Medium Raw: A Talk with Tony (Bourdain)

My dreams were made for living. I ‘ve sought the guidance of those that already enjoy the privilege of calling the life I desire to live their job.  I’ve found the easiest way to communicate my intentions with a conversation like the one below:

“Know who Anthony Bourdain is? Ever heard of him?”

“Yeah! The guy from– uh- Parts Unknown?”

“Yeah, and No Reservations and some others.”

“Uh huh?”

“Well, I want his job without being him, plus photography. How cool would it be travel, eat, and write about it  and get paid to do it?”

I love food and like cooking, and it’s cool to do those from within someone else’s culture. And some have been fortunate and bold enough to prove you can do it professionally. I grew up convinced to find my passion(s) and work it. Money’s nice but it’s not enough. If your passionate enough about your craft, you’ll find a way to make it pay you.

I scheduled a meeting with Mr. Bourdain in between the bindings of Medium Raw, his second nonfiction, published in 2010, to pinpoint the factors that make him successful. And I’m now reading his first, Kitchen Confidential.

Anthony Bourdain sketch and memoir book medium raw

Medium Raw

…was fun to read and at moments had me scratching my head. “How can you really pull off writing a book about this?” The book is a gathering of a wide range of his thoughts on food and chefs and writers and fatherhood. Mostly, he rants of the things that tick him off. But at times he grows philosophical. It felt at times as though  you’re seated at the bar, straight shot of brandy at hand- or milk, but Tony would laugh at you- feet clinging to the foot rail, elbows poised and head resting on your clasped fist as you lean forward with intrigue while he reclined into his memoir.  I nodded in agreement, laughed with amusement, and frowned in contemplation. Most importantly, I found myself inspired. While I don’t agree with everything he says, or even his delivery, he doubtlessly provokes thought and encourages some worthwhile dialogue, especially on culinary training and apprenticeship.

“So You Wanna Be a Chef”

In this chapter, he gives the quickest answer to the question, “Is culinary school worth it?” In less than one line, in case you were rushing. He then spends the rest of the chapter expounding.  In one particular line, he makes me feel good about myself.

“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel- as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook…”

I’m doing something right; and I’ve got time to fix what I’m not.

He reminds me of my first love. Yes, I’ve been on the line and there were nights I hated it. But, I don’t just want to end up the guy with a drooling pen and a rounded stomach with no understanding, no relation to how things work on the other side. I wanna be one of the guys. He revives the intrigue, the envy of boasting about the pain you endured, the number of diners you’ve served, the chefs and kitchens you’ve worked for.

That’s another thing! Chef. He reminds us that chef is the leader of the kitchen, not necessarily the most talented cook, but the person capable of setting a standard and causing a crew of others to replicate it to specs, motivating them to move beyond the pressure, to suppress the analytics and pump out the product, flawlessly. That’s another conversation.

He also speaks of the world of food writing and the great influence that writers of varying experiences and credentials have on restaurants. (Remember that scene from Chef, the molten lava cake meltdown?) He invites me to a personal check up. What am I writing for? Who am I writing for? What shapes my words?

Also included in this book is an honest celebration of excellence and, because he can, retribution and updates from his earlier project Kitchen Confidential.

Anthony Bourdain has received some flack, and some praise, for having a potty mouth. Honestly, that seemed the case in only his most excited bits. Some words were too big to find in my pocket dictionary.

All in all, the book was worth a read. If you’re a fan of Anthony Bourdain, or a fan of food… If you’d like to refine your opinion on the world of food, take a look into Medium Raw- if you haven’t already.

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