Anthony Bourdain’s “Nasty Bits”

Bruce Handy in the New York Times:


It’s often easy to forget, when absorbing some great work of art, the extent to which the creative process is kept afloat not just by genius but also by dumb luck, desperation and sweat. This is true of great food as well. Sitting down to an expensive dinner at Per Se or Babbo, we might like to imagine that our entree was pulled fully formed from Thomas Keller’s or Mario Batali’s toque as if by magic — immaculate confection. But the reality of restaurant cooking is much uglier, at least if Anthony Bourdain is to be believed. He is the executive chef at Les Halles, the French steakhouse on Park Avenue South, and also the author of seven previous books, including the best-selling memoir “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.” Published in 2000, this was a “You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again” for the restaurant trade, famous for the chapter “From Our Kitchen to Your Table,” which originally appeared in The New Yorker. It explained why you should never order fish on Monday (your snapper special has most likely been sitting around since Thursday, owing to the quirks of fishmongers’ schedules) and why your basket of bread has probably been recycled from another table (an easy shortcut for overworked busboys). More alarming still is the reason Bourdain gave for why the pros never order swordfish: “those three-foot-long parasitic worms that riddle the fish’s flesh.” In other words, you’ll never eat lunch in any town again.

“The Nasty Bits,” mainly a catchall of Bourdain’s magazine and newspaper writing, offers more in this vein: “Fast well-done steak? I’ve watched French grads of three-star kitchens squeeze the blood out of filet mignons with their full body weight, turning a medium to well in seconds. I’ve watched in horror as chefs have hurled beautiful chateaubriands into the deep-fat fryer, microwaved veal chops, thinned sauce with the brackish greasy water in the steam table. And when it gets busy? Everything that falls on the floor, amazingly, falls ‘right on the napkin.’ Let me tell you — that’s one mighty big napkin.”

As they say, you don’t want to see how the sausage is made.

More here.