In this book list, I’ll go over Anthony Bourdain’s creations. He is an uncommon combination of a celebrity chef, TV character, and writer. His writing carrier, which will be our main subject, is highly medley as well. While most of his work is about culinary cultures and travel, he also has a finger in fiction and historical writing tool. Even touching subjects around the human condition and getting into the philosophy of being one.
Bourdain was born on 1956 in Manhattan. His family was both culturally and religiously diverse which can be seen as the main reason behind his interest in cultures. Although he had a good childhood as he had “modern” parents, he would talk in an interview about how he yearned for more freedom and less supervision in his childhood and adolescence.
Bourdain’s love for food started when he first tasted a cold soup called “Vichyssoise” during a vacation to France. He graduated from one college and dropped out of the second to pursue his passion, finally graduating from The Culinary Institute of America in 1978. His writing career started almost ten years after that with the fictional pieces he wrote for literary magazines but I will be looking for Anthony Bourdain’s best books instead of the rather than these short pieces.
Best Anthony Bourdain Books
|Kitchen Confidential||9.56/10||352 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
|A Cook's Tour||9.46/10||288 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
|Medium Raw||9.16/10||288 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
|Les Halles Cookbook||9.68/10||415 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
|Appetites||9.62/10||299 Pages||Check Price On Amazon|
The first piece I will go over in the search for the best Anthony Bourdain book is Kitchen Confidential. Despite what the main title could lead you to believe, kitchen practices are not at the center of the book. Instead, it tells the journey of the author on the way to becoming a chef and provides insight into what life is like for people working in the food service industry.
The famous chef does the honors for his first book by talking about his adolescent experiences that bore interest in food for him. From his vacation to France to the meals he cooked for his family, he allows us to take a look into his mind. He then goes on to give out a few tips on dining out and kitchen tools before going on to talk about a chef’s average day -and a chef’s life-. He then closes shop after giving some advice to aspiring chefs.
Breath of Fresh Air
Anthony Bourdain manages to offer completely original material in his most popular book. It is not often that you learn how the bitter and angry chefs came to be. More than that, he talks about life at a restaurant and the food culture in the United States with the shameless honesty of a post-war poet. He speaks almost as if he aims to spill every bad thing out in a fit of anger and tiredness. Still, Anthony Bourdain never lets go of the pride and love he has for his work in the first among his best rated books.
A Cook’s Tour
Maybe the Best Job
Published in early 2001 and later renamed “A Cook’s Tour: In Search of The Perfect Meal”, this travel and cuisine piece takes second place in our Anthony Bourdain book list. After the grand success of the first book I talked about above, the chef is sponsored by a book editor to travel all around the globe with the goal of finding a perfect meal.
Anthony Bourdain, Chef/Adventurer
What stroke me the most about this book was not the mouth-watering or gut-wrenching meals but the commentary of a man who knew so much about food culture. At first, I found the word “Adventures” in the title a bit too romantic. After all, how adventurous can eating can be? I was wrong as it turns out. Bourdain explores the world of food with the whim of an adventurer.
He is not just concerned about the taste or the cooking method of the meals. He talks about their connection with the culture they are a part of, shares his experiences in the foreign lands, and puts a laugh on your face while doing so. It is a thoroughly fascinating read all the way from the roasted lamb testicles to vodka cocktails made with shrimp genitals.
A Second Look
Medium Raw is by many means a sequel to Anthony Bourdain’s best selling book Kitchen Confidential-and also second in the list of most popular Anthony Bourdain books just after it. It is mostly, though not solely, concerned with the changes in the culinary world of the West in the ten years after 2000 when the first book was published. There are always back-and-forth comparisons between the past and today. The book also includes a decent amount of the author’s reflections on himself.
Bourdain mainly discourses the changes in the industry by using his own experiences. This seemed a bit self-centered for me at first but when you think about the opportunities he has both as a proven chef and a culinary celebrity, it makes sense given that his point of view is about as good as you can get. Even though it may be less than objective. More so, I thought he had a better handle on himself when compared to his earlier works.
