Saturday, July 10, 2010

9 July 2010
Lauraine Jacobs

"MEDIUM RAW A bloody valentine to the world of food and the people who cook it."

A new title from Anthony Bourdain

Part One. You will love this book.
Tony Bourdain is one of the most opinionated food writers on the planet. We are all too familiar with the way he grabbed attention with Kitchen Confidential. ‘At last!’ we said, ‘A writer who calls it like it is.’ And he really did break open the disgraceful side of the restaurant world almost a decade ago. He’s grown up now, rejected the drugs and the over-drinking, got rid of his earring, and become a respectable father who lives in New York’s Upper East side and is obsessed with his lovely little daughter and her mother. Astonishing. And he has travelled more, even further than most chefs could ever dream of doing, continuing to shamelessly trade on his success, eating his way around the world, filming and writing. He has sassy opinions on almost all the stuff that people are concerned with and each chapter unveils a different story. His piece on why and how children should learn to cook is imminently sensible and possible. His treatise on why everyone should eat high quality meat is convincing. His ‘Heroes and Villains’ chapter is one of the funniest and most perceptive views of the big names in the food world and he has the guts to say exactly what he thinks. His put down of Alice Waters is bold and will make him no friends but it’s honest.
He’s clever. He pays homage to his best mate’s place (Eric Ripert at Le Bernadin, the top rating restaurant in NYC) by thinly disguising it as a story about the guy who cuts up the fish. But you’ll love him (the fish monger.) And you will be readily and royally captured by the quick flowing prose that doesn’t falter for a minute. Gossipy, juicy and an everything-laid-bare read that I would thoroughly recommend.

Part Two: You will hate this book.
Tony Bourdain dishes up the second helping of his debauched sad life with an over-opinionated view of everything and everyone in the culinary world who could possibly matter. He’s mean, he’s foul-mouthed and he uses the f-word on almost every page. (I tried to count them up but gave up at 52 by page 50.) He hates lots of good people, and holds grudges. He often takes far too long to get to his point, and spends pages on meals he’s eaten describing every mouthful or forkful. You will learn lots about his past sex life, and you will hate the way he uses sex as a metaphor for eating. You will think he’s a chauvinist but maybe you will love his wife Octavia. (She deserves to be loved as upon reading his chapter on Bourdain’s assessment of his meal at Alinea in Chicago, ‘the bitch’ as he calls her, jumped on a plane and flew there to check it out, eating alone. She loved the super lauded Grant Achatz’s food.)
And he slams the Food Network and most of the stars created there, who can’t cook well but have adoring fans around the world. Loads of people you have never heard of are written about and rarely praised. But then this was not written for you, nor for anyone else who’s a prude or has not eaten their way through New York and other top foodie spots around the world. I recommend you leave it on the shelf and go back to watching chefs fighting it out on TV.

Published by Harper Collins


This review first appeared on Lauraine Jacob's marvellous blog which for foodies is always worth a visit.
I fall into Lauraine's second camp - hate is probably too strong a word but I didn't like it at all, and in fact didn't finiosh it hence no review from me although I did post a review from The Guardian.. Pic of Lauraine below entertaining the large audince at last year's Waiheke Writers Festival.

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