Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Work the Line
May 2, 2014 6:24 AM   Subscribe

Conservative bon vivant Michael Anton writes about the thrill of cooking in an haute cuisine restaurant, as well as the rise of celebrity chef culture and personalities like Anthony Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman.
posted by Cash4Lead (21 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Does anyone actually care about Anthony Bourdain the chef though? I know he is a really great travel personality, but my impression is that he is not especially highly regarded in the kitchen.
posted by BobbyDigital at 6:39 AM on May 2


The article does discuss that Bourdain (and Ruhlman) are significant to the cooking world because of their writing rather than their food.
posted by kiltedtaco at 6:44 AM on May 2 [1 favorite]


Some of this is genuinely interesting, but a lot of it reads like a hit piece. I mean, I don't have as much love for Bourdain as I used to (ah, to be young), but I do like Ruhlman and Hamilton. But holy shit, the guy comes off as "I want this kind of writing fame too but god these guys aren't that great so why did they get it."

It also occurs to me I have read every single one of the books he lists before the article. Huh.
posted by Kitteh at 6:48 AM on May 2 [2 favorites]


I'm really glad that people want to work the line in nice restaurants because I like eating nice food, but the idea of working there myself... well, I'd rather join the army. The North Korean army.
posted by Segundus at 6:55 AM on May 2 [1 favorite]


Waiter, I'd like to send back these grapes. They are quite sour.
posted by Frayed Knot at 6:57 AM on May 2 [21 favorites]


Does anyone actually care about Anthony Bourdain the chef though?

No, and he'll be the first to tell you that. In interviews he's said that he was known in NYC as a good 'brunch guy', meaning he could show up on time and cook a bunch of eggs well and have them out and ready to go consistently.

What's really interesting about Bourdain is that he didn't spend his whole life trying to be famous--he wrote a piece for his fellow cooks/chefs to read, and it got picked up by the New Yorker, then he got a book deal, then etc...
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:15 AM on May 2 [10 favorites]


How does one get a job as a bon vivant, anyhow? Sounds like a pretty good gig.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:22 AM on May 2


my impression is that he is not especially highly regarded in the kitchen.

I think somewhere in either the foward to his Les Halles cookbook or in an interview about it Bourdain does come out saying essentially that - he's a competent chef, but not a great one. Frankly, I love the Les Halles cookbook because it's far more approachable than say, The French Laundry cookbook (one day, I will make something from that cookbook, when I have massive amounts of free time...). Ruhlman and Bourdain are both good writers about food, cooking, and the restaurant business.

Kitchen Confidential very much reminded me of the summer I spent working in a fairly fancy French restaurant. I would never want to repeat that experience, but I enjoyed it immensely at the same time. The book was able to instantly take me back to the pressure, camaraderie, and the craziness of working in a restaurant (and I was just a lowly porter/bus-boy). It's good to see, at least by way of the L'Ecole example, that the fairly toxic culture described by Bourdain, is not universal, and/or is changing for the better.
posted by combinatorial explosion at 7:23 AM on May 2 [9 favorites]


"Oh, I would say the stick up my butt is about this long."
posted by octobersurprise at 7:32 AM on May 2 [1 favorite]


How does one get a job as a bon vivant, anyhow? Sounds like a pretty good gig.

Perhaps it requires changing pretty much every occurrence of "French" to "frog." What a dick.
posted by nevercalm at 7:47 AM on May 2 [3 favorites]


How does one get a job as a bon vivant, anyhow?

There aren't the openings that there used to be; you generally have to have a side line as a raconteur. I've read about people who got into it by moving across from being a boulevardier, but I don't think that is a standard path. Work hard on your embonpoint, is my advice.
posted by Segundus at 7:49 AM on May 2 [14 favorites]


Frankly, the use of "conservative" as a descriptor should have tipped us all off! :)
posted by Kitteh at 7:59 AM on May 2 [1 favorite]


Does he normally write with that style or is it something he adopted for this topic?
posted by BibiRose at 7:59 AM on May 2


Oh my god his suit.
posted by The Whelk at 8:48 AM on May 2


If you want to read better writing about someone learning to work the line outside of their original area of expertise then I suggest Buford's, Heat. The writing is infinitely better and shows more concern and care about food. You may know Buford as fiction editor at the New Yorker and founder of Granta.

Regarding Bourdain and Ruhlman, both of them have never paraded themselves as great chefs but are experienced to know a great chef or cook when they encounter one. Bourdain, in all his books, has been very forthright about this.
posted by jadepearl at 9:13 AM on May 2 [7 favorites]


Here you go, The Whelk, Michael Anton discusses his views on fashion and his book about men's clothing.
posted by Jahaza at 9:14 AM on May 2


Does he explain why his suit doesn't fit at all and is totally unflattering?
posted by The Whelk at 9:16 AM on May 2 [2 favorites]


Does he explain why his suit doesn't fit at all and is totally unflattering?

burnsauce.gif
posted by josher71 at 9:19 AM on May 2 [1 favorite]


Seconding Bill Buford's Heat. It's a very engaging and fascinating read. I even managed to snag the short ribs recipe he rather casually describes, and it turned out pretty tasty.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:54 AM on May 2 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Bourdain has always, always presented himself as a chef of middling qualities. He quite openly discusses how many chefs can cook rings around him.

What he does know is how to bring the life to life on the page. The industry is somewhat less like his 'pirate crew' that he originally wrote about--and he's been open about the hyperbole in KC as well--but it's still a pretty rough and tumble environment.

The best thing about cooking on the line (well there are a lot of best things but) is: there are no office politics. Pure meritocracy: can you do what needs to be done on time and correctly?

That's all that kitchen people, from the exec down to the prep monkey, really and truly care about. Can you put your money where your mouth is? If you can't, GTFO.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:41 AM on May 2 [4 favorites]


I don't have as much love for Bourdain as I used to

I would drink the guy's bath water, so take my opinion for what it's worth, but I think Parts Unknown is Bourdain's best work yet. I started the last episode about Lyon like "who the fuck cares about Lyon?" and ended with "Holy shit, that blew me away, I had no idea!"
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:26 PM on May 2


« Older The American Society of Magazine Editors announced...  |  Spacewar! was perhaps the firs... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments