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A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines

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Overview

The only thing "gonzo gastronome" and internationally bestselling author Anthony Bourdain loves as much as cooking is traveling. Inspired by the question, "What would be the perfect meal?," Tony sets out on a quest for his culinary holy grail, and in the process turns the notion of "perfection" inside out. From California to Cambodia, A Cooks' Tour chronicles the unpredictable adventures of America's boldest and bravest chef.

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A Cook's Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal

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Overview

The only thing "gonzo gastronome" and internationally bestselling author Anthony Bourdain loves as much as cooking is traveling. Inspired by the question, "What would be the perfect meal?," Tony sets out on a quest for his culinary holy grail, and in the process turns the notion of "perfection" inside out. From California to Cambodia, A Cooks' Tour chronicles the unpredictable adventures of America's boldest and bravest chef.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
This time, the tables are turned on Anthony Bourdain. The gonzo chef who wrote what he calls "an overtestosteroned account" of his life in the restaurant business is no longer in control in the kitchen -- he's a guest at the table, hoping for a perfect meal.

Now a perfect meal, as Bourdain points out, is not usually the most expensive or most sophisticated. It's the pizza you had when you first fell in love, the first wild strawberry you ever ate. Context is a major player here; so is what Bourdain calls "food magic." As Bourdain travels around the world eating scary and interesting food, he doesn't get that perfect meal very often, but he always has adventures.

The Bourdain mix of bravado, irreverence, and self-deprecation that delighted readers of Kitchen Confidential is on full display in A Cook's Tour. Picture Hunter S. Thompson high on paella instead of peyote. Imagine Redmond O'Hanlon not only in trouble again but hungry, really hungry. In Pailin, ("a miserable one-horse dunghole in northwest Cambodia"), Bourdain writes to his wife: "Could you maybe make a doctor's appointment for me when I get back? I'm thinking a full workup, to be on the safe side. I've been wading in water -- and drinking it -- from the kind of worst-case scenarios you read about in the guidebooks and travelers warning. Needless to say, some of the food I've been eating -- well, the food handling has been...dubious, at best."

Trailed by a camera crew from the Food Network, Bourdain treks from Tokyo and Ho Chi Minh City to Morocco, Portugal, and Russia. In Japan, he eats fugu, the deadly puffer fish that can only be prepared and served by licensed cooks. In Saigon, he gets a meal of live cobra heart, guaranteed to make him "very, very strong." He eats haggis in Scotland, reindeer in Russia, iguana tamales in Mexico, and drinks homemade rice whiskey in Saigon with all the old war heroes from the American War. He takes his brother back to the coast of France to taste fresh oysters, and lures his best chef pals along on a pilgrimage to the French Laundry in the Napa Valley. It's a helluva meal. (Ginger Curwen)

Bon Appétit
Food Writer of the Year
Elle
“None of your limp-wristed, pinch-mouthed, hoity-toity delicacies for this guy.”
Time magazine
“Bourdain’s mission is to show the cool, un-Martha side of the culinary world.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Some fine food adventure reading…. Bourdain offers excellent insight into real food.”
People
“[Bourdain] is a one-man army traveling the world on his stomach--and his droll wit.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Adventurous and opinionated, [Bourdain] is very good company.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Brilliant. A chain-smoking, hard-drinking, cut-to-the-chase guy’s guy, ready to try anything new and different.”
Washington Post
“If you’re looking for a camel ride and an amiable companion, you could do a lot worse.”
Dallas Morning News
“Vintage Bourdain.”
Bon Appetit Magazine Editors
Food Writer of the Year
People Magazine
"[Bourdain] is a one-man army traveling the world on his stomach—and his droll wit."
Time Magazine
"Bourdain’s mission is to show the cool, un-Martha side of the culinary world."
People
“[Bourdain] is a one-man army traveling the world on his stomach—and his droll wit.”
Elle
“None of your limp-wristed, pinch-mouthed, hoity-toity delicacies for this guy.”
Dallas Morning News
“Vintage Bourdain.”
Washington Post
“If you’re looking for a camel ride and an amiable companion, you could do a lot worse.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Adventurous and opinionated, [Bourdain] is very good company.”
People
“[Bourdain] is a one-man army traveling the world on his stomach--and his droll wit.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Some fine food adventure reading…. Bourdain offers excellent insight into real food.”
Elle
“None of your limp-wristed, pinch-mouthed, hoity-toity delicacies for this guy.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Brilliant. A chain-smoking, hard-drinking, cut-to-the-chase guy’s guy, ready to try anything new and different.”
Time magazine
“Bourdain’s mission is to show the cool, un-Martha side of the culinary world.”
From The Critics
Anthony Bourdain's idea of the potentially perfect meal is surely not your idea. Been craving Moroccan lamb testicles lately? Didn't think so. Had a hankering for goat's head soup? Chili-roasted maguey worms? How about the beating heart of a cobra, freshly extracted from its former owner? Clearly Bourdain isn't your garden-variety gastronome. Familiarity, and fat-free cooking, breeds his contempt; derring-do is his stock in trade.

