Saturday, September 4, 2010

Recommended read: Medium Raw

Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain
NEW 641.5 BOU
Find it in the catalog!

In this book Anthony Bourdain writes on various food-related topics such as the basic cooking skills everyone should have, organic food, chemically treated hamburger meat ("I believe I should be able to treat my hamburger like food, not like infectious #@!%# medical waste."), the non-threatening personas preferred by Food Network, and Top Chef. He shares his opinions on people working in the industry today, whether they be chefs or food writers. Bourdain also talks about his life post-Kitchen Confidential, including becoming a father and the changes he's made to deal with the responsibilities of having a daughter and being a husband. He hilariously describes his methods for suggesting to his daughter that Ronald McDonald is one to be feared: "Kids don't give a @#$ about calorie count--or factory farming, or the impact that America's insatiable desire for cheap ground meat may have on the environment or our society's health....But cooties they understand."

In the chapter "I Lost on Top Chef" Bourdain writes about cheftestant Erik Hopfinger, who appeared on the Chicago season. As a fan of this show, it was interesting to read about the selection process of this chef and Bourdain's experience of being on the judging panel. In "Heroes and Villians" Bourdain doesn't hold back in letting you know who he thinks are the good guys in the food industry (he reserves an entire chapter to why he isn't a fan of food writer Alan Richman).

My favorite chapter is the one Bourdain devotes to his observations from a day spent watching Justo Thomas, a 47-year-old Dominican American who has worked in New York City for 20 years and is responsible for cutting all the fish for the well-reviewed seafood restaurant Le Bernardin. Bourdain is fascinated by the way Justo approaches the different types of fish and how quick and efficient his movements are; other Le Bernardin chefs walking by Justo's station are obviously proud of what Justo can do (three people are needed to fill in for Justo when he is gone). Later in the chapter Bourdain describes the experience of treating Justo to a meal at Le Bernardin, which is the first time Justo has ever eaten at the restaurant.

You'll want to pick this book up if you are a fan of either Anthony Bourdain or just plain old entertaining food writing. Bourdain's descriptions of food are intricately detailed (see chapter titled "Lust"). Bourdain's show on the Travel Channel, No Reservations, is celebrating its 100th episode with a marathon starting tomorrow at 8 AM. The special "100 is Not Enough" airs Monday at 8 PM before the airing of  the 100th episode at 9 PM.