on 12 February 2003
A friend of mine bought me "Kitchen Confidential" for my birthday. It led to me going out and searching for offset-serated knives, sagely telling people to "avoid the swordfish" and was a damn-good read.
I holidayed in Vietnam and Cambodia last year and so I was well chuffed to find that Bourdain's follow up was a foodie-travel book including visits to these places. His descriptions of Saigon and back-water Cambodia are spot-on, as is his descriptions of the food. Plus there is loads of good stuff about Portugal, France and even fish'n'chips!
I read this book on two train trips, ensconsed in the restaurant car with cheap red wine, reminiscing about my own travels, salivating over the descriptions of the food and cackling to myself at the killer one-liners.
on 18 December 2001
After simply having to get my hands on this book following 'Kitchen Confidential' I was certainly not dissapointed. Feeling part of the adventure I felt his pain following the dodgy 'tete au veux' and the excitement of the pig feast in Portugal, and mellowing out on mind enhancing substances in Morocco. I do so wish I could have been there to taste all there was to offer. Written in his own unique style this book certainly makes any vacu-packed food from the supermarket seem dull in the extreme. Thoroughly enjoyable, I really could not put it down until I had devoured every chapter, I now think its time for seconds.
on 23 November 2002
Since I haven't been able to travel a lot the past five years this book really has been a treat to me. The thing with Bourdain is not the fact that he is a chef. He is a natural writing talent, In his previous book, Kitchen Confidential, he could just as well had been telling the story about a guy working as a brick layer. It is his ability to tell a story that makes him so readable. Of course, food and eating, is an important part of experiencing a foreign country, and Bourdain certainly makes great sacrifices when he is eating "mountain rectum" in Japan. He makes me want to go there. Just as well as he makes me want to visit Vietnam. This is travelling without moving at it's best.
on 14 June 2014
Don't let anyone fool you. This isn't a recipe book. It's barely even a food book. What it is, is worship of the best kind, covering as it does, where Mr. Bourdain, now very familiar to us Brits as a judge who won't mince his words on a cookery competition show on Channel 4.
Aside form describing how not to make a travel show, he writes with eloquence and style in a manner reminiscent of Elmore Leonard (you get the feeling he's describing scenes and tastes as though he weren't just living them but vicariously passing it to us at the same time).
Just to be clear, I've lent this book out many times and whilst I've often had it returned, this is now my 5th copy which should explain the level to which I am excited by what he says and how he tells it.
Buy it. Read it. But be careful who you lend it to.
on 5 September 2013
His style is raw and energetic. His curiosity is fearless and hard to satisfy. The meals he is having in both exotic locations and closer to his roots (US, West-Europe) are really-really desirable for any gourmet, hobby-cook and Epicurean adventurer. And his side track stories which are not about food but rather politics, gastro-politics, weapons, the Vietnamese War, Russian gangsters or wrestling, are just as funny and witty.
Sometimes his machoism and poetic exaggeration can be wearing, but it's a good book overall. If you are curious enough to read this opinion of mine, you won't be disappointed from the book. :)
on 18 February 2012
A guy who's been (by his own admission) a drug-addled waster for much of his career as a chef has no damn business being such a wonderful writer. There are dishes in here that I'm never going to try, and in fact I'm never going to the countries where I might be talked into trying them - but I love to read AB's accounts of all of the above.
Oh yes, and his denuciation of a certain Nobel Prize winning former US Secretary of State will live long in my memory as one of the most pointed outbursts ever committed to paper. bravo, M Bourdain.
on 15 November 2010
An entertaining romp around the world,but not recommended if you have any stomach complaints! However,the ethos of the tour is questionable,and certainly indulgent;the scenario of 'demanding' a live animal there and then( in a poor country) just to experience the killing ,cooking and eating of it leaves one feeling uneasy.Another example is when they put other peoples lives at risk in Northern Cambodia because they 'fancy' seeing that part of the country.
To enjoy this book, you have to (A) really like food, and (B) accept that the whole exercise of Bourdain tramping around the world in a psuedo-quest for the ultimate food experience is rather artificial (which he admits right up front). So, bearing in mind that he's being trailed by Food Network cameramen, and has producers to prearrange a lot of stuff for him, Bourdain's global hopscotch of culinary exploration is a very readable and fun journey. He's not really looking for the "perfect meal" so much as looking for the experience that comes with food—from refined dining (there's a chapter on The French Laundry in Napa Valley), to home cooking (massive home-cooked meals in Portugal and Mexico, complete with barnyard slaughter), to street food (several chapters on Cambodia and Vietnam), to ritualized meals (in Japan and Morocco).
If you like your travel narratives to have classy guides, this definitely won't be your cup of tea. Bourdain's "bad boy" chef image is no doubt somewhat calculated and contrived, but he certainly manages to get good and drunk in virtually every chapter, and he's a chain-smoker to boot. Mix in a large number of sketchy gross-out foods (deep-fried Mars Bar, sheep testicles, beating cobra heart, etc.), and you've got a pretty fun little book. As evidenced in his fiction work (Bone in the Throat, Gone Bamboo, The Bobby Gold Stories), he's got excellent timing and can be very, very funny. He can also be very human and poignant, as in the chapter where he and his brother revisit their childhood summer vacation spot in France, and when he talks about his Mexican chefs. Some people have complained that he doesn't describe the food well enough, which I disagree with. Writing about taste is like writing about music, you can only hope to convey a vague impression, and he's really more concerned with the overall experience anyway. I defy anyone's mouth not to water while reading the Vietnam chapters.
Which is not to say to the book is perfect. I actually found his veering into the recent political histories of Vietnam and Cambodia to be rather clumsy but worthwhile. On the other hand, his anti-vegetarian screeching is just plain annoying and off-putting (I am not a vegetarian by the way). He treats all vegetarians as proselytizing, animal-lovers who want to ban any animal death—a portrayal wholly inaccurate of the many vegetarians I've known over the years. First of all, I've never met a proselytizing vegetarian, and second of all, most people I know are vegetarian, are that way for health reasons, not political ones. It's an even more irksome perspective in that he makes a big fuss over how upsetting it is to actual witness a pig/lamb/turkey getting killed for your dinner. It's as if he felt he had to put something feisty or controversial or nasty in there, just to keep his persona going, and it does nothing for the book.
The vegetarian thing aside, I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone interested in food (and who isn't?) or other cultures. The chapters work pretty well on their own, and are the perfect length for devouring one a night before bed, although they'll likely drive you to the kitchen for a midnight snack!
on 29 March 2015
I read this book a few years ago and found it inspiring as I like to travel and eat. I enjoyed Anthony Bourdain's frank style of writing and the depth he goes to, to describe his travels and the food experiences he was exposed too. I bought this book as could not find a Kindle version, but it is good enough to read more than once. I hope others enjoy it as much as me.