The author of last year's bestselling Kitchen Confidential, the delicious tell-all book of life in the pit of the "culinary underbelly," Bourdain has become an overnight sensation as unlikely as an upside-down tequila shot in a muffled nouvelle-cuisine dining room. In the world of celebrity chefdom, where the life of cuddly Emeril Lagasse begets a sitcom, Bourdain's would be a snuff-film screening on skid row. While England's Two Fat Ladies puttered onto the foodie scene in a kooky sidecar motorcycle, Bourdain barges in pulling screaming wheelies on a dastardly chopper straight out of the cartoon art of Big Daddy Roth.

In Bourdain's hands, "food porn" takes on an all-new, and sometimes quite literal, meaning. In this book, he uses his newfound celebrity to circle the globe, visiting some of its darkest corners in search of a sensory overload involving his mouth, his stomach and quite often his bare hands. As much a reckless travelogue as a vicarious dining experience, the book might scare off a considerable number of Bourdain's more organic-oriented fans. But then, if they enjoyed Kitchen Confidential, they can't say they weren't sufficiently warned.

The author envisioned his new book as an adventure, with himself portraying "one ofthose debauched heroes and villains" out of Graham Greene, Joseph Conrad, Francis Ford Coppola and Michael Cimino. "I wanted to wander the world in a dirty seersucker suit, getting into trouble," he claims. By and large, he fulfills the vision, even if he's sometimes wearing a cowboy hat or a tiny Speedo bathing suit instead of the seersucker.

Once again, Bourdain is laugh-out-loud funny at times, in an unapologetic, sophomoric sort of way. Of that dubious Moroccan lamb delicacy, he writes, "It was certainly the best testicle I'd ever had in my mouth. Also the first, I should hasten to say." The writing is occasionally careless—one larded meal, for instance, leaves him "feeling like Elvis in Vegas"—but mostly it matches the lurid glee that made Kitchen Confidential such a success. Describing durian (the spiny, famously pungent fruit he devoured with delight in Cambodia), he writes, "God it stank! It smelled like you'd buried somebody holding a big wheel of Stilton in his arms, then dug him up a few weeks later."

Bourdain's success as a writer is his knack for making food the centerpiece of a much broader discussion about living life on a grand scale. In fact, in A Cook's Tour, the food is sometimes relegated to a side table. In Russia, the author pounds vodka and attends an illegal, no-holds-barred cage-fighting event. In England, he offers one man's humble explanation of why the pornography there is so exceptionally bad. In Morocco, he finds himself too high on hashish to communicate with the camera crew that's documenting his travels for an upcoming Food Network series. ("God help me," he moans hilariously about getting himself entangled in that particular piece of business.)

The gist of his search is that Bourdain wants to re-create the earth-shattering oyster-eating experience he had as a boy in France, so vividly described in Kitchen Confidential. "Think about the last time food transported you," he writes, lingering over a lifetime of pivotal encounters with his taste buds—wild strawberries, an old girlfriend's leftover pork-fried rice. "Maybe it was just a bowl of Campbell's cream of tomato with Oysterettes, and a grilled cheese sandwich. You know what I mean." This kind of sweet faith in the universal pleasures of eating belies Bourdain's relentless bluster.

