Why Anthony Bourdain Is Better Than Bradbury, Faulkner, Robbins, Wolfe, and Steinbeck
Everyone has their favorite authors. We like them enough to re-read them over and over again. I can't get enough of Bradbury's "Something Wicked This Way Comes." Or Wolfe's "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" or his "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby." Or Faulkner's "Sound and the Fury." Or Robbins' "Still Life With Woodpecker." And Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath." I guess you could say I have a jones for great American writers with a distinctive lyrical voice. In my mind, Anthony Bourdain is right up there with them only he does them one better: this guy can cook. You may have seen him on the Discovery Channel. He's got a show on it that airs on Monday night at 10:00 p.m. It's called "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations," and it basically follows him as he eats his way around the world. He's written two novels but I like his memoir "Kitchen Confidential, Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly." It's the eye-opening, laugh-out-loud recounting of his life in the restaurant business as a skinny-6'-4"-chain-smoking-profane-New York-punk-wiseass-erudite-American graduate of America's greatest cooking school, the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). He's "Bowzer" in the "Sha-Na-Na" land of bad boy (and girl) cooks and dishwashers who bust their chops shoulder-to-shoulder, elbow-to-elbow hidden away from our eyes in hot, confined quarters as a motley crew of sweating immigrants, drug addicts, alcoholics, ex-cons, everyday Joes, and culinary school graduates in order to fulfill our order. He considers a good chef to be a "wrangler of psychopaths." When another chef confides how terrible he feels about firing an insubordinate cook who later kills himself, Bourdain writes:
- "The guy had to go," is what I said, the kind of cold-blooded statement not unusual for me when in chef mode. "What? Are you gonna keep the guy on? Let him talk shit to you in front of your crew? Let him show up late, fuck up service... because you're afraid he's gonna off himself? Fuck him. We're on a lifeboat, baby. The weak? The dangerous? The infirm? They go over the side."
This is Bourdain on what it takes to work in a restaurant:
- "If you are easily offended by direct aspersions on your lineage, the circumstances of your birth, your sexuality, your appearance, the mention of your parents possibly commingling with livestock, then the world of professional cooking is not for you."
You gotta love this guy. Living in south Florida affords you the opportunity to eat in one of his Les Halles restaurants. Headquartered in New York, the restaurants are listed on the company's website as the home base of its "Chef-At-Large," Anthony Bourdain.UpDate (3/20): Bourdain's recent take on the Food Network and their roster of celebrity chefs is dead on and worth a read. Here's a portion on America's sweetheart in the kitchen, Rachael Ray:
- We KNOW she can’t cook. She shrewdly tells us so. So...what is she selling us? Really? She’s selling us satisfaction, the smug reassurance that mediocrity is quite enough. She’s a friendly, familiar face who appears regularly on our screens to tell us that “Even your dumb, lazy ass can cook this!” Wallowing in your own crapulence on your Cheeto-littered couch you watch her and think, “Hell…I could do that. I ain’t gonna…but I could--if I wanted! Now where’s my damn jug a Diet Pepsi?”
And Paula Deen:
- Even if her supporting cast is beginning to look like the Hills Have Eyes--and her food a True Buffet of Horrors. A recent Hawaii show was indistinguishable from an early John Waters film. And the food on a par with the last scene of Pink Flamingos.