Bourdain, Anthony 1956-
Bourdain, Anthony 1956-
Born 1956, in Leonia, NJ; son of Pierre (a record executive) and Gladys (an editor for the New York Times) Bourdain; married Nancy Putkoski. Education: Attended Vassar College and Culinary Institute of America.
Home—New York, NY.
Writer, chef. Brasserie Les Halles, New York, NY, executive chef, beginning 1998. Former chef at Supper Club and later at Vince & Linda at One Fifth, both New York, NY; star of television series A Cook's Tour, Food Network, 2002, and No Reservations, Travel Channel/Discovery Communications, Inc., beginning 2005.
Food Book of the Year award, Guild of Food Writers Awards, 2002, for A Cook's Tour.
Bone in the Throat: A Novel of Death and Digestion, Villard Books (New York, NY), 1995.
Gone Bamboo (novel), Villard Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (nonfiction), Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2000.
Typhoid Mary: An Urban Historical (nonfiction), Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2001.
A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines (nonfiction), Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2001.
Bobby Gold (fiction), Canongate Crime (Edinburgh, Scotland), 2002, published as The Bobby Gold Stories, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2003.
(With José de Meirelles and Philippe Lajaunie) Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking, photographs by Robert DiScalfani, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2004.
The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones (nonfiction), Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2006.
Author of introduction to Fergus Henderson's The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating, CCC (New York, NY), 2004.
Kitchen Confidential was adapted as a television sitcom of the same title by Fox, 2005.
Anthony Bourdain has spent more than twenty-five years in the restaurant industry, most recently as the executive chef at Manhattan's Brasserie Les Halles. Few people know more than Bourdain about the process of planning and preparing gourmet restaurant fare, so when Bourdain began to publish exposés about the restaurant industry, both insiders and their customers paid close attention. After the New Yorker printed his article, "Don't Eat before Reading This," in 1999, Bourdain was invited to address the realities of behind-the-scenes preparation of haute cuisine for a full-length book. The resulting title, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, became a bestseller that put the hard-living, Hunter Thompsonesque Bourdain on the literary map. According to Jerry Adler in Newsweek, Kitchen Confidential is "a gonzo memoir of what's really going on behind those swinging doors." Adler added: "In the annals of chef memoirs, KitchenConfidential by Anthony Bourdain is unique, and not only because he fails to provide a single recipe…. Instead of food, Bourdain writes about restaurants: cooking in them, eating in them, and certain other things that go on in them about which, until now, the less said the better."
Bourdain began working in restaurants as a teenager, and he admired the bravado and freewheeling behavior exhibited by the chefs. After briefly attending Vassar College, he enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America and completed its demanding program for gourmet chefs. During his early years in the business, he fueled himself for fourteen-hour, stress-laden work days by taking drugs. "I was the last person you'd want to employ in any capacity," he told a contributor for People magazine. Nevertheless, while he worked he observed, and his book reveals "cooking and the kitchen and the human circus of moral degenerates, dopeheads, thieves, drunks and psychopaths it attracts," to quote Margaret Sheridan in Restaurants & Institutions. Bourdain told the Knight-Ridder Tribune News Service: "I wanted very much for this book to have a sense of paranoia, and tunnel vision, and a colloquial twisted, dysfunctional view that a chef has on a Saturday night at 8 p.m."
Among its other revelations, Kitchen Confidential warns readers not to order fish on Mondays (because it has probably been sitting around since Friday), and to avoid Sunday brunch and well-done meats. Bourdain declares that any restaurant with a dirty bathroom has an even filthier kitchen, that bread and butter are recycled from customer to customer, and that strong sauces sometimes mask the odors of old meat. The book also details Bourdain's own personal journey through a career as a top chef, using the same strong language he employs when managing a busy kitchen. "Bourdain pulls no punches in this memoir," a Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote. The reviewer nevertheless felt that the author "has a tender side, and when it peeks through … the wall of four-letter words he constructs, it elevates this book to something more than blustery memoir."
Bourdain has also written several novels in which murder and mayhem are interwoven with the culinary arts. He cast the hero of Bone in the Throat: A Novel of Death and Digestion, his 1995 comic thriller, as a New York chef. The hero, Tommy Pagano, does not join the mob—much to the disappointment of certain members of his extended family—but instead trains as a chef. Nonetheless, Pagano becomes involved in brutal Cosa Nostra activities when he gets a job at a restaurant in Little Italy. He soon discovers that the FBI has created the restaurant as part of an operation to sting a mob loan shark.
A reviewer for Entertainment Weekly called the plot of Bone in the Throat "a dumbed-down version of The Godfather," and a Library Journal contributor offered a similarly negative assessment. But in the New York Times Book Review, Marilyn Stasio praised Bourdain's "clever narrative" and characterized his "comic vision" as "deliciously depraved." A Publishers Weekly contributor deemed the book "a perfect sendup of macho mobsters and feebs alike."
