Book Nook: Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain

I never actually watched No Reservation. I’m probably about as snobby as it gets and having not seen that show. So, I have only been tangentially aware of the aura of Anthony Bourdain. But after grabbing John Currence’s book over the summer, and knowing their friendship, I decided to correct a long overdue miss in my reading repertoire–the book that put Bourdain on the map: Kitchen Confidential.

Kitchen Confidential is now 22 years old, and after Bourdain’s suicide a few years back, this was a posthumous introduction for me. I did the audiobook, read by the author. I love listening to autobiographies read by the subject, and this was no exception. In fact, I would say this is one I think it is probably much better consumed that way. The last book in a similar vein for me was Nick Offerman’s Build Your Own Canoe. Hearing the inflection and humility in the reading just adds so much.

And after reading this, I do intend to spend more time in the Bourdainverse, knowing that verse is now finite. Aura is the word that comes to mine immediately. He has it. Crude? Yes. Crass? Yes. Self-Destructive? Also, yes. But in all that, hearing his stories, you still come away liking the guy. He tells you how awful of a person he is. You still want to hang out with him. He tells you all the reasons you should not, and could not work in the culinary world. And yet still put down the book thinking “you know, I think I might want to try that”. That is/was Bourdain’s special skill, as far as I can tell. Being a sardonic asshole that you can’t help but like.

Bourdain is a story teller. People, atmosphere, incidents. Even when he is rattling off a list of a bunch of dishes I’ve never heard of or can even spell, he gives the sense that he knows you don’t know, but that is kind of the point of the story.

Of course, reading this after his suicide, as a reader I was listening for signs. In the lushness of all these vivid stories, was their a clue to the mental state. He is self-deprecating, but that can mean many things. With hindsight, I would say yeah, you can pick up on some things. But a) i’m not a professional and b) i’m not a professional.

So, yeah, sorry it took me 22 years to get to this one. My TBR list is a little out of control.


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