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Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain


mamster
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I wasn't too impressed by Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential.  It seemed like he thought the most important things about being a chef were playing the dozens with his staff and making sure everyone understood that he was really badass, and this didn't leave much room for being interested in food.

Boy did I have Bourdain pegged wrong.  His new book, A Cook's Tour, is about the most fun I've had with a book this year.    The unoriginal premise is that he's traveling the world in search of the perfect meal.  Bourdain is a killer travel writer, as intrepid as Richard Sterling but with a better sense of how to describe a dish so people will understand it.

He encounters wonderful and awful meals, gets sick, taunts his camera crew, and comes off as a lot more human this time around.  Bourdain is enchanted by Vietnam, a place where it seems like everyone is cooking something fresh (his description reminded me of the first time I set foot in Thailand).  He also makes a strong case for the virtues of haggis.

If you liked KC, you probably already have this book;  if you didn't, give it a try anyway.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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That's great. Thanks. I was looking at it yesterday but decided to wait until trade paperback. I'll rethink that.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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since i am a librarian i borrowed it from the library i work in and am about half way through.  i also thought the first essay about following the process of slaughter to eating instead of just calling a procurer was well written and expressed what i had been trying to say about connecting with the land and food and respecting it even more.

his first book just reminded me of most of the obnoxious jerk cia chefs i worked with in the 70s who usually were pretty coked/drunk and obnoxious as ####

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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Um...I hesitate to add this but..um...he slagged off Food Network in KC and then signs up with Food Network? In the new book, he admits to slagging off Food Network and then signing off with them in the next breath. Even though he admits he's a hypocrite, isn't he still a hypocrite?

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Sure, he's a hypocrite.  I think Bobby Flay is an achiote-crusted phony too, and don't get me started on Emeril or the Naked Chef.  (And admittedly there are other shows on the TVFN that I quite enjoy, such as Good Eats.)  But if the Food Network came knocking on my door with accountants in suits?  Of course I'd sign up.  Wouldn't you?

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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How exactly is Flay a "phony?"  A phony what?  He is obviously self absorbed and arrogant but it seems this is the case with many top chefs, but does not take away from the fact that they can really rattle those pots and pans.  I've eaten at Mesa Grill since well before there even was a TV Food Network and can vouch for his ability as a chef.  As for Emeril, he may also be a publicity starved media junkie, but one does not become head chef at Commanders Palace by being incompetant in the kitchen.

I've always been intrigued by the publics ability to rally around an underdog, then turn on them when they succeed and delight in tearing them down.  Happens every time.

=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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To be honest, I just wanted to use the phrase "achiote-crusted phony."  What I meant was "achiote-crusted jerk."  I've never eaten at an Emeril or Flay establishment, but I don't like their shows and never have.  They don't seem to be feeling the sting from my criticism (or Bourdain's) yet.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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one does not become head chef at Commanders Palace by being incompetant in the kitchen
Sometimes I'm loathe to respond to this sort of comment out of fear of seeming to be provincial or a NY snob, but Commander's Palace is a regional institution and not a world class kitchen. Some years back, I met a young cook who was currently working in one of NYC's top French kitchens. If memory serves, he was a graduate of Johnson and Wales. He'd come to NY after working in Commander's Palace and he couldn't have been more emphatic about the difference in the way things were done or what was expected in terms of perfection. He was in awe of the standards he found himself held to at the time and clearly had a greater sense of accomplishment in meeting them than he had in working in Commander's Palace. There's a difference between being competent able to turn out great food.

I suppose a definition of great food is going to be determined by personal taste, but both Emeril and Flay seem far more interested in popularity than in food.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I won't argue about Commander's palace, for the very good reason that I've never eaten there.  I have to say, though, that one of the best meals I have eaten anywhere in North America came out of Emeril's kitchen at his eponymous New Orleans restaurant.  And it was not the rough heartiness of his shows and cookbooks that was on display.  It was a tasting menu of great invention, delicacy and finesse.   But I think we all know, if we think about it, that making a fool of yourself on television has nothing to do with whether you can cook. Albert and Michel Roux used to a kind of barmy French brothers act on UK television, but no-one suggested this made them less than world-class chefs.