So does his regret, on his return to France, that he is emotionally incapable of re-creating that wondrous shellfish moment, try as he might. "I began to feel damaged," he writes in one of the book's most elegant, and vulnerable, passages. "Broken. As if some essential organ—my heart perhaps—had shriveled and died."

The closest the author comes to a conventional notion of the perfect meal is at the French Laundry, chef Thomas Keller's revered restaurant in the California wine country. And "conventional" is hardly the word. Famously, Keller's menus are astonishments of originality. The menu itself reads like pure poetry: coronets of salmon tartare, cauliflower panna cotta with Malpeque oyster glaze and Oscetra caviar, ricotta cheese gnocchi with a Darjeeling tea-walnut oil emulsion and shaved walnuts. For his "degenerate smoker" guest, Keller prepared a surprise—a course he called "coffee and a cigarette," featuring tobacco-infused coffee custard with foie gras. Bourdain is suitably overwhelmed. "It was an absolutely awe-inspiring meal, accompanied, I should point out, by a procession of sensational wines.... I remember a big brawny red in a cistern-sized glass, which nearly made me weep with pleasure. Cooking had crossed the line into magic," he gushes.

Though he would prefer not to be the sort of man to gush, the punk-rock author finds himself hearing a chorus of angels when food moves him. In spite of himself, the foul-mouthed Bourdain proves in the end to be a big ol' softie. In Morocco, he hauls himself to the top of a ridge in the desert. "A hundred miles of sand in every direction, a hundred miles of absolutely gorgeous, unspoiled nothingness," he recalls. "I was wondering 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." The answer seems obvious, if not to the man who's looking for it. His is a rare sensitivity divided equally among heart, mind and palate.
—James Sullivan

Publishers Weekly
In this paperback reprint, swashbuckling chef Anthony Bourdain, author of the bestselling Kitchen Confidential (which famously warned restaurant-goers against ordering fish on Mondays), travels where few foodies have thought to travel before in search of the perfect meal: the Sputnik-era kitchen of a "less-than-diminutive" St. Petersburg matron, the provincial farmhouse of a Portuguese pig-slaughterer and the middle of the Moroccan desert, where he dines on "crispy, veiny" lamb testicles. Searching for the "perfect meal," Bourdain writes with humor and intelligence, describing meals of boudin noir and Vietnamese hot vin lon ("essentially a soft-boiled duck embryo") and 'fessing up to a few nights of over-indulgence ("I felt like I'd awakened under a collapsed building," he writes of a night in San Sebastian hopping from tapas bar to tapas bar). Goat's head soup, lemongrass tripe, and pork-blood cake all make appearances, as does less exotic fare, such as French fries and Mars bars (deep fried, but still). In between meals, Bourdain lets his readers in on the surprises and fears of a well-fed American voyaging to far-off, frugal places, where every part of an animal that can be eaten must be eaten, and the need to preserve food has fueled culinary innovation for centuries. He also reminds his audience of the connections between food and land and human toil, which, in these sterilized days of pre-wrapped sausages, is all too easy to forget. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Over-the-top and highly diverting international culinary adventures, always to be taken with a generous grain of salt-and make it Fleur de Sel-and best consumed a bite at a time.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060012786
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/28/2002
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 140,586
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Anthony Bourdain is the author of the novels Bone in the Throat and Gone Bamboo, in addition to the mega-bestseller Kitchen Confidential and A Cook's Tour. He is the host of the popular television show No Reservations.

Biography

Like all great chefs, Anthony Bourdain is a true jack-of-all-trades. Just as a truly skilled chef would not limit himself to, say, cooking risotto, Bourdain has approached his writing career in much the same way. His repertoire consists of comedic crime novels, autobiographical travelogues, exposes, and historical explorations -- not to mention a collection of tasty recipes.

