A Cook's Tour

Bourdain reads like your brother, your rad uncle, your impossibly cool dad—your realest, smartest friend, who wandered outside after beers at the local one night and ended up in front of some TV cameras and decided to stay there. In this book he sometimes ends a chapter with a footnote entitled Reasons Why You Don’t Want to Be on Television, which is his way of mocking himself - in his introduction, he’s explained his notion of being a sellout. These chapters - filled to the brim with self-loathing and snark against television’s love for the canned and the scripted - add a grit of reality in the façade of his impeccable food writing. What you read, then, is more than the traveling - which, to be honest, is devoid of challenges: it’s complete with crew, accommodation, and good food. What you read is Bourdain himself.

On that note, in the episode where he goes to Morocco that you can see how smooth (bump-less?) his travels are - he is welcomed by a Moroccan-born British-educated man in a suite that was owned by a prince in the 14th century. Sometimes it reeks of privilege, sometimes it sounds so inaccessible - but that doesn’t fault the book: his celebrity cred surely comes with these privileges.

But you can also read his disbelief, and in the open Saharan desert, laying on his back to see thousands of miles of desert and the horizon, he wonders how “a miserable, manic-depressive, overage, undeserving hustler like myself - a utility chef from New York City with no particular distinction to be found in his long and egregiously checkered career - on the strength of one inexplicably large score, could find himself here, seeing this, living the dream.”