The mystery about Bobby Flay, I would suggest, is why the food at Mesa Grill is reliably good and the food at Bolo really pretty bad.

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Quote: from markstevens on 10:51 am on Dec. 16, 2001

I've always been intrigued by the publics ability to rally around an underdog, then turn on them when they succeed and delight in tearing them down.  Happens every time.

as have i.  and you'll rarely find people respond to this point when brought up during the slagging sessions.

both emeril and bobby (and bourdain) seem to have pretty strong personalities.  so it goes without saying that some will like some and some will like others (and most will hate everyone if they're successful).

personally, i like emeril.  i find him humorous.  i find his restaurants decadent and fun.  

i also like ming tsai, even though i probably spelled his name wrong.  i find his food fantastic, and i respect him because he's gracious and intelligent and as laid back in person as he is on TV.

bobby flay is the kind of guy i wouldn't ever hang out with in any situation.  i'll never go to one of his restaurants.  the naked chef, however, could easily fit into my group of friends.

bourdain, well, he just frightens me. :)

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I agree completely about Ming Tsai, although I didn't like his cookbook.  I like it when he says, "This dish is DONE."

I'm not exactly sure what you mean about "the public" rallying around an underdog and then tearing them down;  it's unclear why Flay or Emeril should ever have been considered an underdog, and I find their TV shows annoying.  Naturally I would be less inclined to bash Emeril if his show weren't on *every time* I turn on TVFN, but I have no problem with a chef becoming popular.

Oh, we haven't mentioned Sarah Moulton.  Her show rules.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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Quote: from mamster on 4:16 pm on Dec. 17, 2001

I'm not exactly sure what you mean about "the public" rallying around an underdog and then tearing them down.

think "elliott smith" ;)

actually, i find sarah's show a bit too trite.  it seems that her audience is probably 50 something woman.  not that there's anything wrong with that.   but i do watch it if it's on.

good eats, however, does a fantastic job of mixing humor and wit, visuals, hippness, cooking science, and dish preparation.  i could basically watch the show all day every day and never get sick of it.  

quote from yesterday afternoon:

mrs. tommy, as i'm flipping through the TV Guide:  "who's cooking?"

me, aftering seeing emeril's name:  "who do you think."

the threads, how they do drift.

(Edited by tommy at 4:27 pm on Dec. 17, 2001)

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Good Eats kicks ass.  It's the best show on the channel, hands down.  It has the detail that made David Rosengarten's show good, but Brown is funnier.

Re: Sarah Moulton, I liked her 10:00 show better when that was on;  she would have chefs on from around town and not just the usual suspects.  And since it was live, they would sometimes make the same kind of mistakes that I make at home.  Also, I have a little crush on S.M.

See, I can be positive.  And Figure 8 is great too.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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I learned a new word, achiote. (I had to look it up, though, as I was confusing it with chayote).  IMHO Ming Tsai has the best show(s) & personality on FoodTV.   I used to dislike Emeril until I read that in real life he is very shy and charming...so I can overlook his tv persona and that distractive band, and actually he turns out some pretty good looking food.  I agree with comments about Bobby Flay...but his food is also pretty good looking.  I also like his red hair for some reason.   I never seem to catch Good Eats, guess I'll have to check the schedule to see when it's on.  I'm slow to like these shows, though.  For months I couldn't see why people like Iron Chef, but now I've seen a couple, and I'm getting to like them.

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Well, this is now a Food Network thread, and it is interesting to see what people like and don't like.  For what it's worth, I think Sarah Moulton is very professional and full of useful information, but about as TV-friendly as a dead goldfish.  Good Eats I find unwatchable - precisely because of the awful 'witticisms'; it feels like a kiddies' show.  I used to like Flay's double act with the comical redneck character - Jack someone - but I think he struggles to carry a show by himself.  Mario is so utterly dull and ponderous - another reminder that performance as a chef and as a TV star just don't correlate.  I used to really like Rosegarten's show.  Emeril is just vastly amusing.  Crush?  I used to have a crush on the Mary-Sue Milliken, one of the two 'Hot Tamales' (their expression) who used to do Mexican style recipes.  Where do all these people go?  Ooh look, here's the Tamales' website:

http://www.millikenandfeniger.com/MSMSF/msmsf.htm

(Edited by Wilfrid at 12:37 pm on Dec. 18, 2001)

