25 June 2011

Weekend Cooking: Review: Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain

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Love him or hate him, few people are neutral when it comes to Anthony Bourdain. It seems only fitting, though, because Bourdain himself is rarely neutral in his opinions.

In the years after he wrote his first memoir (Kitchen Confidential), Bourdain found himself in the rather awkward situation of being a member of the gang of celebrity chefs that he once raked over the coals. Although this has made him somewhat more generous in his assessment of some food stars, he has not--thank god-- lost his bite. Bourdain still calls a spade a spade.

In Medium Raw Bourdain reflects on food trends, the Food Network, friends and enemies, fatherhood, and memorable meals. Bourdain may have mellowed a bit, but he doesn't back down from naming his villains and heroes. You may be surprised by who fits in which column; for example, Alice Waters = evil but Jamie Oliver = good. Bourdain isn't flippant in his name-calling, though, devoting a whole chapter to the likes of Alice and a couple of pages to Jamie.

Some of the more interesting parts of the book are his insider assessments of meals, restaurants, and industry leaders. Bourdain takes us from the streets of Vietnam to the poshest establishments in New York City, describing dishes, tastes, and drinks in such detail that you have to stop reading every once in a while to try to imagine what you're missing. Throughout, he addresses current food trends and American sensibilities, makes predictions, and offers advice (his "grandma rule" is one I've always believed in too).

Bourdain is as hard on himself as he is on his peers. The stories he tells about his past are not always pretty, but what we learn of his current family life is reassuring, showing just how smart he has been about his unexpected success. Just in case you think he's gotten sappy, have no fear: The memoir is pure Bourdain, still upset about a lot of what he sees, but no longer just plain angry.

Give it me quickly: Although somewhat mellowed, Anthony Bourdain has lost none of his trademark wit and bite in his latest look at food, restaurants, celebrity chefs, and American tastes.

Medium Raw at Powell's
Medium Raw at Book Depository
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by HarperCollins / Ecco, 2011 (paperback)
ISBN-13: 9780061718953
YTD: 59
Source: review (see review policy).
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Marg 6/25/11, 6:31 AM  

I havent watched much Anthony Bourdain. I did however listen to a podcast with AA Gill and thought he was very entertaining to listen to.

Kate 6/25/11, 6:35 AM  

I can't wait to read this book, having enjoyed Kitchen Confidential (and having Typhoid Mary waiting for me at the library.) I'm equally keen to read his assessment of Alice Waters and Jamie Oliver - seems like an unusual point of view in the food world.

TheBookGirl 6/25/11, 6:36 AM  

I can't seem to get enough of these celebrity chef memoirs...love the Food Network shows too. This is definitely on my TBR list. Glad to hear that the book stays true to his acid witty personna :)

Col (Col Reads) 6/25/11, 6:44 AM  

This has been on my TBR for a while. I'm glad you liked it!

Carol @ There's Always Thyme to Cook 6/25/11, 7:41 AM  

It's been on my list, too! I thought his first one was a great read. His show was ok, didn't love the gross factor, but I enjoyed his personality. Great review.

Julie P. 6/25/11, 8:24 AM  

I should probably read his first book first! It's been on my wishlist for quite some time.

Nan 6/25/11, 9:18 AM  

I think I'm one of the people who just isn't interested in him. Too abrasive perhaps?

Gnoe (@Graasland) 6/25/11, 9:19 AM  

I think I'll pass on this one ;)

Diann @ The Thrifty Groove 6/25/11, 9:20 AM  

Well, this sounds like an interesting book. I have watched several of his shows. I will look for this book. Thanks for hosting and have a great weekend!

Beth S. 6/25/11, 9:50 AM  

My favorite part of the book was when he declared Jamie Oliver a food hero because of what he's doing to improve school lunches in America. That had to be a huge pill for him to swallow given how much crap he's given to Oliver in the past.

I have a love/hate relationship with Bourdain. I love him because of how incredibly honest and candid he is, but I hate him because of how much crap he gives to Food Network stars that I really like. Then again, the very beginning of this book gave some great insight as to why he's so resentful of the Food Network.

