A Career In Writing
Anthony Bourdain may be best known as the television persona traveling the world and eating exotic cuisines in his hit shows on the Food Network A Cook’s Tour, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, and The Layover, along with CNN’s Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, but he is also the author of multiple best-selling books. Most of his books, both fiction and non-fiction, center around cooking and food, including his first breakout best-seller Kitchen Confidential, published in 2001. The follow-up, Medium Raw, was published in 2010, and in between multiple other non-fiction books, memoirs and cookbooks were published such as A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal (2001), Typhoid Mary: an Urban Historical (2001), Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbooks (2004), The Nasty Bits (2006), No Reservations (2007), and Appetites (2016).
Bourdain’s first published works were actually fiction books – the crime novels Bone in the Throat: A Novel of Death and Digestion (1995), and Gone Bamboo (1997). In his 2001, along with two non-fiction books, he published another novel, Bobby Gold (2001). Bourdain also co-wrote two graphic novels centered around crime and cooking – Get Jiro! (2012) and Get Jiro: Blood & Sushi (2015).
Between his grueling years as a chef with non-stop demands and late kitchen hours, then his later life as a television celebrity traveling the far reaches of the world, Bourdain’s output as a best-selling author across multiple genres is impressive.
Bourdain’s first published book was a novel – Bone in the Throat: A Novel of Death and Digestion, published in hardback in 1995 by Villard Books, in a print run of 25,000 copies. The paperback was later released in 2000 by Bloomsbury. The story revolves around a young ambitious chef who takes a job in his cousin’s restaurant in Little Italy and unwittingly gets caught in the midst of mob-antics and the FBI. The novel is gritty- offering an authentic look in the kitchens of NYC chefs, albeit laced with mafia violence.
The New York Times Book Review calls Bone in the Throat “A prodigiously self-assured first novel. . . the author’s comic vision goes beyond original. It is deliciously depraved.” Publishers Weekly praised “the kitchen antics reveal a real love for-and knowledge of-cooking, including a mouth-watering recipe for Portuguese Seafood Chowder, complete with squid, lobster, swordfish and cherrystone clams.”
Published in 1997 by Villard books, the second novel by Bourdain features a retired CIA-trained assassin Henry and his hard-bodied wife Frances who plan on retiring in their personal paradise in the West Indies until they cross paths with a powerful mob boss Donnie, who was relocated in the Federal Witness Protection Program. When a cross-dressing mafioso comes looking to kill Donnie, the three team up and adventure ensues.
Published in 2000 by Bloomsbury, Kitchen Confidential was Bourdain’s memoir and behind-the-scenes look at restaurant kitchens, a follow-up to his popular article in the April 19th 1999 issue of The New Yorker – “Don’t Eat Before Reading This.“ The book is both a personal confessional, including stories of Bourdain’s misdeeds and weaknesses, including his drug use, and an industry commentary, divulging money-saving secrets of restaurants and things for consumers to avoid. Bourdain called the book “twenty-five years of sex, drugs, bad behavior and haute cuisine.”
Typhoid Fever, a bacteria infection caused by Salmonella typhi and spread by poor hygiene practices (fecal contamination of food or water). Mary Mallon, later known as Typhoid Mary, was the first person traced and identified as spreading the disease. A cook in the New York City area, Mary was associated with 53 cases of typhoid, and 3 deaths, and although she was told to give up cooking she would disappear and assume alternate identities, reappearing to cook for new families and exposing them to the disease. Bourdain’s book explores life in the early 1900s in the New York area, along with the kitchen practices that allowed the spread of this disease throughout the affluent households where Mary worked.
Bourdain’s third fiction novel, and first after his ground-breaking success of Kitchen Confidential. Inspired by Fitzgerald’s Pat Hobby stories, Bobby Gold (later released as The Bobby Gold Stories) involves the loveable criminal Bobby Gold, who returns to the restaurant and club scene after ten years in jail, and gets mixed up with criminals in the kitchen. Bobby Gold is a story of food, sex, crimes and mayhem.
A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal (2001) Non-fiction
First published by Bloomsbury, A Cook’s Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal is Bourdain’s account of his world travels to Portugal, France, Vietnam, Russia, Morocco, Japan, Cambodia, Mexico, Spain, and French Laundry in Napa Valley, eating exotic food and exploring the cultures. The book was simultaneously made into a television show on the Food Network, starting Bourdain’s television career. In 2002 Harper Perennial reissued the book with the title A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines.
Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking is Bourdain’s first cookbook, and teaches you everything you need to know about cooking classic French fare. Bourdain worked as the executive chef at Les Halles for many years beginning in 1998, and maintained a relationship with the restaurant long after leaving the kitchen – being described as their ‘chef-at-large.’
The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones, is a best-selling collection of 37 anecdotes and essays, many centered on food, broken into the five categories of taste: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, umami. The essays are followed by a 30 page fictional story “A Chef’s Christmas.” The book concludes with a commentary about the pieces including when and why they were written, most of the articles being collected from Bourdain’s various writings in magazines and newspapers.
No Reservations (2007)
No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach is a fully illustrated journal of Bourdain’s culinary travels to distant places where the locals treat him to their cuisine and culture. The book serves as a scrapbook to the first three seasons of the television show of the same name featured on the Travel Channel, which first premiered July 2005 and ran 9 seasons through November 2012.
Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and People Who Cook is a follow-up to Bourdain’s 2000 breakthrough best-seller Kitchen Confidential. It addresses Bourdain’s rise to stardom and television celebrity, and also looks at the way the culture around food and chefs has changed in the years between Bourdain’s days as a behind-the-scenes cook, and his on-the-screen life eating and drinking around the world. The book is filled with asides that take on many big names in the culinary world, along with other rants, confessions and investigations.
This best-selling dystopian graphic novel takes place in a future LA where a bloody culinary war is raging with top chefs reigning as crime lords and people killing over getting a table at the best restaurants. Jiro, a sushi chef, is caught between the warring factions of the internationalists who create exotic foods by blending cuisines from all over the world, and the ‘Vertical Farm,’ who center their vegetarian dishes on organic macrobiotic ingredients.
In the follow-up to Get Jiro authors Bourdain and Joel Rose examine chef Jiro’s beginnings, born an heir to a crime family and using the culinary arts to attempt to leave that life. However, like Bourdain’s other fiction Bone in the Throat and The Bobby Gold Stories crime infiltrates the kitchen.
Appetites: A Cookbook is Bourdain’s second and last cookbook published during his lifetime. It boils down over forty years of traveling and cooking into the dishes that Bourdain thinks everyone should know how to cook, and full of colorful asides from the chef. The book is said to be a home-entertaining cookbook like no other due to the influence of Bourdain’s experience with the prep-lists and hyper-organization necessary to run a restaurant kitchen that make this cookbook uber-efficient in it’s execution of recipes.
Amy C. Manikowski is a writer living in Asheville, NC.