There’s been plenty said about the life and times of Anthony Bourdain, and it’s clear that he was much-loved right around the world.
His TV shows and cookbooks brought him into millions of homes, and it was his 2000 New York Times bestseller Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly that catapulted his career to the next level.
That book was actually based off an article that he wrote in the New Yorker in April 1999, titled ‘Don’t Eat Before Reading This‘, and if you haven’t yet given that the once over I suggest you get stuck in.
It is the kind of day that’s perfect for staying in bed and reading, but if you don’t have that luxury then sit at your desk and pretend that you’re working.
We’ll just get the ball rolling:
Good food, good eating, is all about blood and organs, cruelty and decay. It’s about sodium-loaded pork fat, stinky triple-cream cheeses, the tender thymus glands and distended livers of young animals. It’s about danger—risking the dark, bacterial forces of beef, chicken, cheese, and shellfish. Your first two hundred and seven Wellfleet oysters may transport you to a state of rapture, but your two hundred and eighth may send you to bed with the sweats, chills, and vomits.
Gastronomy is the science of pain. Professional cooks belong to a secret society whose ancient rituals derive from the principles of stoicism in the face of humiliation, injury, fatigue, and the threat of illness. The members of a tight, well-greased kitchen staff are a lot like a submarine crew. Confined for most of their waking hours in hot, airless spaces, and ruled by despotic leaders, they often acquire the characteristics of the poor saps who were press-ganged into the royal navies of Napoleonic times—superstition, a contempt for outsiders, and a loyalty to no flag but their own.
That’s almost enough from us, but here’s where he starts to touch on the ‘eat before you read this’ vibe:
People who order their meat well-done perform a valuable service for those of us in the business who are cost-conscious: they pay for the privilege of eating our garbage. In many kitchens, there’s a time-honored practice called “save for well-done.” When one of the cooks finds a particularly unlovely piece of steak—tough, riddled with nerve and connective tissue, off the hip end of the loin, and maybe a little stinky from age—he’ll dangle it in the air and say, “Hey, Chef, whaddya want me to do with this?”
Now, the chef has three options. He can tell the cook to throw the offending item into the trash, but that means a total loss, and in the restaurant business every item of cut, fabricated, or prepared food should earn at least three times the amount it originally cost if the chef is to make his correct food-cost percentage. Or he can decide to serve that steak to “the family”—that is, the floor staff—though that, economically, is the same as throwing it out.
But no. What he’s going to do is repeat the mantra of cost-conscious chefs everywhere: “Save for well-done.” The way he figures it, the philistine who orders his food well-done is not likely to notice the difference between food and flotsam.
What kind of a monster eats their steak well done? Oh, wait.
Bourdain spills all the beans on what’s going on behind the swinging doors, so here’s hoping you brought something nice to eat from home to work today.
[imagesource: Esa Alexander / Sunday Times] My first thought when I hear the words 'cas...
[imagesource: Racool Studio] We've had much of the same over the last couple of months ...
[imagesource:here] It has been over a month since a group of residents in Sea Point sta...
Guess who's back, back again? Recently, the trailer for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm arri...
[imagesource:here] Curses and cursed artefacts have long been part of legend and folklo...