Thursday, September 02, 2010

"I'm A Slut For Fish Sauce" Anthony Bourdain


Around here we love Anthony Bourdain. One of my daughter's fantasy jobs is to work in a kitchen with him. My daughter is a lot braver than me ha ha...but I get it, I'd like to do it too. Hell, I would kill to spend some time just eating with the guy. I'm pretty excited because I am reading his new book and it is awesome. Last night he was on Top Chef and he did say "I'm a slut for fish sauce". I couldn't stop laughing. The book is very funny too and very exciting because he writes so well, and can bring you into wherever he is so easily. It's juicy with all kinds of stories about famous chefs, and the tv show Top chef. A must read for all badasses.

I thought this was interesting to hear Bourdain talk about Gordon Ramsay. I swear to all goddesses, 99 percent of all cooks I've worked with in professional kitchens were like Gordon Ramsay. It used to be that most cooks and chefs were utterly nuts. Stark raving mad. I was once chased around a kitchen by a knife-weilding cook. True story, Joy Bistro, toronto in 1999. My boss, the owner lived down the street and I was on my cell phone calling him and the other baker was on her cell calling 911. My boss arrived first and fired the guy right then and there. Anyways, watching Hell's Kitchen was torture but not just because of Ramsay's abusing the cooks, but also because most of the time, the people competing were complete losers and deserved a good chewing out. Kitchens have changed a bit in the last ten years. Less and less staff and contemporary young people will put up with abusive treatment and speak out and are supported...usually. My sister is not that kind of chef. She never shit on people and my friend Jennie is also a cool chef and never shit on people. They represent a new kind of attitude in professional kitchens. I like what Bourdain says and how he sets Ramsays life experiences into a context.

I have a few ideas of why chefs as a marginalized group seemed to be crazy and angry. One is they were never respected. Half their clients always felt they could cook just as well. Plus, they have usually been sequestered...working in terribly hot, uncomfortable spaces and never seeing the people they are preparing food for. Cooking and working in a kitchen has often been a job that goes to the very poor, the uneducated, and has an instant reward for such people without close tires to family or community: they can eat a homecooked meal during their shift. So you've got a history of people who were not part of the empowered citizenry. Kitchens also hire people on parole. Since it's not a job with the public, cooks can have awkward social habits and unskilled manners...no one is going to see them. So you right away have this deadly combo. of socially awkward peope, often lower on the social scale and making the most important thing for life:food. And never sharing the eating experience with the people they cook for. Food is so primal and so base roots for life, if we're lucky made with love, or at least pride and skill...the idea of not directly conversing with the diners is something bordering on cruel.

That has changed. We have many places with open kitchens. Chefs are gods now on tv, and with a series of such programs and tough economic times, people cook more and so relate to all the cooking shows. I've written about this before...we often see people taking pictures of their food at restaurants (I've always done this, most especially on this blog). Now with all genders and income levels cooking and exploring food and sharing domestic responsibilities...more diners realize how hard it can be to cook a great meal.


Whispering...I'm not a fan of deep dish pizza. Poor Stagg, he lives for it, and I always get something else, like salad, if we go out for pizza. For me, it's bread, it's not pizza. And actually, I am just kind of a stick in the mud about pizza. Sure, I loved it as a kid. My dad's favourite job was one he had in college, he worked ina pizza joint. We used to go visit him at work and eat all the pizza we could. And occasionally someone makes a pizza I freak out over. But not very often...I'll even pick off the topping and leave the crust on most pizzas. Turns out neither is Bourdain a fan of deep dish pizza. But...he found one place in Chicago he liked and I might go try it one of these days.

And here is a clip of Bill Murray and Bourdain on his fabulous show No Reservations...

8 comments:

Greg S. said...

Oh boy you're on a roll, Candy. I have "Les Halles Cookbook" on my shelves and really enjoyed it just for the reading. His show has not made it here yet. I've worked at McDonald's and I've worked in a French-owned restaurant with CIA-trained chefs. Generally, things were quite civilized. (Don't tell Stagg, but I prefer thin crust pizza from a wood-burning oven.)

Janet said...

I liked his first poot (er...book, but I'm leaving the typo cause it's funny!) better. He seems...negative? I don't know...it was just beginning to piss me off LOL!

Candy Minx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Candy Minx said...

Well, Greg, this is my favourite season. The weather is pissing out and I love it! You worked in McDonalds!!! Thats so funny...I had no idea. You've never told me that before. I can only imagine what it must have been like...but that it was civilized really says something about the culture of fine dining and evil chefs doesn't it?

Janet, very interesting...I mean, I am almost feeling like this was a kinder gentler guy...maybe I haven't got to the truly negative stuff. I am finding it fall down funny in spots. He sure doesn't suffer fools. Which is what I like about him. And I suspect the people he is hard on probably are dicks. I mean...a couple things I read I started worrying about Bourdains safety ... I mean these are "pirates" at the end of the day ha ha. I can totally imagine this book pissing you off...I guess I just really think he is on to something. For some reason, I feel he is getting to the core of one part of our relationship to food and maybe I'd like to believe he is fed up with those people who are trying to make food corporate...? Thats the gist I'm getting from the first couple of chapters...

mister anchovy said...

