“…your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the RIDE.” Anthony Bourdain (Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly)
Anthony Bourdain has ripped the roof off of the ‘back kitchen’ with his show,
Bourdain rides the rail between insulting and shocking. I like his sacrilegious approach to food in an era that is becoming more rarefied every day. He does take it to the limit with attacks on vegans, “Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans … are the enemy of everything good and decent in spirit.” There seems to be the same separation of folks rich and poor, that the economy is experiencing, like the prix fixe at Per Se – chef’s Tasting Menu at $295, in the hallowed halls of the collection of the richest people in the World, the Time Warner Building.
But back to Anthony, not the food. He seems intent on offending his way across America with chain-smoking, which cannot sharpen his professional taste buds, and his abrasive manner. Nonetheless he does get his hands dirty. We admire his immersion to certain foods, Cajun, Korean, and carnivorous foods of many sorts. He has cojones.
A recent review of Bourdain’s favorite food blog by Regina Schrambling, reveled to me why this blog makes him feel good about himself, it is snarky, vicious and condescending.
A number of years ago, encouraged by a cultural writer friend in New York, Richard David Story, I read Kitchen Confidential. I was shocked! The amount of short cuts and deception that the kitchen condones is staggering. The one notion I gleaned from this book to this day is, “If the bathroom is dirty, imagine what the kitchen looks like.” Anthony Bourdain’s blustery personality was just gaining momentum.
Bourdain’s frequent presence on the Travel Channel brings a bravado to the otherwise sometimes staid survey of our globe, and I like it!
Here are some jewels from Bourdain’s culinary verbal quiver:
“To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. “
“I lurched away from the table after a few hours feeling like Elvis in Vegas – fat, drugged, and completely out of it.”
“Few things are more beautiful to me than a bunch of thuggish, heavily tattooed line cooks moving around each other like ballerinas on a busy Saturday night. Seeing two guys who’d just as soon cut each other’s throats in their off hours moving in unison with grace and ease can be as uplifting as any chemical stimulant or organized religion.”
The cuisine business, as respected three-star chef Scott Bryan explains it, attracts ‘fringe elements’, people for whom something in their lives has gone terribly wrong. Maybe they didn’t make it through high school, maybe they’re running away from something, be it an ex-wife, a rotten family history, trouble with the law, a squalid Third World backwater with no opportunity for advancement.
Paula Deen is “hardly the worst person in America, just the most destructive influence on [Food Network].”
When asked about his food heroes, Bourdain responded: “Fergus Henderson, Martin Picard, Mario Batali (image below), Eric Ripert, Jim Harrison. And dead guys: A. J. Liebling, M. F. K. Fisher, Ludwig Bemelmans.” There seems to be a history of rebels in the culinary league, some dress this way, some behave this way and some just look this way. Would you buy a slice from this man?
American always reveres the Bad Boys, be it James Dean or Clyde Chestnut Barrow, so Anthony Bourdain is just another version in a new arena for badness. He has a place in the effete pantheon of foodies.