Wouldn’t it be amazing to travel the world, sample cuisine from the finest restaurants and to write about your adventures from the most exotic cities of the globe? Well, Anthony Bourdain is living …
Wouldn’t it be amazing to travel the world, sample cuisine from the finest restaurants and to write about your adventures from the most exotic cities of the globe? Well, Anthony Bourdain is living my dream – he writes, he travels, he eats – the trilogy to a perfect life!
I’ve only just jumped on board the Anthony Bourdain bandwagon. After watching his appearances as a guest judge in the series Top Chef, I initially thought Bourdain was an arrogant twat. He dished out criticism with an acid tongue to wannabe Gordon Ramsays. Yet it was the same sharp wit that sparked my curiosity. So much so, I was intrigued to find out more.
A recent episode of No Reservations reflected on the beginning of Bourdain’s rise to fame. Bourdain initially gained critical acclaim with his scathing expose on the seedier side of the restaurant industry in the article titled Don’t Eat Before Reading This, published in The New Yorker1. The scandal generated by the piece paved the way to a book deal and the publication of Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly2. Its success kick-started Bourdain’s career as a host of various travel and lifestyle programs including No Reservation, Parts Unknown and The Layover and was the catalyst for further book launches. The rest they say is history3.
Prior to his celebrity status, Bourdain admitted that he was a “journeyman chef who didn’t create 5 Star dishes or have his own show on the Food Network”4. So, why would a chef achieve so much recognition by slagging off his counterparts in an obnoxious newspaper article? It’s simple, Anthony Bourdain is the Howard Stern of cooking! He’s the antithesis of the sweet and cuddly likes of Nigella Lawson or Jamie Oliver. Instead, Bourdain is a foul mouthed, crude, sharp shooter without a filter. He’s got the balls to speak his mind and tell it how it is while wearing his signature cowboy boots.
On the flip side, Bourdain is articulate with a quick wit, a dry sense of humour and offers copious sprinkles of sarcasm. His shows are eloquent. As he treks through cities, towns or villages, Bourdain mingles with the locals, visits their homes or drops by at local bars or pubs to discover local cuisine. Each segment delves into hot trends of the culinary world including old style cooking versus molecular gastronomy and comfort food as opposed to fine dining. He’ll explore markets along roads less travelled to reveal unique ingredients. However, in contrast to other lifestyle programs, Bourdain’s series have an edgier vibe, often intertwined with current political or economic affairs, uncovering the heart and soul of a country, its lifestyle, culture and its people. Best of all, he’ll taste test native cuisine from high end restaurants in addition to traditional home cooked meals.
What makes Bourdain’s story even more quirky is his unconventional start in the industry. He began his career with a summer job in a blue collar restaurant, as a dishwasher and part-time salad man5. In Bourdain’s own words, “it was a place where kitchen employees drank everything in sight, stole everything in stock and screwed the staff and half the customers”. A pivotal moment occurred during a wedding reception held at the venue. The bride stopped by the kitchen and out of the blue, the head chef requested that Bourdain man his station. To his amazement, Bourdain found the chef disappear off with the new bride to do the “vertical rhumba” behind the garbage stockaid. The incident proved to be his teenage epiphany to become a head chef6.
In summary, Bourdain isn’t afraid to rock the boat. You either love him or loathe him. He’s offbeat and quirky. I’m living life vicariously through his worldwide adventures and I’m enjoying the ride.
4. No Reservation, Dmitri Kasterine’s, ‘Out of the Pan, Into the Fire’ 2000
5. No Reservation, Dmitri Kasterine’s, ‘Out of the Pan, Into the Fire’ 2000
6. No Reservation, Dmitri Kasterine’s, ‘Out of the Pan, Into the Fire’ 2000
I have a soft spot for Jamie Oliver. His enthusiasm and passion for cooking is so infectious! The acclaimed British chef, with an affable, easy going charm, has a laid back attitude that’s reflected in his down to earth approach to everyday cooking.
In an earlier post titled “Domestic Goddess Sizzles in the Kitchen”, I pointed out that cooking had never been my speciality. In fact, cooking and I go together like chalk ‘n’ cheese, we just don’t gel. Eating on the other hand is my forte. I love food. But, it’s more than comical that I have a tendency of scorching, nuking and spoiling the most simple of meals like scrambled eggs or even the humble toast. I’ve experienced more misses than hits when preparing food that’s fit for human consumption. Consequently, I have a ‘can’t cook, won’t cook’ mind-set to whipping up a gastronomic smorgasbord.
Often cooking programs focus on complicated feasts, and not surprisingly, I find such recipes way too challenging to even attempt given my limited culinary skills. What’s worse is that you need a myriad of gadgets which I don’t own, just to slice, dice, chop, julienne, mix, mash or boil the ingredients. Otherwise, the recipe consists of exotic components you’ve never heard of, or elements you’d rarely use in other meals and your local store doesn’t carry in any case. To top it off, I don’t have the time, not only to prepare the dish, but to clean up the mess afterwards. It’s all too hard and puts me off from bringing my A-Game to the kitchen.
On the other hand, Jamie’s signature style to preparing a meal makes cooking accessible to the masses, boofhead friendly and idiot proof! He’s recognised that cooking fabulous food isn’t just for elite professionals or experienced cooks. Let’s face it, we don’t always need to prepare Michelin awarded meals for everyday cooking. Jamie’s recipes aren’t pompous or pretentious. When it comes to casual dining, precision isn’t paramount and presentation doesn’t always require the perfection that’s demanded in 5-star restaurants. Instead, Jamie’s twist on a delectable dish centres on simplicity and big bursts of flavour, colour and texture. His meals have a rustic, organic quality, using fresh, seasonal and/or everyday ingredients commonly found in your pantry. Convenience and ease is the key, but taste isn’t sacrificed.
Best of all, Jamie Oliver is a chef with a heart of gold and a conscience for social issues. He takes on causes and challenges close to his heart. Jamie’s highlighted the rising levels of obesity amongst young children and has campaigned tirelessly for healthier menus in school canteens. He opened Fifteen, a not-for-profit training restaurant that empowers young adults from underprivileged backgrounds with an opportunity for a better future1. The initiative offers disenfranchised youths with an apprenticeship and first hand experience in hospitality2. He promotes a healthy lifestyle through the magic of food, with recipes emphasising the importance of affordable, well balanced meals. Through his cook books and various television programs, he has inspired families to get back to basics with home cooking, to source and use locally produced goods and to opt for freshly prepared meals rather than the fast food alternative.
What’s refreshing about each of Jamie’s television cooking series is that they don’t rely on his experience and celebrity profile to humiliate and break down aspiring chefs or avid cooks like a drill sergeant, a la Gordon Ramsay. Mainstream television is flooded by reality based competitions, where amateur cooks and professional chefs are under pressure cooker conditions and consequently ridiculed for their errors or critiqued on trivial criteria as a form of entertainment.
Instead, Jamie’s shows have a casual, light hearted vibe that centres on what cooking programs should focus on – creating practical, well balanced, hearty culinary delights; comforting meals made with enthusiasm and love.
Sources: http://www.jamieoliver.com/ Viewed February 19, 2013
Citations: http://www.jamieoliver.com/ Viewed February 19, 2013