In Gone Bamboo, a freelance assassin and one of his surviving victims—a mafioso turned government witness—find themselves living as neighbors on a Caribbean island. In short order the erstwhile enemies discover that they have both been targeted for death by the same mob leader. A Publishers Weekly correspondent described the book as "a stylish mix of irony, snappy dialogue and amoral verve," declaring Bourdain to be "a new master of the wiseass crime comedy."
Bourdain wrote Kitchen Confidential, and his first novels as well, in the early morning hours before beginning his day's duties as a chef. "Writing is harder than cooking," he told Restaurants & Institutions. "In the restaurant I know how to do 300 covers, know how much we spend and take in. I've got figures. [With writing] you never know, you're never sure or satisfied."
Bourdain gained newfound celebrity with Kitchen Confidential, which led to further book contracts. With Typhoid Mary: An Urban Historical, he examines the life and times of Mary Mallon, an Irish immigrant in the early 1900s, who, as a cook infected with a harmless variety of the disease, passed the typhoid bacillus to several dozen victims, at least three of whom died. Failing to wash her hands properly after using the toilet, Mallon became an unwitting perpetrator. Yet when incarcerated and finally released after promising not to resume cooking, she did so under assumed names, again spreading typhoid to her customers. Bourdain took on this historical story from a chef's point of view, allowing readers to view the proceedings from Mallon's perspective. Reviewers were, on the whole, impressed with this historical outing. Booklist contributor Margaret Flanagan called it "an entertaining and suspenseful evocation of turn-of-the-century New York," while Adam Shatz termed it an "entertaining trifle" in the New York Times Book Review. Shatz further noted that Bourdain "presents Mallon's story as a tale of hot pursuit, with … rude gusto and barbed wit." Less positive was the assessment of Spectator critic Andrew Taylor, who felt Typhoid Mary was "occasionally mawkish, often speculative and sometimes less than convincing as a work of history." However, Journal of Community Health contributor Pascal James Imperato found more to like in the book, describing it as a "delightful tale full of drama and suspense leavened by humor." Imperato went on to observe: "With its delightful combinations of harsh facts, suppositions, insights, and empathetic understanding, [Typhoid Mary] represents a unique and fascinating re-telling of a century-old tale."
In 2002 Bourdain was sent on a worldwide tour of exotic dining in an attempt to find the perfect meal. His gastronomic adventures took him from Saigon, where he ingested the beating heart of a cobra, to dinner with Mafia bosses in Russia, and to the wonders of a deep-fried Mars bar in Scotland. The resulting book, A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines, also was adapted for a television series. Noting that "Bourdain has become an overnight sensation as unlikely as an upside-down tequila shot in a muffled nouvelle-cuisine dining room," Book critic James Sullivan called A Cook's Tour "laugh-out-loud funny at times, in an unapologetic, sophomoric sort of way."
Bourdain returned to fiction for his 2003 work, The Bobby Gold Stories, featuring an ex-con who is now an enforcer for a New York criminal by day, and a bouncer by night. Moonlighting, he meets the love of his life, Nikki, an enigmatic chef who wins Bobby over with her cooking. Together, this odd couple prepares the ultimate robbery, one that will send them into retirement. While People critic Max Alexander felt "the story is like a souffle that fails to rise," other reviewers had a higher assessment of the short novel. For example, a Kirkus Reviews critic felt "the chef wields his pen with the same murderously winning flair as he does his knives," and a Publishers Weekly reviewer thought readers would be "delighted by Bourdain's charming, nigged sensibility, like a modern-day Damon Runyon, and his gourmet blend of wit, suspense and style." Similarly, King Kaufman, writing in the New York Times Book Review, commented: "Bourdain whips up a Manhattan tale with Elmore Leonard flavor."
In Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking, the eminent chef returns to the kitchen for an irreverent look at the cooking trade. His book offers recipes and many insider tips on the craft of cooking, all in his "signature wise-ass" style, as a Publishers Weekly contributor noted. Lisa McLaughlin, writing in Time, noted of the book: "If you can get past all the cussing, this cookbook could be your new best friend in the kitchen." Similarly, Restaurant Hospitality contributor Bob Krummert concluded: "By studying this book, you and your staff can become part of this exclusive club of kitchen warriors."
Bourdain collects newspaper and magazine articles and some new essays on cooking in his 2006 The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones, a "vibrant discourse on satisfying hungers of every kind," according to a Kirkus Reviews critic. Bourdain casts his cynical eye on topics from overrated Las Vegas chefs to the horrors of "family" restaurants and the delights of old-fashioned French bistros, organizing his topics by flavors: "salty, sweet, sour, bitter, umami (a Japanese term for an inexplicable taste) and a taste of fiction," as Emma Sussex explained in Business Traveller Asia Pacific. Sussex went on to note: "Bourdain doesn't miss a beat in his fast and funny compilation." A Publishers Weekly writer had similar praise for the work, calling The Nasty Bits "an entertaining feast from the detritus of [Bourdain's] years of cooking and traveling." Bruce Handy, writing in the New York Times Book Review, described the book as "a mix of the inspired, the slightly less inspired, the plainly written-to-some-editor's-specifications and the occasionally random or perfunctory—a hash, in this case, of memoir, travelogue, essay and reportage." Handy also called Bourdain "a vivid and witty writer, but his greatest gift is his ability to convey his passion for professional cooking." Similarly, Shelley Brown, writing in Library Journal, commended Bourdain's "passion for food, pungent writing, and knowledge of the culinary world."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Book, January-February, 2002, James Sullivan, review of A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines, p. 66; May-June, 2003, James Sullivan, review of The Bobby Gold Stories, p. 82.