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now we've drifted to crushes on food tv personalities.  i'm in love with the skinny tallish woman on Calling all Cooks.  at least i *think* that's the show.  she used to have horrible hair, but it appears that a stylist got his/her hands on her.  

wilfrid, you're thinking of jack mcdavid with booby flay.  jack owns jack's firehouse in philly.  i thought he was great.  booby would treat him like a hick, jack would say something that sounded sweet but basically made booby look like the booby that he is, and booby wouldn't even get the fact that he was just made to look like, you know, a booby.  love that jack.  wish he'd come back.  i can't take one more half hour of looking at booby surrounded by those "friends" of his.  who *are* these people??!?!?!

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Just a few FNTV comments.

I like Ming Tsai and have had several good ideas which turned out extremely well based on things he has thrown out.

I am impressed by how much I have learned from Mario, including the "Eats Italy" show with the idiot side-kick.

I was all set to despise Emeril until I saw his show

all the way through for the first time. I thought that he was a good educator but had nothing to show me, have watched a few more shows here and there or parts of them. Eh.

Sara Moulton cannot complete a sentence and I have never seen her produce anything I wanted to look at or smell let alone put in my mouth.

I tune in and out to Flay. Occasionally there's something interesting. If the episode has Jackie Malouf shouting "Bobby!" it's off.

"Good Eats" is great. Alton Brown's bizarre "Mr. Science/geekboy/Everyman/Knowitall" comedy is funny and fun. While I still object to the very idea of pressure-cooking stocks because this is the thick wedge of barbarism, if folk are inclined towards pancakes, listen to Alton.

(Edited by Jinmyo at 9:05 pm on Dec. 24, 2001)

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Getting back to Bourdain's "Cooks Tour" I'm about halfway through it and am enjoying it.  It has some elements of KC, but has expanded them by exploring more aspects of traditional international cooking, both at the "peasant" level as well as exploring some of the high end social scenes in more developed countries.  An interesting aspect of the story is the number of situations where a major aspect of the gathering is to imbibe as much alcohol as humanly possible!  Whether in a nearly tribal setting in rural Vietnam or in the now decadent club scene in Russia, getting drunk for the sheer thrill of getting hammered is more the rule than the exception.  

The only place so far that has not featured folks getting plastered is in the Islamic republic of Morrocco, where alcohol is illegal.  Of course there Bourdain cops a couple grams of hashish and gets stoned to the point of embarrassment for both the hosts and the film crew...

=Mark

Give a man a fish, he eats for a Day.

Teach a man to fish, he eats for Life.

Teach a man to sell fish, he eats Steak

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An interesting aspect of the story is the number of situations where a major aspect of the gathering is to imbibe as much alcohol as humanly possible!
How are these stories related to the appreciation of food in those countries. I can well imagine a book devoted to drunken parties in the U.S. and I can imagine it being interesting, but I can't imagine the relationship to food. Or better yet, I can imagine a European coming over and making the rounds of sports bars in NY and then returning home to write a book about dining in NY, but perhaps I'm missing the point of the book.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I'm about halfway through the book,and there is a lot of drinking and gonzo behavior a la Bourdain,but that's his shtick,and most people on the food network have one.A lot of the partying seems to be tied in with the hospitality of the peole he encounters;so be it-it wears on me a little,but there are interesting,if bleary,perceptive moments from the author.Every book about  eating and traveling doesn't have to be scholarly and sober-that ain't all that's real....

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Gee--we must all be on the same page as I am halfway through the book also. I find the food he talks about interesting but I would have found it easier to read the book if there was a food dictionary in the back. He does eat some strange things though.  If you liked KC you will like this book. It's a no brainer, laugh out loud, easy read except for the exotic names of the foods.

Rosalie Saferstein, aka "Rosie"

TABLE HOPPING WITH ROSIE

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