Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook
304 pages; Ecco
Before I start this review, I have a confession to make. I love Anthony Bourdain. No, I don’t love him in the I’m going to leave my husband and camp outside of AB’s Upper West Side apartment type of love. But rather love in that I’ve read all of his book and am big fan.
The first time I read Kitchen Confidential I felt I was in the middle of something important. I had always been curious about the inner-workings of the restaurant life and this book opened the swinging doors and let me into that world. I was shocked and impressed and mildly amused. I inhaled the book like I would a plate of fettuccine Alfredo and went back for seconds. I was hooked. I checked out all of his books from the library and followed his television career. When I was in NYC I walked by Les Halles but didn’t take a picture because I was late meeting a friend. I did bask in its glory much like I did when I walked by Chelsea Hotel. When I interviewed for my current job my boss asked me what my dream job would be and I told him I wanted to produce Anthony Bourdain’s travel show. So, I was incredibly excited when I found out Bourdain had a new book out and impatiently waited for my copy at the library.
Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook picks up 10 years after Kitchen Confidential left off. The dust has settled a bit, we’ve all gotten older, matured a bit and are a little rounder around the midsection.
This is is Bourdain’s 10th book and 7th work of non-fiction. Like Kitchen Confidential and The Nasty Bits, Medium Raw is a collections of essays on everything from celebrity TV chefs, the restaurant industry and autobiographical bits about Antony’s life before and after his divorce. We peek into famous kitchens to see what’s cooking and how they operate and get updates on some of the more colorful characters we were introduced to in Kitchen Confidential.
Bourdain shines when his snark is allowed to roam free and skewer celebrity TV chefs but his souffle falls flat when he goes deeper to write about Wagyu beef and up and coming chefs. The glimpse he gives us into Eric Ripert’s kitchen is truly mind-blowing but he tends to repeat himself and lets his topics wander. I have to agree with the NY Times book reviewer who didn’t exactly hate the book but felt it was in serious need of an editor.
Tony leaves no drug un-snorted and the booze is always flowing. He gives us the raunchy and not so happy moments of his life. He rambles, he rants, he repeats. He skewers Alice Waters and admits he should have sold out a long time ago. It’s a nice look into Bourdain’s life beyond the books and interviews.
I really, really wanted to like this book and I did to a point. It’s not a bad book, but I finished it feeling like I had eaten an unsatisfying meal. It smelled good, it just didn’t deliver.