Booklist, September 1, 1997, David Pitt, review of Gone Bamboo, p. 62; June 1, 2000, review of Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the CulinaryUnderbelly, p. 1827; April 15, 2001, Margaret Flanagan, review of Typhoid Mary: An Urban Historical, p. 1528; May 1, 2003, Keir Graff, review of The Bobby Gold Stories, p. 1534; May 15, 2006, Max Knoblauch, review of The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones, p. 13.
Bookseller, August 20, 2002, review of A Cook's Tour, p. 29.
Business Traveller Asia Pacific, March, 2006, "Anthony Bourdain," p. 16; November, 2006, Emma Sussex, review of The Nasty Bits, p. 22.
Caterer & Hotelkeeper, March 21, 2002, "Top Chefs Take Literary Awards," p. 53; December 2, 2004, review of Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking, p. 57.
Entertainment Weekly, August 4, 1995, review of Bone in the Throat: A Novel of Death and Digestion, p. 53; May 26, 2006, Jennifer Reese, review of The Nasty Bits, p. 109.
Journal of Community Health, June, 2002, Pascal James Imperato, review of Typhoid Mary, p. 230.
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2003, review of The Bobby Gold Stories, p. 409; March 1, 2006, review of The Nasty Bits, p. 217.
Knight-Ridder Tribune News Service, June 12, 2000, Elizabeth DeGivenchy, "Les Halles' Chef Anthony Bourdain Pens Book on Restaurant Industry," p. K6930.
Library Journal, June 1, 1995, review of Bone in the Throat, p. 158; April 1, 2001, Nathan Ward, review of Typhoid Mary, p. 112; October 15, 2004, Judith Sutton, review of Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook, p. 82; May 15, 2006, Shelley Brown, review of The Nasty Bits, p. 126.
Newsweek, May 15, 2000, Jerry Adler, "The Cook-And-Tell Chef," p. 54.
Newsweek International, March 10, 2003, "Anthony Bourdain: Too Hot in the Kitchen."
New York Times, April 12, 1995, review of Bone in the Throat, p. B4; September 17, 2005, David Carr, "Forget Star Chef; Think Professional Eater," p. B7; January 8, 2002, Laura Shapiro, review of A Cook's Tour (television series), B10.
New York Times Book Review, August 6, 1995, Marilyn Stasio, review of Bone in the Throat, p. 23; May 13, 2001, Adam Shatz, review of Typhoid Mary, p. 9; June 2, 2002, review of A Cook's Tour, p. 25; November 15, 2002, Scott Veale, review of A Cook's Tour, p. 32; May 4, 2003, King Kaufman, review of The Bobby Gold Stories, p. 24; May 28, 2006, Bruce Handy, review of The Nasty Bits, p. 16.
People, August 14, 2000, "Reality Bites: New York City Chef Anthony Bourdain's Spicy Memoir Serves Up Real Dish about Big-League Kitchens," p. 81; May 12, 2003, Max Alexander, review of The Bobby Gold Stories, p. 47.
Publishers Weekly, May 15, 1995, review of Bone in the Throat, p. 56; July 28, 1997, review of Gone Bamboo, p. 54; April 24, 2000, review of Kitchen Confidential, p. 74; April 14, 2003, review of The Bobby Gold Stories, p. 49; September 15, 2004, review of Les Halles Cookbook, p. 72; March 20, 2006, review of The Nasty Bits, p. 51.
Restaurant Business, September 1, 1999, Meredith Petran, "Anthony Bourdain," p. 38.
Restaurant Hospitality, January, 2005, Bob Krummert, review of Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook, p. 20.
Restaurants & Institutions, August 15, 2000, Margaret Sheridan, "On Life in the Kitchen and the Wages of Fame," p. 23.
Spectator, March 5, 2005, Andrew Taylor, review of Typhoid Mary, p. 49.
Time, November 29, 2004, Lisa McLaughlin, "Recipe for Making Trouble," p. 153.
U.S. News & World Report, May 29, 2000, Linda Kulman, "This Tell-All Chef Gives an Inside Look at Dining Out," p. 65.
Anthony Bourdain Home Page,http://www.anthonybourdain.com (February 21, 2007).
Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (February 21, 2007), "Anthony Bourdain."