Although already the author of two well-received memoirs – Kitchen Confidential and A Cook’s Tour – as well as a couple of not so popular detective novels, it has taken American chef Anthony Bourdain a little while to embark on his own cookbook and he throws himself into the undertaking with commendable vigour.
An already hyperactive writing style doesn’t get lost anywhere along the way as he pushes, prods and sometimes seems to want to deliberately antagonise readers. Bourdain is the executive chef at New York City restaurant Les Halles, and he has decreed that this book is a “field manual to strategy and tactics”. To that end, he’s determined to treat the reader as if he or she were a rookie in his kitchen. He doesn’t mince his words as he coerces and advises, issuing warnings and occasionally yelling (in print).
Bourdain takes the solid, mainly carnivorous (don’t miss the blood and guts chapter), French principles behind Les Halles and reworks them for a private kitchen to good effect. Behind all the bluster, there’s a chef with a talent for imparting his knowledge of food to those who wish to learn. While it won’t be very useful to vegetarians (fans of Ysanne Spevack’s Fresh and Wild Cookbook avoid!), the Les Halles Cookbook is an undoubted education.
Les Halles Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain is published by Bloomsbury. Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.