Bourdain's career has been characterized by more unexpected twists and turns than one would find in one of his novels. After the native New Yorker graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, he opened his own classic French Bistro, Brasserie Les Halles. However, never satisfied with simply traveling a single avenue, Bourdain tried his hand at penning a novel. The results were wholly unexpected: A witty, gritty mob tale set in the Little Italy section of Manhattan, Bone in the Throat was published in 1995. Bourdain's second novel, Gone Bamboo, followed two years later, and once again the writer's innate knack for black humor was on full display. Publishers Weekly confidently christened him "a new master of the wiseass crime comedy."

Of course, by the time the public had placed Bourdain in a specific literary niche, he was already on to bigger game. In 1999, The New Yorker published "Don't Eat Before Reading This," his scathing exposé of conditions within certain New York restaurants. The article, which garnered wide attention, would ultimately evolve into the critically lauded full-length book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. Bourdain brought the same cutting humor and confident swagger that marked his novels to his first nonfiction work, establishing a distinct voice that followed him from genre to genre. Jumping from memoir (The Nasty Bits) to biography (Typhoid Mary: An Urban Historical) to culinary how-to (Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook), Bourdain served up his smartypants prose with the same skill he brought to his celebrated cuisine.

In the end, even as Bourdain continues to wear many hats -- master chef, restaurant entrepreneur, novelist, essayist, TV star -- his heart still lies in the kitchen. "When you've been a cook and chef for twenty-eight years, as I have, you never really look at the world from any other perspective," he told PreviewPort.com in 2002. "In many ways that's helpful with all the nonsense -- as one tends to have low expectations. For the time being -- I'm making it up as I go along and trying to enjoy the ride while it lasts."

Good To Know

When PreviewPort.com asked Bourdain who he would invite to "the ultimate dinner party," he responded with his typical deadpan flair, "Graham Greene, Iggy Pop, Kim Philby, Louise Brooks, Hede Massing" and would host it in "the squalid back room of the Siberia Bar in NYC."

You can add sitcom creator to Bourdain's long list of accomplishments. In 2005, FOX TV produced a comedy series based on his book Kitchen Confidential only to unceremoniously cancel the series before it even aired.

Bourdain can currently be seen traveling the world in search of the ultimate eating experience in his very own series Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations on the Discovery Channel.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      June 25, 1956
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      High school diploma, Dwight Englewood School, 1973; A.O.S. degree, The Culinary Institute of America, 1978
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Fire Over England

Finally, there’s England’s greatest chef, or England’s biggest bully, depending on which paper you’re reading at the time – the fearsome and prodigiously talented Gordon Ramsay. I’d been hearing about this guy for years. Ex-footballer. Formerly with Robuchon, Ducasse, Guy Savoy, Marco Pierre White. A legendary wordsmith in the kitchen – famed for excoriating his crew, ejecting food critics, speaking his mind bluntly and undiplomatically. Awhile back, I was told about the cinema verité Boiling Point series, in which the beleaguered Ramsay was said to behave monstrously to his staff. Intrigued, I managed to track down a copy of the videotape series. To my mind, Ramsay was sympathetic from beginning to end. I rooted for him as he sweated out the beginning of a service period for a massive banquet at Versailles, ill-equipped, with only a rent-a-staff of indolent bucket heads to help him. I cheered when he summarily dismissed a waiter for guzzling water in full view of the dining room. Pour décourager les autres, I’m guessing. I suffered as he suffered the interminable wait for his much-hoped-for third Michelin star and was heartbroken when he didn’t get it. (He since has.) Those who can’t understand why a chef operating at Ramsay’s level gets a little cranky, or who appears to be operating at a higher and more self-important pitch than their boss, simply don’t understand what it’s like to work in a professional kitchen. They certainly don’t understand what it takes to be the best in that world. It is not how well you can cook alone that makes a great chef, but your ability to cook brilliantly, day in and day out – in an environment where a thousand things can go wrong, with a crew that oftentimes would just as happily be sticking up convenience stores, in a fickle, cost-conscious, capricious world where everybody is hoping that you fail.

