of add-ons to a very good centerpiece magazine article (which it was). MR has a greater sense of structure that all seems tied to his own love-hate relationships (fine dining, celebrity, Alice Waters, the word “unctuous”) and a humility and gratitude that have certainly deepened over 10 years. Bourdain knows that however hard he worked on KC, Cook’s Tour, and No Reservations, earning success and deserving success are entirely different things. And he seems to think that if he goes soft, he disfigure that success.
    Reading the book, you’re tempted to think that the guy wasted 28 years of what could have been spent exclusively writing, which is clearly his calling. But those 28 years behind a stove were necessary, both for subject matter and perspective. Bourdain is a great example of why second acts are possible in america, and why they’re often so much better for everyone they involve.

  • George

    Prior post should be dishonor success, not disfigure. Curse the iPhone spellcheck!!!

  • Salty

    I’m not much of a reader nor writer. I’m an old school chef about Tony’s age. I read MR after reading an excerpt here. If nothing else Bourdain can be proud he’s written two of the 14 books I’ve ever read.

    With that being said, I didn’t quite get the point of the book. I enjoyed the easy read but I can’t get over how this book seems forced. A good portion of it is reviews of dinners he’s had, bashing people he doesn’t like, hell, he has an entire chapter on one douchebag, kissing Chang’s feet and catching up on characters in KC. Unless you’re really plugged into the New York food scene there isn’t much substance.

    I also believe he asked Marco White about tasting menus knowing what kind of response he’d get. No, that doesn’t sound like Tony does it?

  • Jeroen van Brussel

    Michael Ruhlman and Tony Bourdain are my favorite food writers (currently re-reading the Ruhlman chef-trilogy) . They were the first authors I read when my interest in gastronomy started to grow more serious and it’s great to read this review because Michael is caring and honest, like a true friend would be in his appraisal to a friend.

    I can identify with both Tony and Michael on a personal level , despite the superficial differences and it’s this contrast that I find so alluring, just as the (less) obvious similarities :) They, we, just love good food and the culture, ethos, surrounding food.

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