Anthony Bourdain On Today's Chefs.

A few months ago, in Vegas with Anthony Bourdain and the Parts Unknown crew, I had uncommonly sweet digs and a lot of downtime. Tony probably speaks with more chefs around the world than any other person living. So in between his facial and his pedicure, I talked to him: M.R.: What issues do you see facing chefs today? I think a number of chefs are trying to figure out how to be good citizens of the world, and also serve the one percent. Trying to find a balance when their whole business model is built up around expensive markup of bottles of wine, only the very best parts of the fish, the rest has to be disposed of one way or another. A lot of chefs are trying to reconcile that. Chefs generally are good-hearted Read On »

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Christian Seel’s newest video for Next’s Steakhouse menu, via Vimeo.

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Among the books that caught my eye this season, two of the most lovely are The New Midwestern Table by Amy Thielen and The Heart of the Plate by Mollie Katzen. I’m biased on the Midwestern book, as it’s my home turf, but the Minnesotan Thielen, who logged serious years as a cook and chef at some of the best restaurants in Manhattan until she began a family, brings new life to recipes that are so at home in this part of America, dishes featuring our lake fish and our abundant venison, and vibrant takes on pot roasts and meat pies, recipes from simple salads to more elaborate preparations for headcheese and red current jelly. The publisher sent me an extra copy—it will be a GIVEAWAY to a commenter, just name your favorite cookbook (other Read On »

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The above is, technically, an intro to the Chicago restaurant Alinea, led by restaurateur Nick Kokonas and chef Grant Achatz, whose story I recount in The Reach of a Chef. The question “Are chefs artists?” almost always annoys me. Grant told me he considers himself as such (and not without reason). His mentor Thomas Keller considers himself, the chef, a craftsman. In a long-ago post I reprint from Reach of a Chef my chapter on chef Masa Takayama, making a case I almost argue against: that the chef can, in certain instances, rise to the level of artist. That chefs are artists is a facile assumption that is almost always wrong. To complicate matters in the funnest of possible ways, in walks Christian Seel, a chef as actual filmmaker, creating this, one of the most Read On »

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  “I always say this to the young chefs and mean it: The customer is excited, he says you are an artist, but we are not, just craftspeople with a little talent. If the chef is an artist, he doesn’t succeed. Why? Because he is inspired today but not tomorrow. We cannot do that.” —Andre Soltner (quoted in Forbes, May 2012) Back in in the fall of 2008, nearly five years ago, I moderated a discussion between Tony Bourdain and Marco Pierre White (insofar as those two former chefs can be moderated at all). MPW railed against the multi-course tasting menu, and Bourdain reiterated it, while Grant Achatz, feeling personally attacked, fumed in the audience. As I pointed out in a post addressing the event, The End of the Multi-Course Tasting? (scroll down past Tony’s curious remarks), Read On »

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