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Review: Nasty Bits

Nasty Bits

Anthony Bourdain used to be a chef at Les Halles in New York and rose to stardom after his book “Kitchen Confidential” in 2000. Even though this book may have launched him into stardom, it fell below my radar at the time. But I’ve been a fan of Bourdain ever since I picked up Nasty Bits in Singapore.

There are a lot of chefs in media these days, but things that separates him from most peers are his personality and no-nonsense attitude. For instance, he refers to the cookbook offspring of Woody Harrelson as the most evil document since Mein Kampf. Not exactly something from Jamie Oliver’s vocabulary.

I really enjoy his brutal honesty, even when it comes to simple things such as a hot dog: “And if you put ketchup on your dog, I will fucking kill you”. One of my favorite chapters is “Food and loathing in Las Vegas”, where he travels with Michael Ruhlman in a reenactment of the movie.

He eats anything with a smile, including hakarl (rotten shark, a popular dish in Reykjavik) which appears to be the most disgusting thing he’s ever tasted.

When I read about his culinary adventures, I wished I had stopped by those restaurants on my own travels. He mentions El Bulli, close to Cadaqués on Spain’s Costa Brava, where Ferran Adria arranged “a long gastro-thrill ride ranging from the farthest reaches of chemistry class to the stunningly simple”. What did I have in Cadaqués last summer? A pizza.

Brazil is described as a great place for sushi, since the country hosts the largest population of Japanese outside of Japan, but the only sushi I had was a mediocre plate in the suburbs of Sao Paulo.

In New York he goes on about chopped liver and washing down hot-dogs with frothy papaya drinks. My own gastronomical memory of that city consists mostly of blueberry pancakes and giant burgers. Mea culpa.

We’ve both had gumbo in New Orleans, with the difference being that I didn’t enjoy it. But at least I’m pretty sure he hasn’t tasted raw whale in Svalbard. Yet.

The worst thing about this book is that it will make you very hungry, but I’m sure you will get a lot of inspiration of how to remedy that particular issue. If you enjoy this guy, don’t miss his hilarious series “No Reservations”, for instance the New Zealand episode or the Rome episode.

Bon Appétit.

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