I liked Kitchen Confidential a lot. It was a great book, fresh and honest, and well timed too. We watched much of a season of No Reservations...I think you may have sent it to us...and I have to say I found it to be at best an OK time-waster and at worst self-centerd and tiresome. The problem with Mr. Bourdain being fed up with "those people" who are trying to make food corporate is that he's part of the machine. His schtick is being the guy who is badass enough to be outside of of the food establishment, but geez louise, he's got him a travel show. In a way, I say good for him for making a gig for himself in the entertainment business. It's got to be more comfortable, more lucrative and have better hours than running restaurants. I hope he doesn't end up as sad Ozzie or the dude from Kiss though.

The problem with food culture is a television network whose mandate is to have food food food all the time. Eventually, that has to lead to Kitchen Nightmares, Iron Chef America, The Ace of Cakes, and the worst of them all, Bitchin' Kitchen. Whatever they do, they do it to death, milk every last penny out of it, suck the life out of it, and leave it dead at the side of the road. For instance, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives would be great as a bit of special programming, a documentary perhaps, an adventure story. But watch a DD & D marathon (which seems to be available regularly), and all you see is the formula. The schtick never changes. You start to realize that Buddy, I mean Guy, does so many of these he likely doesn't even know what city he's in. We just hear the same superlatives over and over and over. Some of the places he visits are likely amazing. I'm sure some of them really aren't that hot. It doesn't matter. They all get the treatment. Of course, then there has to be the book. Should I be surprised that some celebrity chefs don't even write their own books? Well, you know that I know that Franklin W. Dixon didn't write the Hardy Boys, so no, no surprise there.

There just isn't enough interesting food-related material to fill the network day after day after day after day. But they play those shows over and over and over.

Excellent post by the way.

Diana said...

I love cooking shows. If I had been born with a better back and a chef's school in the area - I would have loved it. Cooking is 'la creation' - i love it. Yes, it would be a total downer never knowing how much your diners liked what you prepared for them.

But, if Chefs are prima donas - they should be - a chef can make or break a restaurant. I love it that my grandson's favorite program is "Cake Boss!"

Beej said...

Candy, I'm not a big fan of pizza either. I've been known to 'whip up' a mean pb&j when others are having pizza. But I love pb&j so its ok by me!

My bro-in-law wassa master chef. They cook but mostly they direct others on how to cook. Or at least that's what he did. He was his best making international buffets.

So, why was that chef so angry with you? Hahaha that made me lol.

Candy Minx said...

Mister Anchovy, I think you've got it all correct. The formula of cooking programs has become transparent because we see so many of the same patterns by the glut of shows. I mean, this is also true and would be a great example to share with documentary film schools and programs. This is why when a movie or show comes out...even if there are only "10 stories" in the world...when it's told differently it can be exciting, even in a B-movie (or worse). In any storytelling situation the narrator can fall into "the pitch" as defining the whole structure. You knwo it's funny, but I have hardly watched much of the Food Network..and of course there are a couple of such channels these days. An odd show will catch my eye and I'll watch a few times. Bourdain keeps my attention because I just find him fascinating and funny. I am totally grossed out by some of the things he eats, and when I say things, I mean it. In Bourdain's book, he is in the process of dealing with this karma of being part of the machine of cooking trends and programing...but I'm too new into the book to know what, if any, kind of wisdom he gleans or doesn't about his own history.

I've told this story many times, but it might hold up to one more repetition...when we were kids my sister and I played "cooking show". this is partly funny because there were hardly any cooking shows on tv. We would imitate the Kraft commercials with voice overs, we would imitate Kerr and Childs. When my sister opened a cooking school in the late 80's and early 90's...I thought I had died in heaven to see the demonstration counter with it's mirror so a class could watch the directions. I often have a weird feeling about how my child-self would have loved all thee cooking shows and networks. I still love taking part in cooking demonstrations today...and have been a part of a couple of professional cooking demonstrations here in Chicago...and it still gives me a rush of adrenaline.



...but shhh...don't tell anyone I can cook...I have a love/hate relationship about working in a professional kitchen ha ha.

Which leads me to Diana, I really believe that anyone who loves cooking for their friends and family probably should not work in a professional kitchen or restaurant. The experience is usually a terrible shock for most people who love cooking. The pressure is intense and success is a lot to do with the imagination and enthusiasm of the chef...but it also depends on having a highly organized owner. There is almost no time to spare for making sure that the morale of the workplace is outstanding. Sad but true.

Beej, yesterday i was surprised I couldn't even remember what that cooks name was anymore. I thought I'd remember his name for the rest of my life. I haven't a memory at all of what I did that pissed him off, I probably thought he cooked an egg too hard, or, he forgot to put salad dressing on the side. The guy was so unhinged by prescription drugs and potsmoking who knows. For all I know he could have been drinking back there at brunch. His head was remarkably bright red though...lol