Is he really such a complete bastard? Let’s put it this way: On a recent visit to his restaurant in Chelsea, I recognized large numbers of staff – both front and back of the house – from Boiling Point. Years later and they’re still there. When Ramsay walked out of Aubergine, the entire staff, service staff included – an incredible forty-five people – chose to go with him. That’s really the most telling statistic. Does he still enjoy the loyalty of his crew? He does. No cook shows up every day in Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen, works those kind of hours, offers themselves up daily to the rigors of a three-star service period, toiling in a small, hot space where at any moment they could get a painful and humiliating ass reaming because Gordon Ramsay is the biggest bastard or the biggest bully in England. They show up every day and work like Trojans because he’s the best. Because when they finally walk out that door to seek their own fortunes, they won’t even have to write up a résumé. Say you worked for three years with Gordon Ramsay, and that’s all any chef or owner should need to know.

There’s another factor overlooked in the rush to brand Ramsay as rude, crude, brutish, and cruel. In the professional kitchen, if you look someone in the eye and call them a ‘fat, worthless, syphilitic puddle of badger crap’ it doesn’t mean you don’t like them. It can be – and often is – a term of endearment.

Bottom line is, his food’s good. After all, it is about the food, isn’t it?

I had two meals at his restaurant in Chelsea, and both were absolutely world-class. A great chef at the top of his game. There’s yet another overlooked dimension to Ramsay that doesn’t fit with the depiction of an uppity, lower-class lout overlyjacked on testosterone. Ramsay was trained as a pâtissier. This is significant – like discovering that a right-wing politician was a Bolshevik in his youth. Few chefs can really and truly bake. Most chefs, like me, harbor deep suspicions of the precise, overly fussy, somehow feminine, presentation-obsessed counterparts in the pastry section. All that sweet, sticky, messy, goopy, delicate stuff. Pastry, where everything must be carefully measured in exact increments – and made the same way every single time – is diametrically opposed to what most chefs live and breathe, the freedom to improvise, to throw a little of this and a little of that any damn place they want. Ramsay’s food resonates with his training in pastry. It is precise, colorful, artfully sculpted or teased into shape (though not too teased). It is the product of that end point in a chef’s development – the perfect balance of masculine and feminine, the yin and the yang, if you will.

What do I mean? Look at Roberto, my grill man. He’s got a metal rod rammed through his eyebrow, a tattoo of a burning skull on his chest, muscles on his muscles. Rob Zombie and Metallica are his idea of easy listening. He’s done jail time for assault. Not a guy you’d invite to an evening at the opera. But watch Roberto cook. He leans over that plate and delicately, carefully drizzles sauce from a favorite spoon, gently applies an outer ring of sauce, then sensuously drags a toothpick through it. He tastes everything. Looks at his plates with a decorator’s eye for color and texture. Treats a filet of fish as tenderly and as lovingly as a woman’s erect nipple. Piles cute, girly-little garnishes into high, cloudlike piles of gossamer-thin crunchiness. He’s doing what everyone told him growing up that only women should do. (Ramsay’s own father told him cooking was basically for poofs and that chefs were all ponces.) We work in aprons, for fuck’s sake! You better have balls the size of jackfruits if you want to cook at a high level, where an acute sense for flavor and design, as much as brutality and vigilance, is a virtue. And be fully prepared to bulldoze any miserable cocksucker who gets in your way.

Both times I visited his restaurant, Ramsay was in the kitchen, supervising every dish that came out, riding his crew like rented mules. He wasn’t gliding through the dining room, sucking up to his public. He’s a cook in twenty-first-century England; that means he’s an obsessive, paranoid, conspiratorial control freak. A hustler, media-manipulator, artist, craftsman, bully, and glory hound – in short, a chef’s chef. That I found him polite, charming, witty, and gracious and am saying so here will probably be an embarrassment to him. For that, I apologize. His detractors should be so lucky as to taste the absolutely stunning braised beef and foie gras I ate at his restaurant – a dish so sumptuous that I am forced to use that word. A ham hock terrine of really extraordinary subtlety and flavor, a lobster ravioli with fresh green pea puree that revealed – as all food reveals its creator’s true nature – a level of perception and sensitivity that can be a liability in the mosh-pit subculture of professional kitchens. Here’s a guy who risked everything in his career, many times over. He walked away from a career in football when it was made clear he’d never play in the bigs. He endured a procession of stages in some very tough French kitchens. He bolted from his first restaurant, entangling himself in potentially enormous liabilities just when he was in sight of the mountaintop. He loudly announced he was going for three Michelin stars and then stayed on course until he got them. Rather than kiss the asses of all those people who might – under ordinary circumstances – be expected to be helpful to him, he has consistently kicked them in the teeth or even viciously sucker punched them. It’s very hard for me not to like a guy like that. And every day those stars are sitting on him like six-ton flagstones, defying any who might choose to try knocking them off.

