Wine and Walnuts

A blog about eating, drinking, cooking and reading in the not so Deep South

Good Reads: Anthony Bourdain

Me, Anthony Bourdain, and my friend Sara

Me, Anthony Bourdain, and my friend Sara

The best books I’ve read in the last couple of years have been food and/or wine-related.  They are just about the only books I‘ve read of late, other than the occasional personal development or business book.  I mention this because I’ve always been an avid reader, was an English major as an undergrad, had to read all the standard stuff — Henry James, James Joyce, Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, and so on, as well as many other great writers.  And I love great literature, I do, but there is something, oh I don’t know, just beyond about reading good food and wine lit.  It makes you hungry.  It makes you thirsty.  It makes you want to cook and eat and drink.  It makes you want get off your sofa and have experiences.  And it feels like if you read a book that actually makes you want to get up, leave the comfort of your home, and go to the market or the bar or the restaurant or the wine store, then that is a good read, indeed, and one worth sharing with others.

So every now and then here, I’d like to share a food and wine book I’ve loved. Feel free to suggest others in the comments section, I’m always on the search for a good food and wine read!

The Nasty Bits:  Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones
by Anthony Bourdain

I just recently started reading this again. Testosterone-driven, yes, but highly entertaining, especially if you’ve ever worked in a restaurant.  I remember when I was married, and my husband, a sous-chef, brought home Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential.  I couldn’t put it down.  So fast forward a few years, and my best friend Ronda gives me this book as a gift.  A few months after that, I’m in DC visiting friends, and get to go to a talk entitled, “Three Chefs,” featuring Michel Richard, José Andrés, and Anthony Bourdain, where I get my book signed and my pic taken with the guy!  Fun stuff.

But I love this book most, I think, because having worked in restaurants for over ten years, I find much of what he writes about highly relatable.  And he loves what he does, which shines through on every page.  If you’ve seen the show No Reservations, you know what to expect.  Profane, irreverent, sometimes raunchy — all in a good, entertaining way, mind you — but as a thirty year veteran of the food scene, you get truly a behind-the-scenes view, one you’re not likely to get in the same way with any other food writer.  And he calls out all the bullshit.  When I was reading the chapter on Vegas restaurants and Bobby Flay, to name just one famous chef who has made that town an outpost, I braced myself, thinking, “He’s gonna flay Bobby Flay!” But he doesn’t. 

He IS dead-on honest, though, about the food and restaurant experiences he has, famous chef or no.  For example, see the chapter on celebrity chefdom, where he offers up “the cautionary tale of Rocco DiSpirito.”  (Ooooh, remember him, girls?  The very attractive and charismatic young chef from the three-star Union Pacific who then got his own show on the Food Network? Tall and handsome and Italian? Yep, that’s the one.)  Very entertaining chapter, like celebrity gossip for foodies.

And Bourdain is a good writer.  I remember being entertained by Kitchen Confidential, but it was only with this book that I thought, “Damn, this guy can really write!”  If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, this book will make you feel validated and respected for having put your time in the trenches.  And if you‘ve never been a part of that crazy but satisfying world, you may find yourself thinking you missed something.  Either way, you’ll be entertained.

sweet and demure as you'll ever see him. . .

sweet and demure as you'll ever see him. . .

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About The Author

Kimberly Houston


3 Responses to “Good Reads: Anthony Bourdain”

  1. Jennifer says:

    You write a very lovely book review. P.S. Remember to watch Anthony Bourdain’s Cleveland episode! You can find it in installments on youtube.

  2. Ronda says:

    Bourdain’s genius is in highlighting the grit behind the glitz. Most chefs want us to believe their gossamer wings are real.

  3. Exactly right! What I love is that he not only highlights the grit, but makes those poor souls who haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing it feel left out! Restaurant folk as a tribe, sort of. (Just read Seth Godin’s “Tribes,” so this idea is resonating with me right now.)

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