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WGUC Reviews

The Nasty Bits

The Nasty Bits
by Anthony Bourdain

Review by: Craig R. Stafford

Executive Chef at Les Halles, host of the Travel Channel's program No Reservations, writer, and general culinary bad boy Anthony Bourdain's latest book is a collection of several of his never before collected non-fiction pieces that have appeared in magazines like Gourmet and Rolling Stone and also includes a short story.

Bourdain writes just as he talks on his television travel show; he's witty, enthusiastic, wry, and full of one undeleted expletive after another. He offers up his opinions with no holds barred and no apologies. He's not afraid to talk about his former addictions to cocaine and heroin when he's writing about a star falling of the sobriety wagon. He doesn't pull any punches when he questions why when so many kitchen staff are from Central and South America there aren't minorities at the James Beard Awards.

One of the most charming qualities of his writing is his enthusiasm for his subject. His interest and willingness to explore other cultures shows especially in the first piece of the book. He talks about sharing a freshly killed seal with an Arctic family. The description of a blood- daubed home and family definitely isn't for the faint hearted and yet Bourdain makes you see the generations of tradition and familial love that go into sharing the meal.

Of course, his enthusiasms aren't always displayed as warm fuzzies. You have no doubts that Bourdain feels strongly about chefs, the culinary world and its traditions-and has even stronger feelings about those he views as poseurs and prostitutes of the profession. His rant against the trend of celebrity chefs is an impassioned verbal spanking of Rocco DiSpirito-ouch!

Yet even at his most acerbic, you can practically hear him pausing for a drag on his cigarette, just an eye-twinkle away from making a fabulously sarcastic observation.

He and food writer Michael Ruhlman spend a lost weekend in Las Vegas exploring restaurants by such culinary superstars as Bobby Flay and Thomas Keller in-between less savory activities. I must say that if I was going to have a lost weekend in Vegas, Bourdain with his seemingly endless capacity for debauchery would definitely be my first choice of partners. Who better to know exactly in which diner to have the obligatory morning-after breakfast of grease, salt, and more grease!

The weakest part of the collection is the fiction piece. Set, of course, in a restaurant, it's full of the sarcastic banter you'd expect from a Bourdain story but the plot itself is phyllo dough thin and entirely predictable. But that's the only misstep in an otherwise perfectly delicious book.


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