Let me start off by saying that I’m not a big fan of Anthony Bourdain. I never quite enjoyed his show ‘No Reservations’ on TLC – it was way too snobbish and gross and completely off-putting what with this constant potshots on the Food Network chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Rachel Ray (who I think are pretty darn ok in their own way for n00bs like me) for the most part. But that’s just me – I don’t eat red meat (least of all, not the uncooked ‘exotic’ versions of it) which Bourdain seems to live off!
I picked up this book expecting a story of his culinary adventures. What I got was a little bit of the culinary part and loads of the other behind-the-scenes looks of what happens in a restaurant kitchen. Well, I’m not the right audience for it, that much I know now. So I’m still not very sure about the 2 star rating, mind you – I think my expectations from the book were wrong and the book, per se, is a good one still.
The book chronicles Bourdain’s rise from nothing to the celeb chef he is today – from his pot-head days working as a dishwasher to becoming a line cook and then a chef. And it gives a no holds barred story of the ‘culinary underbelly’ like the title rightly suggests. The high-pressure kitchens during rush hours, the demands of being a chef (any chef, not just a celeb one), the various parties that keep a kitchen running – they’re all here. If you ever want to start your own restaurant and be a chef, this book might be a good start.
But for a foodie like me, who’s only interested in how to make good food for me and my family – well, the only interesting bits were around the 25% mark where he talks about the essentials of good cooking – what basic knives you need to possess, what are your must-have spices and sauces, etc. This part I thoroughly enjoyed (even made some notes!)
All in all, a good book if your interests are in the way a restaurant kitchen works rather than your own personal one in your home. And of course, if you’re a Bourdain fan-boy. Which I’m definitely not.