Publisher: Harper Audio, 2010
Length: 9 hours
Genre: Non-Fiction, Essays, Memoir
Where I Got It: Audible
Why I Read It: Although I have to yet to read his bestseller Kitchen Confidential, I’ve always enjoyed Mr. Bourdain when I’ve seen him on shows such as Top Chef as he seems like a straight-talking, no BS kind of guy.
My Rating: 4 stars
Focusing primarily on food and restaurant related topics—ranging from tasting menus to chef David Chang to Bourdain’s list of culinary heroes and villains—Medium Raw is a collection of essays that meanders far and wide. Although primarily focused on the restaurant/chef business, Bourdain also includes personal essays dealing with the break-up of his first marriage, a psychotic weekend with a crazed heiress, and fatherhood.
I very much enjoyed listening to this book. Bourdain lives up to his reputation as a no-nonsense straight-talker. Most importantly, his criticism of others is balanced by self-depreciation. I actually found him to be relatively reasonable and likable. Despite mellowing since Kitchen Confidential (by his own admission), Bourdain still isn’t afraid to call out people for being pretentious, fake or unskilled. He owns his opinions (the essay dealing with his dislike of vegans bristles with anger and passion) and has an eloquent way of cursing that is amusing and almost artistic.
My favorite essay dealt with his efforts to keep his young daughter from liking McDonalds—with Bourdain waging a war of misinformation and outright lies (“I heard Ronald has cooties!”). This essay was very humanizing; there is nothing quite like parenthood to soften even the most debauched and self-centered person. (And, by his own accounts, Bourdain was this kind of person for years.)
Despite his feuds with various celebrity chefs and disdain for the Food Network, Bourdain genuinely loves and enjoys food. This passion is apparent throughout the book. Whether describing an illegal dinner or various meals he’s eaten in almost pornographic terms, Bourdain made me think differently about food and cooking. One essay outlined the cooking skills that Bourdain believes should be required for all citizens—including simple knife skills and knowing such basics as making an omelet, roasting a chicken, cooking vegetables, selecting produce, steaming a lobster or crab, preparing potatoes, and cooking. After listening to this essay, I was inspired to roast a chicken—a process that turned out to be rather easy!
I plan on reading/listening to more of Bourdain’s books. Although I’m not a foodie, Bourdain’s writing held my attention and inspired me to care more about what I put into my mouth and how I prepare it.
About the Narration
Bourdain narrated his own book, which is very fitting for a collection of personal essays. He has a pleasant voice and knows his way around a curse word. The book was a fun and easy listen, and the short essay format made it perfect for listening to in short bursts.
Bourdain fans, foodies, and readers who enjoy essays with a strong point of view
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