Book Review: Medium Raw

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Title: Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook
Author: Anthony Bourdain
Publication Date: 2010
Publishing House: Harper Audio

After listening to Kitchen Confidential I was interested in reading more of Bourdain’s books. Medium Raw is not a sequel to Kitchen Confidential but it is a companion book in that Bourdain does discuss the writing of and the content of the book. Both of these books I borrowed as audiobooks from the local library and both are narrated but Anthony Bourdain.

Goodreads Synopsis:

A lot has changed since Kitchen Confidential. For the subculture of chefs and cooks, for the restaurant business as a whole—and for Anthony Bourdain. Medium Raw explores those changes, taking the reader back and forth—from the author’s bad old days—to the present. Tracking his own strange and unexpected voyage from journeyman cook to globe travelling professional eater and drinker, Bourdain compares and contrasts what he’s seen and what he’s seeing, pausing along the way for a series of confessions, rants, investigations, and interrogations of some of the more controversial figures in food. Always returning to the question: “Why cook? “ Or the harder to answer: “Why cook well?”

Beginning with a secret and highly illegal after-hours gathering of powerful chefs he compares to a Mafia summit, the story follows the twists and eddies through subjects ranging from:

• “The Friends of David Chang” an incredibly undiplomatic discussion with (and peek into the mind of) the hottest, most influential chef in America.
• “Don’t Ask Alice”: Alice Waters. Good . . . or Evil?
• The Big Shake Out: The restaurant business in post economic meltdown America. How it’s changing. How it might change even more.
• And, Heroes and Villains. (With a few returning favorites.)

I’m not going to say that I loved all of this book, a lot of it is about chefs that I have never heard of. That being said, the descriptions of their food and the ways that they were, at the time, making changes to the professional cooking industry is really fascinating.

Almost all the descriptions of food in this book had me drooling. I almost want to try a massive tasting menu with wine pairings. From the descriptions they sound absolutely delicious, creative, and indulgent. Also, reading about street food in Asian countries makes me want to try it. Although, I’m not sure I want to eat hot pot so spicy that I’m sweating while eating.

In his first book, Bourdain rarely speaks about his personal life. In this book he does address some personal aspects of his life: his failed first marriage that ended in divorce, his second wife, and his daughter. He doted on his daughter.

One of the things that I enjoyed about this collection is that Bourdain reflected on who he was when he wrote Kitchen Confidential; how he expected only a small amount of people in the restaurant industry to even read it, and the angry state of mind he was in when he wrote his first book. He also revisits some if the influential people from his original work and where they were nearly a decade later. Some had moved on from the restaurant life and some had moved up and some he had no idea.

I suggest this book for fans of Anthony Bourdain, for fans of Kitchen Confidential, and for those that might think that they want to be part of the restaurant business. Have you read this book? If yes, what did you think? Let me know in the comments. Happy reading!

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