Medium Raw

I loved Kitchen Confidential ↗. It was fun and interesting and raw and — I know this is a trope amongst my writing at this point — delightful. I think the best nonfiction writing is the kind that feels like you're being let in on a secret, and it crushed that.

This book — hmm, less so. It was a tale of two halves: the first half was meandering, self-aggrandizing, and uninterestingly sordid — Bourdain as a drunk, Bourdain as an icon, Bourdain as a Top Chef judge. The latter half felt more like Kitchen Confidential: stories about restaurants, stories about food, stories about eating and eating well. (As I write this, I realize really what the schism is: the first half is about Bourdain and the second half is about kitchens.)

The highs are high. The essay about a day in the life of a fish prepper in a Michelin star restaurant (capped with said fish cutter eating, for the first time in his life, at the restaurant where he's worked for twenty years) was glorious.

It is hard to write — and read — about Bourdain, especially in a book where he comes off as candid [if not performatively candid] about his ego, personality, and death wish, without also writing about his suicide. The last essay, Still Here, a beautiful paean to mortality and worth, I think bumped up the book a whole notch in of itself.

My final recommendation: read the book but aggressively skip any chapter that feels like it's going to be ugly.

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© 2023 Justin Duke • I hope you're wearing your favorite sweater.