How the Star Changed
The biggest difference that I noticed is that he clearly practices more thinking when it comes to the matter of his personality. After all, he got where he wanted to get to and now it is time for him to reflect on himself. Such is barely something more than human nature. Because of this, he is highly aware of the public opinion about himself too. He has come to notice the angry, douchey persona he has been playing out and he seems to have distanced himself from it.
Les Halles Cookbook
If You Want to Cook Better
The next piece on this Anthony Bourdain book reviews is the holy book of cooking for the author. It is labeled as a Cookbook, probably because it is the only description that fits it, but it is so much more than that. The chef’s main goal is to help the reader cook better. I’d say this is the best Anthony Bourdain book for new readers.
My favorite part of the book is that Bourdain does not take on the appearance of a morning show celebrity who’s all smiles and flowers as most cookbook writers do. He instead talks with complete authority as if you were a close friend and he is utterly disappointed that you wouldn’t make your own chicken broth to use in your soup if he didn’t tell you. You have the time for it while your beans are soaking for God’s sake.
Les Halles Cookbook is by far my favorite cookbook and it just might be the best book by Anthony Bourdain. A cookbook is the one thing a chef can write the best after all and it sure is refreshing to see a writing of his where he actually talks about cooking rather than being a cook.
Next up we have another cookbook that is among the top rated books by Anthony Bourdain. It is basically a collection of the chef’s favorites, meals that he thinks everyone should be able to prepare well. The chef keeps the same attitude from his last cookbook but this time he talks about the meals on a personal basis. If the Les Hallas Cookbook wants you to learn how to cook properly, this one wants you to cook things you will enjoy.
All to his Liking
The recipe selection is very encompassing and wide. Not just in the sense that it gives you different choices you try out if you want to make a recipe from the book too. It’s more than that, it clearly shows that Bourdain does not limit his selection based on how closely the meals are related to each other, nor does he try to keep a uniform skill or equipment level required to cook the meals.
The result is an unusual cookbook that teaches you the classics without trying too hard to fit a mold. He gives you the greatest Mac and Cheese recipe for him and goes on a fully-fledged rant about scrambled eggs but he also doesn’t stop himself from putting in a Ramen or Ma Po Tofu recipe in there as well. Finally, without this book, I would have never known all I wanted from a cookbook was to be a little more chaotic.
The Nasty Bits
Thinking of all Anthony Bourdain books in order, I think The Nasty Bits is the one piece where I saw the gritty, grudgeful side of him the most clearly. The book was published in 2005 and it showed us a side of the famous chef that not many are familiar with. It is a collection of essays. Essays, where he talks clearly without the worry of fitting something inside the theme of a book or being TV presentable. They are just thoughts he shared to be published in varying magazines.
As this is a collection of small pieces, one shouldn’t expect a solid structure. They are either his detailed descriptions of the meals he liked or thoughts that people like you and me would probably keep to ourselves. He states how he disapproves of overweight people crowding public places, specifically transportation. He also talks about how much he hates the raw eating trend and why he hates it. I think you get the gist of it.
A disturbing detail in this collection for me was how one of the ways the author described he was highly satisfied with something; “It is worth hanging yourself in a hotel shower.”. I don’t want to get too much into this subject at this point in the writing but I guess this is a prime example of how unfiltered Bourdain is in these texts. It’s definitely a chance to get to know the person behind the chef better.
Leaving a Legacy
This list is supposed to be an “Anthony Bourdain Books Ranked” type of one but World Travel can stick out a bit among the others. The book’s real author is not Anthony Bourdain but his assistant Laurie Woolever. Still, I can’t really say it is not one of his books just because he didn’t personally write it. The main source material of the book is a one-hour interview between the two authors of the book as well as lengthy quotes from the chef and his friends.
