Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The top ten food books of the last decade

The Guardian asked a group of food lovers and food writers about the best food books of the last decade.

One title on the list:
Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain

This was a favourite with the restaurant critics on our panel. "Rarely has a single book been seized upon by a profession as the true gospel in such a manner. Kitchen Confidential, with its shameless, no-bodily-fluid-spared approach to the slippery business of kitchen life, managed exactly that," said Jay Rayner, while Marina O'Loughlin wrote: "Like a bodice-ripper heroine, I don't know whether I love 'Tony' or want to smack him in the chops. Especially since this snake-blood drinking, pig-killing memoir [A Cook's Tour] launched a whole host of inferior, extreme-eating imitators. Drenched in testosterone, it may be, but it was the original and the best." For Fuchsia Dunlop, "this exposé of life in the 'culinary underbelly' of the restaurant industry is gruesome and hilarious."

Alex Renton was amazed "to think this sweltering account of life and death beyond the swing doors is only 9 years old - Bourdain put the rock (and the speed and the coke and the smack) into chefs' memoirs, and started a legend of knife-fighting, hard-drinking, Ramones-loving psycho-cooks that Gordon, Marco and co continue feebly to exploit. Brand me with a red-hot skillet, I still love this book."

"Reading Kitchen Confidential for the first time was an unalloyed joy," says Tim Hayward. "Bourdain spoke honestly about the kind of kitchens I'd grown up in - the visceral thrill, the camaraderie, the sheer rock and roll excitement, the fire and the knives. Nothing could have been further from the Elizabeth David books I was stuck with at the time and nothing could have been more appropriate. For me, Bourdain rescued food from the writing of women's magazines and made it muscular, tattooed and ripped to the gills on cheap speed."
Read about the other books on the list.

Read about my interview with one of the chefs in Bourdain's book: "The Life & Times of Jimmy Sears".

--Marshal Zeringue