A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines

A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines

by Anthony Bourdain


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060012786
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/05/2002
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 28,499
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.65(d)

About the Author

Anthony Bourdain was the author of the novels Bone in the Throat and Gone Bamboo, the memoir A Cook’s Tour, and the New York Times bestsellers Kitchen Confidential, Medium Raw, and Appetites. His work appeared in the New York Times and The New Yorker. He was the host of the popular television shows No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Bourdain died in June 2018.


New York, New York

Date of Birth:

June 25, 1956

Date of Death:

June 8, 2018

Place of Birth:

New York, New York

Place of Death:

Kaysersberg-Vignoble, Haut-Rhin, France


High school diploma, Dwight Englewood School, 1973; A.O.S. degree, The Culinary Institute of America, 1978

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.

Reading Group Guide


When 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.

  • Customer Reviews

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    Cook's Tour 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 48 reviews.
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    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!
    Guest More than 1 year ago
    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.
    smackfu on LibraryThing 4 months ago
    Better than just a companion to the series, because it's a lot more truthful. The producers hid a lot of the reality which Bourdain reveals.
    ChemChick on LibraryThing 4 months ago
    I was pleasantly surprised by Bourdain's witty and wickedly funny writing. Read this book, but plan your next vacations around his destinations (and meals).
    WorldReader1111 5 months ago
    A superb read, for my tastes (no pun intended). 'Tour' shines from page one, as seen in the rich, intelligent writing that characterizes the entire text (and, the humor, which is as abundant). The author writes with passion, candidness, and heart, and a keen sense of observation, all of which lend to the subject matter. There are parts that, I thought, were a bit overly opinionated and one-sided, but this was minimal, and failed at detracting from my enjoyment (and, to be fair: opinion is an author's prerogative in such firsthand literature). The format, too, is polished and cohesive, and, combined with the fact that the book simply delivers on its premise as an interesting travel-and-food saga, 'Tour' came off, to me, as a good, complete product. What sets this one apart, however, is an extra, deeper layer of substance residing within the text. Namely, the author's journeys tell a bigger, collective story, serving as a dive into the human experience at large, as framed in the appetites and dining habits of the depicted cultures and peoples, saying much in regards to psychology and sociology (and, even, spirituality). Similarly, the writings present a psychological study of the author himself, granting insight into a complex, conflicted personality that, I think, shared many of the same challenges faced by most everyone (insights which become even more telling in light of the author's ultimate end). Also, I liked the behind-the-scenes view of the television show chronicling these same travels, which, along with providing some good, balancing perspective on the true reality of these events, worked to address the distortions and illusions created by the television experience as a whole. In a nut, there's a lot to learn here, and on many big, far-reaching subjects. For these reasons, I must grant 'Tour' a full five stars. It left me both educated and entertained, and generally enriched in a lasting way. My sincere thanks goes out to this book's subjects, publisher, and author (posthumously). I am grateful for, and have benefited from, your work. * * * Some notable quotes from 'A Cook's Tour': "The challenge of all that [tile work], all that elaborate detail, and his unwavering faith in what he as doing, his discipline, his certainty that he'd chosen the right path, provoked and disturbed me in new ways. Why couldn't I be that certain -- about anything? [...] I looked at Abdelfettah, wondered what he was really seeing in all those tiny grooves and repeating patterns, and I envied him. [...] I yearned for whatever it was he had that I didn't, imagining it could only be peace of mind." -- p.110 "I stopped taking pictures at Angkor Wat. No camera is adequate to the task." -- p.172 "I like the idea of having to travel to experience a French Laundry meal. The journey is part of the experience -- or was for me -- an expression of the seriousness of one's intent, and the otherness of everything Keller. I liked looking out the window and seeing hills and countryside. I don't know if I want to be able to just pick up the phone, make a reservation, and sooner or later, simply hop in a cab and zip down to Columbus Circle. One doesn't take the A train to Mecca." -- p.251
    kraaivrouw on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    This was good, but I didn't enjoy it as much as Kitchen Confidential. I've been trying to decide why & I think it's because ultimately this isn't so much a food book as it is a travel book. That's okay, but the notion of hunting down the perfect meal has an appeal to me & led me to expect something different. Having said all of that, I enjoyed the book. It's hard not to love someone who hits the jackpot with a best seller & says to themselves, "Hmmm ... I think I'll see if I can get someone to pay for me to travel around the world eating cool stuff & looking at cool & interesting places." That someone actually did agree to pay for this & that it was the Food Network makes it all the more amusing since he spends much of Kitchen Confidential slagging the Food Netwok & many of its chefs. If you've seen No Reservations you know the schtick - Tony visits exotic locale, meets interesting people, talks a lot, & eats cool food. Often there is is drunkenness & there is the occasional oblilgatory inspired by the producers moment of Eat-This-Weird-Thing-While-We-Film-You-It'll-Be-Great-Remember-We're-Paying. I like that Bourdain gets that great food doesn't all happen at 5-star restaurants. It can, but it doesn't happen only there. Great food also happens at people's houses, from street vendors, down at the local. It was fun to read about his meal at The French Laundry, but I'm not dropping $400-$500 on a meal anytime soon & I much more enjoyed his writing about his adventures in Mexico with the families of some of his cooks from his New York restaurant. All in all I think that this kind of thing works better as a TV series. Ultimately with travel I want to actually see the place, the food, the people. What works as voiceover makes for okay reading, but just okay.
