Worth Reading: Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain

Medium Raw coverIf you read and enjoyed Anthony Bourdain’s first book, Kitchen Confidential, you shouldn’t miss his new book, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People that Cook. Out for a little over a month now, this book has seen a mix of reviews. Like Bourdain’s personality, this New York Times bestseller will generate a “love it or hate it” reaction with most readers.

If you are unfamiliar with Bourdain, put simply, he has worked every job in the food world. Everything from short order cook to professional chef. Currently, Bourdain is the star and writer of the Travel Channel show, No Reservations. A show that has given viewers not only a glimpse of the world, but also a “local” view of different cultures and their passion for food. Written in a similar style as his show, you will either love or hate this intelligent and witty TV personality and his writing.

Ten years ago, Bourdain unleashed a behind the scenes story of the New York City restaurant scene in Kitchen Confidential. Bourdain exposed the movers and shakers of the food industry and all the drugs, sex and alcohol that came with working in a kitchen. Ten years later, Bourdain returns to reassess the current food scene. With his unyielding passion for food and usual potty mouth, Bourdain gives readers a new look at the food world. Bourdain brings his straightforward and legitimate criticisms of the Food network, their stars and the rise of the reality TV world to the forefront.

The food world has evolved and so has Bourdain. In this collection of essays, Bourdain details how the far the Food Network has fallen. Ridding itself of all of the “real” professional chefs, Food Network is now the network of Rachel Ray, Sandra Lee and other quick dinner fix personalities. Bourdain even tells readers that “his” network has recently been bought out by the same as Food Network. Bourdain touches on everything from the downfalls of being a fast food nation and its impact on school nutrition to the mediocrity of overpriced restaurants frequented by the rich. These are one of many themes touched in this current rant on the modern food scene.

When he wrote Kitchen Confidential, Bourdain was an overworked and hung-over chef. Medium Raw was written after he attained fame and thus may not have the appeal of the earlier book. It provides appeal to readers in other ways. In the ten years that have passed, Bourdain has not mellowed in his passion for food, but is now happily married, has settled down and has a young child. While he engages in his usual angry diatribe, he also touches on issues that are serious and important, such as the dubious practices of meat processors and the “dumbing” down of society.

If you are interested in the food scene and are looking for an informational and entertaining book to read, this is the one. Of course, you will find Bourdain’s usual targets in this book, like Rachel Ray and Sandra Lee and vegetarians, but you will also find serious and important criticisms about our culture and its relationship with food. Funny and well written, this is one of the best nonfiction books of the year.