Behind the Scenes
It is a travel guide, obviously. It talks about the places Bourdain visited, where he stayed during his travels, important things other travelers should know about, and so on. Most importantly though, it includes detailed narratives of how the chef felt about a place. In Anthony Bourdain last book, we are let in on the personal reasons he liked or disliked the meals he has eaten and the places he has been to with quite a number of quotes from the man himself too.
Get Jiro Series
The best Anthony Bourdain book series I will talk about now is very unique compared to the previous ones we went over. Consisting of two fictional pieces with the first titled “Get Jiro!” -in my opinion best Anthony Bourdain novel- and the second “Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi”. This world the chef created solely revolves around food. It is a time when all the emotions of people are related to food.
It’s a Cook’s World
Somewhat reflectingly, the author imagines successful chefs to be overlords akin to mafia bosses. There are two major factions that have different ideals for food and then, there is Jiro. An independent sushi chef who lives on his own, by his own terms, and executes his own ideals mercilessly. Oh and, he is also known for executing guests who stir their wasabi with the soy sauce. Just so you know.
Jiro finds himself in between the two factions that both want him to join their side after he “punishes” an important food supplier for being a rude customer at his shop and drawing the factions’ attention. Overall, it is interesting to read Bourdain where he doesn’t play the role of the main character for once and it results in two of the best Anthony Bourdain novels.
Hungry Ghosts Series
One After Another
If you thought Bourdain’s Get Jiro Series was a one-hit wonder, you have been completely mistaken. After the initial success of the first series’ Get Jiro!, Bourdain gets together with novelist Joel Rose to bring the second contender for the best Anthony Bourdain series to life. The concept of the series is based upon the “Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai” game that was played mainly in salons during the Japanese Edo period.
Finger Licking Scary?
In the game Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai, a hundred candles are set aflame in an isolated room with nothing but the candles and a small mirror inside. The game is played by the participants taking turns reciting tales of spirits, monsters, and supernatural horrors in general. After each story is told, the player who told the story is to go to that room, blow out one of the lights, and take a look at themselves in the mirror. After all the lights are out it is said, spirits can be summoned into the room without resistance.
In the series, the game is reimagined in different cultures and all the horrors present are stirred together with the different cuisines. The two authors do an excellent job of making the creepy stories sound delicious and vice versa. The four books take place in Russia, Southern Italy, France, and the snowy tundras -of somewhere?- in that order and I think the Italy and French ones make up for the two best novels by Anthony Bourdain in this series
Cook of the Past
After uncovering the secrets of New York’s kitchens with Kitchen Confidential, Bourdain takes a step forward and decides to expose the dirty kitchens of the past with this 2001 published book. The chef tells the real story of Marry Mallon, better known as Typhoid Mary who caused multiple typhoid outbreaks over the course of more than ten years.
Mary Mallon was someone who loved cooking at least as much as the writer of the book. She was first suspected of having typhoid in 1904 when she was the house cook of a residence. However, she ran away before being tested out of the fear that she would not be able to continue cooking if she were to be diagnosed. Mary did everything in her power to keep cooking as long as she could, even including running from the authorities and living under fake names.
Love of Food
It is not so mysterious why Bourdain wanted to write about Marry Mallon. If Bourdain is a romantic chef, Typhoid Mary was madly in love. She could not give up cooking no matter how hard she had to fight or how many people she would cause to suffer gravely. Still though, as interesting as the story is, the chef is no historian. I’d advise reading the story as if it was a tale told by a friend as there are some historical mistakes.
On June 8 of 2018, the wonderful writer decided to leave life on his own terms. What is left behind are these great works of him along with the TV shows and the memories of all the fascinating meals he cooked. He might have been a dislikable figure for some yet he was definitely not a bad person. May he rest in peace.
Alissa is an avid reader, blogger, and wannabe writer. (She's a much better cook than a writer actually). Alissa is married, has one human, one feline, and two canine kids. She always looks a mess and never meets a deadline.