Friday, June 30, 2006

Kitchen Confidential

Loving it. Not so crazy about Anthony Bourdain, but that's life. It's not the arrogance, the drug use, or the swearing, but the cynicism and negativity that I don't like about him. He is, in the end, pretty unsparing in his self-portrait, which is admirable. I just don't like his constant description of the paying customers as rubes, hicks, idiots, suckers. It especially bothers me the way he has so much attitude about out-of-towners in New York. People that come to a restaurant with a good reputation for a nice evening out, excited to be in the big city -- how are they supposed to know the food is really lousy ahead of time? Does he really think that nobody who ever gets ripped off by a big-name restaurant can tell the difference? After the fact, what, exactly, are they supposed to do? Not go there anymore?

You have to hand it to the guy for hard work though. Even if you discount his own description, I've read about line cooking elsewhere. Anyone who stays in the business is by definition a machine. And I love his descriptions of work both in the kitchen and around it. I'm not sure we share the same taste in food. It's my experience that people who smoke are not so good at appreciating subtle flavors, tending more to like spicy foods that can still have an impact on their numbed taste buds. So where I say subtle, they would say bland.

I've never lived in New York, never spent too much time there, but this book just seems to reek of an attitude and outlook on life peculiar to that city. It's an interesting combination of simultaneous self-loathing and superiority to the rest of the world. It took me a long time to say this, since I grew up on the East Coast myself, and love it there, but I like California better.


Anonymous Lesley said...

Great description---almost captures my feeling exactly. I would not praise him for his self-deprication. He seems evil. Have you ever seen him on TV? He has this aura of "I-am-so-better-than-you-cause-I-can-cook!" Dude--- chefs are not the most admirable people in the world. You don't have a gift, you have a skill.

10:43 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

What she said.

9:22 PM  
Blogger Vivian said...

Good chefs have the gift, just like people gifted in other areas of life, it does not make one a better person. Now about the author's attitude, I've heard that it's a New Yorker thing, and I've heard the same thing about people from San Francisco, LA, and I've seen it myself in Beijing, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. So it might just be a big city thing.

2:39 PM  

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