England’s worst boss? I don’t think so. England’s worst boss is the boss who doesn’t give a fuck, someone who’s wasting his employees’ time, challenging them to do nothing more ambitious than show up. Understand that in no-name pit stops and casual dining establishments, it’s just a mistake when a cook forgets a single unpeeled fava bean or a tiny smudge of grease, but in a three-star restaurant, it’s treason. In the cruel mathematics of two- and three-star dining establishments, a customer who has a good meal will tell two or three people about it. A person who has an unsatisfactory meal will tell ten or twenty. It makes for a much more compelling anecdote. That one unpeeled fava bean is the end of the world. Or it could be.

As most really good cooks or commis working in similar circumstances will readily tell you: Mess with the chef at your peril. It’s his name on the door.

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First Chapter

Where Food Comes From

'The pig is getting fat. Even as we speak,' said José months later. From the very moment I informed my boss of my plans to eat my way around the world, another living creature's fate was sealed on the other side of the Atlantic. True to his word, José had called his mother in Portugal and told her to start fattening a pig.

I'd heard about this pig business before -- anytime José would hear me waxing poetic about my privileged position as one of the few vendors of old-school hooves and snouts, French charcuterie and offal. Chefs adore this kind of stuff. We like it when we can motivate our customers to try something they might previously have found frightening or repellent. Whether it's a stroke to our egos or a genuine love of that kind of rustic, rural, French brasserie soul food (the real stuff -- not that tricked-out squeezebottle chicanery with the plumage), we love it. It makes us proud and happy to see our customers sucking the marrow out of veal bones, munching on pig's feet, picking over oxtails or beef cheeks. It gives us purpose in life, as if we've done something truly good and laudable that day, brought beauty, hope, enlightenment to our dining rooms and a quiet sort of honor to ourselves and our profession.

'First, We fatten the pig ... for maybe six months. Until he is ready. Then in the winter -- it must be the winter, so it is cold enough -- we kill the pig. Then we cook the heart and the tenderloin for the butchers. Then we eat. We eat everything. We make hams and sausage, stews, casseroles, soup. We use' -- José stressed this -- 'every part.'

'It's kind of a big party,'interjected Armando, the preeminent ball-busting waiter and senior member of our Portuguese contingent at Les Halles.

'You've heard of this?' I asked skeptically. I like Armando -- and he's a great waiter -- but what he says is sometimes at variance with the truth. He likes it when middle-aged ladies from the Midwest come to the restaurant and ask for me, wanting to get their books signed. He sidles over and whispers in confidential tones, 'You know, of course, that the chef is gay? My longtime companion ... a wonderful man. Wonderful.' That's Armando's idea of fun.

'Oh yes!' he said. 'Everyone does it in my town. Maybe once a year. It's a tradition. It goes back to the Middle Ages. Long time.'

'And you eat everything?'

'Everything. The blood. The guts. The ears. Everything. It's delicious.' Armando looked way too happy remembering this. 'Wait! We don't eat everything. The pig's bladder? We blow it up, inflate it, and we make a soccer ball for the children.'

'What's with the soccer ball?' I asked David, also Portuguese, our bar manager and a trusted friend. He shrugged, not wanting to contradict his countryman.

'That's in the north,' he said. 'But I've seen it.'

'You've seen it?'

David nodded and gave me a warning look that said, You don't know what you're in for. 'There's a lot of blood. And the pig makes a lot of noise when you ... you know ... kill it. A lot of noise.'

