Anthony Bourdain is raw, silly, funny, delicate and unedited. And so is his latest book The Nasty Bits, a collection of three-to-five-page shorts – with a few longer exceptions. The collection does not come close to the revealing, unique and intriguing Kitchen Confidential (Emre’s review). It is still a good read that furthers the reader’s appetite for the unknown and reveals the idiosyncrasies of a celebrity chef, however.
The Nasty Bits is a good, short escape if you are trapped in a fast-paced environment. Last fall I lacked time to enjoy a long novel that would require a certain level of attention. Bourdain’s writing proved to be loyal friend that left my taste buds wondering and my mind revisiting restaurants in New York. The Nasty Bits also provided for some hearty laughter.
Bourdain’s style does not waver much. He sticks to a familiar, day-to-day usage of language, which makes the stories engaging monologues. The Nasty Bits provides some useful insight, as did Kitchen Confidential, into the restaurant industry. One practice I can claim prior to reading the collection is being nice to your waiter/waitress.
The stories are more about Bourdain’s new found leisure activities and privileges as a celebrity chef. While it may not be as interesting as the misadventures of a drug addict and alcoholic in the New York restaurant world, Bourdain’s honest admission to reaping the benefits of his status and bashing of the new industry that enables him to take a break from breaking his back at Les Halles in New York are still interesting.
The author’s misadventures in The Nasty Bits take the reader to some of the world’s best restaurants (Thomas Keller’s Bouchon, Ferran Adria’s El Bulli and many more), a love boat trip much resisted by Mrs. Bourdain (who I assume to be Buddha-like when it comes to putting up with Bourdain’s antics) and on the road with his TV show “No Reservations” (Vietnam, Las Vegas, Italy, etc.).
Bourdain also fires salvos at U.S. food industry (for limiting people to McDonald’s and making them obese), Woody Harrelson (for maintaining a diet of “raw fruits and vegetables”) and dress codes (advocating a no-shoes policy). There is also his familiar theory for providing green cards to everyone south of the border to save the restaurant industry (I concur). Lastly, the author provides book suggestions to cooks, an unasked for commencement address to culinary school grads, and opinions on how chefs handle celebrity.
The Nasty Bits is Bourdain, through and through. It is honest, entertaining and quick. The collection might not be as fascinating as Kitchen Confidential, but it is still worth your consideration – especially on your bedside table, coffee table or in your bathroom (that is, if you do not have qualms about reading about food while in the toilet).