Beth S. 6/25/11, 9:53 AM  

P.S. Here is my review of the book from a year ago:


Sandy Nawrot 6/25/11, 10:06 AM  

I bought Kitchen Confidential once in an airport when I was scared I'd run out of reading material (ha!). I need to get to it.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 6/25/11, 10:17 AM  

"somewhat mellowed" :)

I haven't yet read KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL, which I'd want to do, to get the full context for his (slightly) changed style.

Rikki 6/25/11, 10:33 AM  

I have read Kitchen confidentials and quite liked it. This one sounds like an entertaining read.

Margot 6/25/11, 10:51 AM  

I've been looking forward to this book. I'm glad to hear it still has Bourdain's classic bite and wit while looking at the food world. I am surprised at his take on Alice Waters, but then again, I should know not to be surprised at Bourdain's opinions.

Zibilee 6/25/11, 11:43 AM  

I am also of two minds about Bourdain. I love the way he tries different things and isn't afraid to be honest, but often he comes off as a little brash and too opinionated for my liking. That totally wouldn't stop me from reading this book though, because, like everyone else, I'd like to be privy to all the juicy details he has to share. Great review on this one.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti 6/25/11, 12:12 PM  

I enjoyed Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" as it opened my eyes to a side the food and restaurant industry I was unaware of. I'd love to read "Medium Raw" next.

caite 6/25/11, 12:52 PM  

I am not sure that I want to see him at all mellowed..

Andi 6/25/11, 1:12 PM  

So glad you reviewed this one! I can't wait to read it. So far A Cook's Tour is my favorite of his books. One thing I've always admired about Bourdain is his reverence for tradition and culture. It sounds like some of that has carried over into this book, and I am excited to learn more about his family life. If he hadn't mellowed a little bit in his aging, I think I'd find that a bit sad!!!! It's to be expected. One's hair can't remain completely, blazingly on fire forever.

Anonymous,  6/25/11, 2:45 PM  

I have yet to read any Bourdain, but he is on the someday list. I'm curious as to why he doesn't care for Alice Waters.

Veens 6/25/11, 3:09 PM  

Well I am participating for the 1st time in this meme :)

I really do not know this guy :-O!

Louise 6/26/11, 8:10 AM  

I've read a couple of Bourdain's books- Kitchen Confidential and Typhoid Mary. Both intriguing. But it was quite a while ago. I've only seen a little bit of him on tele, but have enjoyed that too. I've not heard of this particular book before, but it does sound intriguing.

Julie Goucher 6/26/11, 9:56 AM  

This sounds like an interesting book. Note to self look in the library tomorrow!

JoAnn 6/26/11, 9:59 AM  

I loved the audio version of KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL (read by the author, of course) and bought a print copy of Medium Raw for my husband. Thanks for reminding me that I meant to read this one, too!

Heather S-G 6/26/11, 12:43 PM  

I'm a Bourdain fan...although sometimes I wonder why, LOL! He's the kinda guy I hate to love ;) Thanks for hosting!

Lisa@ButteryBooks 6/26/11, 2:20 PM  

Sounds like an interesting read. I haven't read any of his books, not sure how much I would like them (conflict makes me uncomfortable :) ) but I think it would definitely keep my interest.

Joy Weese Moll 6/26/11, 3:56 PM  

My nephew mentions Bourdain a lot, I need to read this. I suspect I'll enjoy the tone-downed version better so perhaps this would be a good book to start with.

Peppermint Ph.D. 6/26/11, 6:15 PM  

I've had this one on my TBR for a while as well...need to get to it asap! :)

Ikkin-bot 6/26/11, 7:59 PM  

I really want to read this book! I just love Bourdain.

Jenners 6/26/11, 8:46 PM  

He is one of the very few "celebrity chefs" that I would be interested in meeting or reading or talking to. He does seem to tell it like it is ... glad to hear he's mellowed but not lost his bite.

Alice 6/28/11, 9:24 AM  

My mom would really love this. She's now in Sydney vacationing for three months visiting my sister.

I'm also playing this time and submitted my link that shows the famous Penang asam laksa. It's a soupy noodle dish. Enjoy!

Swapna 7/8/11, 11:23 AM  

I enjoyed this one as well. Great review.

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