'You can hear the screams in the next village,' Armando said, grinning.

'Yeah? Well, I'll bring you the bladder, bro,' I said, deciding right then and there that I was going to do this, travel to Portugal and take part in a medieval pig slaughter. Listening to José's description, it sounded kinda cool. A bunch of villagers hanging out, drinking, killing things and eating them. There was no mistaking José's enthusiasm for the event. I was in.

Understand this about me -- and about most chefs, I'm guessing: For my entire professional career, I've been like Michael Corleone in The Godfather, Part II, ordering up death over the phone, or with a nod or a glance. When I want meat, I make a call, or I give my sous-chef, my butcher, or my charcutier a look and they make the call. On the other end of the line, my version of Rocco, Al Neary, or Lucca Brazzi either does the job himself or calls somebody else who gets the thing done. Sooner or later, somewhere -- whether in the Midwest, or upstate New York, or on a farm in rural Pennsylvania, or as far away as Scotland -- something dies. Every time I have picked up the phone or ticked off an item on my order sheet, I have basically caused a living thing to die. What arrives in my kitchen, however, is not the bleeding, still-warm body of my victim, eyes open, giving me an accusatory look that says, 'Why me, Tony? Why me?' I don't have to see that part. The only evidence of my crimes is the relatively antiseptic boxed or plastic-wrapped appearance of what is inarguably meat. I had never, until I arrived on a farm in northern Portugal, had to look my victim in the face -- much less watched at close range -- as he was slaughtered, disemboweled, and broken down into constituent parts. It was only fair, I figured, that I should have to watch as the blade went in. I'd been vocal, to say the least, in my advocacy of meat, animal fat, and offal. I'd said some very unkind things about vegetarians. Let me find out what we're all talking about, I thought. I would learn -- really learn -- where food actually comes from.

It's always a tremendous advantage when visiting another country, especially when you're as uninformed and ill-prepared as I was, to be the guest of a native. You can usually cut right to the good stuff, live close to the ground, experience the place from a perspective as close to local as you're likely to get.

A Cook's Tour. Copyright © by Anthony Bourdain. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Reading Group Guide

IntroductionWhen author and chef Anthony Bourdain exposed the "culinary underbelly" of our nation's finest eating establishments in the best-selling Kitchen Confidential -- using his inimitable combination of wit, candor, and bravado -- readers and reviewers alike were smitten. Having tackled the American eating scene, Bourdain travels the world in A Cook's Tour, scouring the continents, befriending the natives, risking death and deportation -- and eating his way towards the Perfect Meal. Among other places, he visits the France of his boyhood summers, where he tasted his life-changing first oyster; he hits Vietnam to sample an authentic bowl of pho; in frigid Russia he consumes luscious caviar and enough vodka to sink an elephant; in sweltering Morocco he has the roasted lamb of his desert-adventure fantasies; Japan offers not only the ultimate sushi experience, but a chance to try fugu, the poisonous puffer fish; in crumbling, post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia, the food is as shady as the politics…But this cook's tour is more than just a breezy jaunt to exotic lands -- it's a lesson in diplomacy, a study in cultural history, and often times, a test of human endurance. As he savors these foreign delicacies, Bourdain discovers the inextricable link between food and country -- and that even when you've traveled across time zones, good food can always make you feel at home.Questions for Discussion
  • Bourdain tastes some pretty exotic dishes in A Cook's Tour -- Tête de veau (calf's face), snake wine, and sheep testicles, to name a few. What is the wildest thing you've ever eaten? What is the thing you've always wanted to try? What isthe thing you'd never try no matter what?
  • When you travel to other places, how important is trying the cuisine of the region to you? Do you make a point of sampling as much regional food as possible or do you tend to stick to the tried and true, eating at McDonald's more often than not? Where that you've visited has had the best food and why?
  • After reading A Cook's Tour -- and from your own personal experience -- what are some basic differences Americans have in their attitude towards food, meals, and eating, compared to people in other countries?
  • Is A Cook's Tour more of a travel book, more of a food book, or equal parts both? If you could, would you want to embark upon a globe-trotting adventure similar to Bourdain's? What seemed most appealing and most unappealing about his trip?
  • How did the fact that Bourdain is a professional chef affect his account? Would it have been better or worse if he was an "ordinary" person? Did his background make him more willing to try different things or more of a "food snob" about what he ate?
  • What do you think the food of a country says about the politics, customs, people, and general way of life of that culture? Compare, for instance, the food/cultures of Japan, Cambodia, and Portugal.
  • Bourdain makes many of his descriptions of eating good food sound almost like a religious experience. Do you agree that good food can have this affect -- or is it, in the end, just sustenance? If not food, what in your life do you feel this passionately about?
  • In both of his books, Bourdain discusses the phenomenon of the celebrity chef. How does he use his celebrity? How does he compare to other well-known chefs in terms of his appeal, his honesty, and his style? About the Author: Anthony Bourdain is the best-selling author of Kitchen Confidential, two satirical thrillers, Bone in the Throat and Gone Bamboo, and the urban historical Typhoid Mary. A 28-year veteran of professional kitchens, he is currently Executive Chef at Brasserie Les Halles in Manhattan. He lives -- and will always live -- in New York City.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 29 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2002

