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BOOK REVIEW: MEDIUM RAW

January 8, 2011

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People who Cook.

by Anthony Bourdain

HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS | June 8, 2010 | Hardcover

Us foodies have would-be foodie gods and if any of them should lead the pantheon it would be Anthony Bourdain, no contest. His TV show No Reservations’ is high art. He can put all the cynical spin on it, but what he presents is a no bullshit look at cultures and their food culture.

His latest book Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People who Cook.is more of his off-the-cuff mental musings on plenty of subjects related to the food world. The book isn’t a straight narrative, it’s somewhat disjointed. You could think of it as a compilation of booklets or pamphlets. Each chapter is a self contained idea unrelated to the others.

When he meanders on his disgraceful lifestyle prior to writing Kitchen Confidential, it quickly gets long in the tooth, perhaps because junkies’ lives follow the same basic script and gives me a feeling déjà vu. But in the end you breathe a sigh of relief because, well, he’s made. He made it out and made good on his life – look at his life now, how could you doubt that?

Where he shines is when he goes full-on-evil-Bourdain and lets everyone have it.  A whole chapter to destroying the contemptible Alan Richman, a critic who gave Bourdain’s previous employer, Les Halles a really shitty review to get back at Bourdain for criticizing remarks made by Richman about post-Katrina New Orleans. The chapter’s title is Alan Richman is a Douchebag.

But he spares no one, no chef, no critic, even himself, going over his more controversial elements and deconstructing them and also gives aspiring chefs the truth about making it in the business. It ain’t pretty. The book provides the single greatest quote about restoration I’ve ever read:

“It says something about a person when you put chicken Caesar on the menu. You’ve crossed a line and you know it. It’s the chef version of sucking Ron Jeremy’s cock. If you do it late in your career, any notions of future stardom are usually pretty much out the window.”

It took me almost 10 minutes to calm down after the hysterical laughing stopped. This says so much about the status of restoration that I could expand on this quote for pages of pages.

However the publisher could have put some effort in editing of this book. It feels as if they let MS Word do the correction and didn’t bother to even review the text. There are so many mistakes it feel rushed and unbecoming of a book. There were some serious typos, missing words, incorrect words, syntax errors, grammatical errors; it was bewildering that it made it past the editors. Errors so frustrating one has to re-read the sentence over and over again in order to figure out what’s being said. Which is disheartening considering that Bourdain is one smart dude who can send you running for a dictionary with the quality of language. Bourdain is undeniably one well read fellow.

All in all, a wonderful read for any chef or foodie. Medium Raw is well done.

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