Even though Anthony Bourdain had been writing several stories for a long time, it was Kitchen Confidential that made him instantly famous in the summer of 2000.
Any fans of Bourdain’s travel shows that randomly pickup a copy of Kitchen Confidential, expecting it to be full of hilarious travels, will be very disappointed. The book is mostly describing the macho bro culture going on in the kitchen, while depicting the cooks as romantic pirates. The only journey appears in the last chapter, a fateful trip to Japan in the spring 1999 that changed the trajectory of his life. At that time, he was 43 years old and had never left the US mainland except for vacation trips to the Caribbean.
After the success of Kitchen Confidential, he was offered to write a sequel where he travels the world in search of the perfect meal. Chris and Lydia Collins heard about it and showed up at Les Halles to pitch the idea of filming him during the travels. Two seasons of the show were made and the book itself was published in November 2001.
While the TV show is a bit awkward in retrospect, I find the book to be quite entertaining since it is raw, unfiltered Bourdain train of thoughts put on paper, including the good, the bad and the ugly. While sometimes acting as a jerk, he can still bring the occasional flashes of insight and produce dry, witty prose of amazing quality. His wide-eyed first experiences of several countries is a fresh take when compared to the jaded world traveler he would eventually become.