    browner56 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    A lot of people first heard about Tony Bourdain with the publication of ¿Kitchen Confidential,¿ the irreverent expose of the restaurant culture that elevated him from being a self-confessed mediocre chef to a celebrated author. Although I have since laughed my way through that book, I discovered Bourdain through his travel- and food-oriented show ¿No Reservations.¿ I love his sardonic take on the myriad dining scenes throughout the world and the generous way he treats cooks who ply their craft with respect and dedication, regardless of their comparative station.That is also the reason I enjoyed reading ¿A Cook¿s Tour¿ so much. This book, which was published in conjunction with a television series of the same name, is basically a first-generation version of ¿No Reservations.¿ Bourdain¿s passions for both cooking and traveling the world first came together in this project and the result is always interesting and occasionally fascinating. His search for the ¿perfect¿ meal takes him to the remote reaches of such places as Cambodia, Russia, Portugal, Japan, Scotland, Mexico, and the Sahara; the chapter on Viet Nam is especially good and chronicles the origin of the author¿s well-known love affair with that country. As always, Bourdain¿s writing is sharp and insightful and, at times, surprisingly beautiful.This is a very different book than ¿Kitchen Confidential¿ but one that I found to be a great deal more satisfying. It does not produce the kind of sound-bite moments of that earlier work¿the whole ¿don¿t order fish on Mondays¿ thing, for instance¿but it was written far more from the heart. Bourdain may have cooked in second-tier restaurants, but he is a first-class travel and food writer and that talent is fully realized here.
    nilchance on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    After the bravado and profanity of Kitchen Confidential, the last thing I expected from this book was warmth and tenderness. Damned if Bourdain didn't surprise me. Yes, there was a fair amount of blue language and contempt for The Man, but it's set against a backdrop of genuine affection for the cultures he visits. The chapter where he goes to France with his brother made me tear up. The lush descriptions of food made me ravenous. Not a good book to read for dieters, vegetarians or nuns.
    pictou on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    Meh. I was disappointed. Bourdain's book [book: Kitchen Confidential] was so good that I couldn't wait to read this one. More of a documentation of his travels for the show No Reservations, the wit and banter is not there. Too much time is spent on the logistics of travel and it seems to drone on and on.This doesn't mean I won't continue to read his stuff and watch his show. I think he's funny and writes well. But this book is just not as good.
    NellieMc on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    Once you get past Bourdain's profanity, you realize he's a remarkably good writer, with some excellent insights. This is well worth reading, even 8 years after it was published, if only for the love letter he writes for Viet Nam. Surprisingly, having lived through the 70's, it made me happy.
    bookwormteri on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    Anthony Bourdain is the gangster of the celebrity chef world and I love him. Crass and unapologetic for who he is, but utterly charming in his love for food. He travels the world for the "perfect" meal and has so many "perfects" that it is hard to pick just one. I long to eat at the many places that he has eaten in this book, and not just the "pretty" ones.
    sailornate82 on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    Definitely not as good as "Kitchen Confidential," but there still some nice Bourdain wit. I think chapters about London, Japan, and San Francisco are among the best.
    kutsuwamushi on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    An entertaining and quick read. It's probably not for everyone; people who are familiar with Bourdain's television work might get more out of it, because he talks about what it's like to shoot quite often. There are some good moments--the conflict between good television and authenticity rears its head often, for example.
    tintinintibet on LibraryThing 5 months ago
    Just like his TV show: a bit irreverent, a bit audacious -- but I'm selfishly interested mostly in those episodes that take place somewhere I've traveled. The others....are usually good but less compelling for me. Probably because Bourdain's show (and his writing) isn't meant to be an intro to a new country or culture, but is focused more specifically on exploring food (which CAN be a big part of a place's culture) and a bit of adventure -- I feel like Bourdain is like icing on the cake. He's awesome don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan -- but without the context of the cake, you can't really just eat spoonful after spoonful of icing. Alas. Three stars because I've only been to half the places in the book, which is to say I skipped through most of the other sections. Is that his fault? No, but I can't give more stars to a book that I read in such a piecemeal way. But I loved those pieces!
    jonesjohnson on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    My name is j, and I am a bookoholic. I devour the things. I could live in a house made of books, and in fact I almost do. I eat them. Quickly. Like an obese American with a Big Mac attack. This book takes me days upon days to parse. Not that the language is poorly chosen, mind you, but because it is so rich. You know those fabulous and rare desserts where one bite really is enough? Remember that feeling after one perfect smoked sea salt caramel from Fran's in Seattle? That "I am in love and I can die happy" feeling? In the slow parts of this book it takes me a page or two before I feel that sated. In the best parts, I can live a week on a paragraph. If you at all like the travel channel show, buy this book. I love the show. This is infinitely better.
    TheScrappyCat on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    I loved it. More of Bourdain's hard-ass storytelling...jeez, I can't get enough. Love his descriptions of the bizarre and exotic cuisines of the world. Great book. Cool guy.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    His rough den energy comes across skillfully with a pen. I really enjoyed this book and have read Kitchen Confidential since.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Reading this! :D
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