Book Review: Bourdain Can Cook Up Some Stories As Well As Good Food

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly is an autobiography written by the late Anthony Bourdain. It was first published in 2000 and has probably had an update or two over years. Bourdain had died by suicide in 2018, which is very unfortunate. I am no student of the culinary arts, and I really followed Gordon Ramsay because I find his explosive temper rather entertaining. I have missed out on most of the Bourdain experience and only read this book since I am in a book club that chose this one for the month of March 2021. It turns out that I actually found quite a bit to appreciate about this selection in spite of my lack of kitchen expertise.

Bourdain uses his words to paint very vivid imagery of the restaurant culture, particularly of the 1970’s and 1980’s. He throws out very creative analogies as easily as one would expect him to whip up a uniquely delicious omelet or something. There is also the unflinching account of his struggles with drug addiction during his early years in the biz. He did manage to avoid a lot of detail about that and how is was he finally lay that demon to rest, at least back then. Bourdain obviously had plenty of demons which led to his tragic decision to end his own extraordinary life, and the book sort of opens one’s eyes a little to some of those struggles. Assuming of course there is not a ghostwriter, I am going to consider Bourdain as talented a writer as he was a chef. I will take the word of others when it comes to judgment on his gifts as a presenter. His colorful and complicated personality was easy to detect in this book and I am sure those who are more familiar with his television presence will recognize his voice easily enough throughout the many tales. I know that he has other literary examples out there, so I may try out some of those as well in my own efforts to add a bit more diversity in my reading indulgences.

Even for those of us with no culinary talent or ambition, I will say Kitchen Confidential does contain plenty of wisdom and entertainment within its pages. It also deepens my sense of sorrow that such a talented man who had such an impact on a culture and apparently helped and influenced individuals with their own troubles to a more constructive path could not find any reason to stay in this world a little longer.

Even though I do strive for newer and more unfamiliar pastures in my literary choices, I am not abandoning my old favorites. I think I have earned a visit back to familiar furnishings of 221 B Baker Street where Sherlock Holmes has another cursed diamond or trinket to find in The Crusader’s Curse by Start Douglas.

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