I like Anthony Bourdain, but for about a week, it seemed like he was turning up on just about every show I listen to for an interview about his latest book, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook. His rant about the wisdom (or lack thereof) of becoming a chef got featured every time. Mainly he says he is the perfect example of what not to do if you want to be a great chef. What he doesn’t need to say is that he’s the perfect example of a great ranter.
The book has plenty of great eating moments, but it’s mostly about people, hating and loving people in the food world, at varying lengths, with absolutely no concern about whether or not you have any idea who these people are.
My favorite chapter of hate is about the time he spent stuck on St. Barth’s with a crazy rich woman. He writes:
I soon found out that to move in this woman’s poisonous orbit was to willingly attach oneself to a sinister global network of Italian art collectors, creepy Russian oligarchs, horny Internet billionaires, the wrinkled ex-wives of Indonesian despots, princelings from kingdoms that long age ceased to exist, mistresses of African dictators, former-hookers-turned-millionaireses, and the kind of people who like hanging around with such people — or who make their living doing so.
I think we used to call these people “jet-sitters” and hang out with each other, eating mediocre food at insane prices. It’s all rather mystifying.
My favorite chapter of love is about Primo Justo, the man who cleans and portions the fish at Le Bernadin. Tony just watches him take fish apart, fish by fish. He never resorts to summarizing what Justo is doing. It’s beautifully done.
I could see someone getting tired of hearing about what Tony thinks, the food he likes, the people he admires, and maybe a little musing about what lessons he’s learned. But this is a guy who makes a living going to town markets and eating street food. I like his attitude and his frankness. I think what he learned from those people on St. Barth’s is never to be a phony.