Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Bourdain is back to serve up more smackdown soup

Anthony Bourdain is out and about in the book world again,with an all-new memoir of his famous frank talk about the culinary industry at large. Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook is being seen as a sequel of sorts to his infamous Kitchen Confidential,the book that made his bones with mainstream audiences and helped to launch his celebrity cook career.

Bourdain is one of my favorite people to see on a cooking show as a guest judge,mainly because he is bizarrely honest about the quality of the food offered up by the contestants(he once compared a Top Chef participant's airplane entree to a "baby doll's head" and complimented the Thanksgiving dish of a guy on an earlier season for it's "Flintstonian" presentation). His blunt opinions about culinary matters are entertaining to some,a nightmare to others:

While I haven't yet read his latest book,I did enjoy Kitchen Confidential and have even checked out an episode or two of No Reservations(afraid I'm not as adventurous in my eating preferences as he is)but mostly,the best way to appreciate Bourdain is by listening to him hold forth on the rights and wrongs of cooking and how it's perceived both in and outside the kitchen doors.

It's more than just the delight of hearing an amusing rant,it's also that Bourdain speaks from knowledge,which gives some of his gripes true authority in their basic contention.

One of his current targets is Alice Waters,the spokeswoman for the "slow food" movement. While he agrees with her principles,Bourdain wisely points out the impracticality of them being implemented across the board for folks of all economic classes,something she doesn't seem to get(then again,she wants to have shark fin soup as her last meal,hardly a "local" dish there):

He also talks about his experiences on Top Chef,a cooking competition show he actually respects due to Tom Colicchio keeping things real when it comes to judging the food and not the marketability of the chef contestants. Since none of us watching Top Chef get to actually taste the dishes,I'm willing to take his word for it:

Other chefs and food critics are given the rough side of his tongue and while I don't know if Gordon Ramsay gets a mention in Medium Raw,Bourdain does like him as a person but hates Hell's Kitchen with the passion of a thousand fiery suns.

Kitchen Nightmares is more up Bourdain's alley,which makes sense given his work and life experience. Both shows are watchable,for completely different reasons,not to mention that Gordon's British shows have a more down to earth tone to them than the ones produced for the U.S. I do see what Bourdain means about Gordon's nicer side,even tho I've only had the American versions of his shows to watch:

It may be awhile before I get to Medium Raw but no doubt it will certainly be worth the wait. Anthony Bourdain can be a tough customer but he does have his softer side,which ,like most of the best cuts of meat,needs a slow simmer and time to rest after coming out of the pan before serving.

Don't get me wrong,my intention is not to put him in that "crusty old guy with a heart of gold" pigeonhole,however he is as human as the rest of us. At the end of the day,Bourdain is one of those world weary souls who still has a few great stories to tell and would make for a world class dinner guest to bring home on a whim:

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