    It is Too a good book!

    Attention Barnes & Noble shoppers. If you're looking to overcome the belly fullness that came with your latest gluttonous feasting, try this. You'll never look at pork roast in the same way again. It is fascinating, funny, gorey reading. You may be inspired to swear off meat, and you will want to book a tour of Vietnam, among other far off places. If you want to read great food writing, read Kitchen Confidential, Bourdain's previous book or something by M.F.K. Fisher. If you want to read a darn good book, drop everything and get this book! I'm serious. This man is a character, an interesting, provocative, very human writer. He's out to see what life's about, by traveling to places where ancient recipes are still followed in traditional ways, by meeting locals and making friends, by experiencing disconnected moments in front of the camera, and by contemplating oneness after dragging his stuffed body to the top of a sand dune and looking at the stars. That's after he ate the much-enjoyed sheep testicle. A lot of reviewers miss the point about Bourdain. He is full of braggodoccio, yes. He is testosterone driven, maybe yes. He is also a sensitive soul, a sensualist, and an enormously evocative writer. He writes about food in a way that shows cooking and eating as the social glue of the world. In his mind it is a uniting action, something the whole world participates in. In this book, as in his glossier TV show, he makes scenes come alive. You may feel that you're there. I've come to like his voice, his thoughts. Maybe I can join the tour as a camel tender next time. I'd really like to go. In conclusion, critics be darned, read the book for fun, for an entry into someone else's interesting perceptions. IF YOU ENJOYED KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL, READ THIS BOOK! P.S. In person the guy is a peach. See him talk if you can. He has limitless energy, charm and enthusiasm!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2002

    disappointing

    Fun, brash, full of rich details -- everything Kitchen Confidential had, this is lacking. This reads like it was rushed to coincide with the TV series. If you want another Bourdain, read 'Bone in the Throat' instead.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Read!!

    Bourdain is witty, funny and somewhat compassionate when writing about other food cultures and their people. Hilarious adventures in Russia!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2007

    A good read

    This IS a good book. Anthony does have a sassy, macho writing style but it fits the story. Granted the t.v. show upon which this book is based upon is way better only because you can actually SEE all the places, people, and food. I strongly feel that the book does capture the spirit of the show well.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2004

    Truly appetizing!

    Tony Bourdain as a culinary writer who delves out books deserving of at least four stars ratings. He serves his adventures seasoned with humor and honesty, only to make the reader craving for more. If you're curious as to who in the world would ever eat that? Anthony Bourdain, the man with a steel stomach will! He makes you laugh with tears streaming out of your eyes as if you were dicing onions.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2004

    A companion to the TV series

    I loved Kitchen Confidential. I am not sure you will enjoy this book as much if you did not read the first one, nor if you have not watched the series. I like this book, but I think it missed out on all the funny parts that I liked so much on the TV show. Still, Tony is a gifted writer & it is a good read.

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