Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on November 14, 2007
This book disappointed me. I'd already read and enjoyed Kitchen Confidential and The Nasty Bits. I thought I would find A Cook's Tour to be a similarly spirited and opinionated trip through Bourdain's brain, this time in the framework of amazing meals from all over the world. It let me down. Don't get me wrong: there are some great moments in this book, but as a whole it didn't work, and actually irritated me.

Bourdain wrote this book as the Food Network sent him around the world in search of the "perfect meal," or more realistically, to try unusual and sometimes scary (to Western tastes) cuisine. The book felt disjointed and mostly flat, as though Bourdain's heart wasn't in it. And it probably wasn't: he seemed unhappy about being paraded around by a television network, expected to cooperate with the camera crew, and to pursue places and dishes not necessarily on his own "to do" list.

So, while some passages are vivid and enticing, others slog along, a decent but not exciting mixture of food and travel writing. And I really didn't warm up to his hypocritical bashing of other celebrity chefs and complaints about filming, when I knew that he was increasing his own fame and fortune in the process.

For the first time, I started to lose patience with and respect for Bourdain. After three books, his grouchy, tough-but-soft persona starts to wear a little thin. Just how real is it? And his biases -- he hates vegetarians, The Grateful Dead, Jamie Oliver, etc., etc. -- start to become grating, since he wastes no opportunity to remind us of them in his every book.

It's odd, because as a vegetarian myself, I was never offended before at his rants against herbivores. Whatever. I understand that veg-heads miss out on all this great food and won't eat the cuisine he takes such pride in preparing and enjoying. I get that some vegans are self-righteous and dogmatic and try to impose their dietary practices on others. What went over the top in this book, though, was that Bourdain had a vegan meal -- but the venue he chose was clearly intended to bolster his hatred for all things vegan. He went looking for a disappointing meal and got what he was looking for. He made some nasty insinuations about the psychological problems of people who won't eat meat. And he never mentioned -- and interestingly, never visited -- cultures where vegetarianism is the norm.

Somehow, over the course of this book, I went from admiring Bourdain to being irritated by him. I still recommend Kitchen Confidential for sure... it's great stuff... but once you've gone there, and had a taste of The Nasty Bits as well, this one is a big step backwards.
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