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82 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Companion to Food Network Show. All The Good Stuff
The colossal irony of the Food Network series on which this book is based is the heart felt statements in the author's previous book `Kitchen Confidential' that he will never get his own Food Network series. He goes on in that book to say some rather unflattering things about Emeril Lagasse that seem to be a guarantee that his prediction will come true.
Well, Anthony...
Published on March 22, 2004 by B. Marold

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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fear and Loathing on the Kitchen Trail
Parts of this book are very funny; some of Bourdain's adventures make you wish you were on the road with him (but using an assumed name to protect yourself afterwards).
Unfortunately, the tale of the tour is awkwardly constructed. There are several chapters about his experience in Viet Nam throughout the book. He should have kept them together and made a more...
Published on January 8, 2002 by D. Wolf


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's a delicious world out there, January 29, 2008
This review is from: A Cook's Tour (Hardcover)
Anthony Bourdain has a sweet job. Traveling the world, sampling its culinary delights...its the kind of job that one would never even imagine exists until someone creates it. And it is a bit odd that he should have this job. Anthony Bourdain is not a great writer, although he manages to turn a decent phrase. I have no idea if he is a great cook or not, but by his own admission he is not one of the greats. He is a great traveler, and has enough courage and sense of adventure to give it all a try, even though things don't always go well.

Which is pretty much the same with "A Cook's Tour". I have never seen TV program that the book is based on, but I am a big fan of "No Reservations" so I suspected something along the same lines. This book follows much the same format of "No Reservations", with Bourdain hitting various culinary spots across the world and trying what they have to offer, no matter what that might be. A whole pig in Portugal. Haggis in Scotland. All the goodness Mexico has to offer. And of course the infamous cobra's heart in Vietnam. He doesn't like everything he tries, but he tries everything that is offered.

Its good. Its interesting. One of the great things about Bourdain's style of travel-eating is that we could do it too. He doesn't hit the high-priced, pretty and polished restaurants that most readers of the books could never afford. He hits the street stalls, the home cooking, and wonders at the delights of the common meals that make everyone happy. I have been to a few of the places showcased on "A Cook's Tour", and it makes for a nice walk down memory lane to think of breakfast vodka in Russia, or deep-fried pizza in Glasgow.

Strangely enough, I think the one place he didn't get it right was in Japan, which is where I happen to live. I was looking forward to see what he would have to say about the place, and what delights he tried and what he thought. Instead, he had a traditional kaiseki dinner at a ryokan in Atami, accompanied by no less than two geisha. We are talking probably a multi-thousand dollar event here, something experienced only by the very super-rich of the Japanese populace. Not exactly "eating local", and a bit of a disappointment.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Personal and Knowledgable Chronicle of Food, March 20, 2004
The colossal irony of the Food Network series on which this book is based is the heart felt statements in the author's previous book `Kitchen Confidential' that he will never get his own Food Network series. He goes on in that book to say some rather unflattering things about Emeril Lagasse that seem to be a guarantee that his prediction will come true.
Well, Anthony Bourdain got his own Food Network show, and it is, to my lights, the most enjoyable travelogue style show they have ever done. I will warrant the prediction that it will also be the most enjoyable travelogue show they will ever do. I think the original 16 to 18 episodes are even better than the `second season' episodes he did which were not in this book. In the follow-up episodes, Bourdain (or his handlers) tend to start parodying themselves and make more coy, self-referential statements such as the cute business when Tony is in New Orleans and he gets slugged by matronly women for dissing their favorite son, Emeril.
In case you are not familiar with the Bourdain persona, I can quote a local paper's comparison to Emeril as the Food Network's star student, Alton Brown as the class nerd, and Tony Bourdain as the perennial juvenile delinquent. That is not to say Bourdain's view of things is juvenile. It is, in fact, as insightful as any other culinary commentary. The difference between Bourdain and other culinary travelers is that Bourdain is telling us about things from the inside, from the point of view of palate, tongue, nose, ears, and tummy. He is also talking from the inside in that he has been a working cook and chef for his whole life, who has seen just about everything the other culinary journalists have seen and more, including a stint at a childhood in France. The sardonic twist which gives Bourdain's reporting an outlaw flavor just adds to the entertainment value.
One of the more successful realizations of this book is the author's interpretation of `Extreme Cuisines' in the subtitle. This includes all the expected venues such as a boatride up the Southeast Asian River to Cambodia, with more than a few references to `Apocalypse Now' and trips to Spain, Morocco, Russia, Mexico, Japan, and Scotland. How can you expect an exotic foods show not include haggis. But Bourdain also includes the very tame and very safe venue in Napa Valley called the French Laundry. While this site may be free of iguana meat or eels or lamb testicles, it is not safe for Bourdain's psyche and self-respect. This is the home ground of Thomas Keller, arguably the most distinguished chef in the country.
To insulate himself from facing the Olympian cuisine of Keller alone, and to insure that he gets his invite for himself and his camera crew, Bourdain sits down to the meal with three very well-connected colleagues. These three musketeers are Scott Byron, the chef at the New York City restaurant Veritas, Michael Ruhlman, a journalist / chef and co-author of Keller's cookbook, and Eric Rippert, one of the most highly regarded chefs in New York City. As predicted, Bourdain is humbled by the French Laundry tasting menu. As an at best journeyman chef in a somewhat better than average New York bistro, Bourdain ponders his wasted talents when he sees what Keller has done with food. I'm sure Bourdain is crying all the way to the bank with proceeds from his journalistic products.
One of Tony's colleagues has said Bourdain is a better writer than he was a chef. I believe it, because his writing is as entertaining as the professional writer Ruhlman, and even a touch more insightful due to his true insider's point of view.
Not quite as good as `Kitchen Confidential' but it does have all the stuff the Food Network could not show on television. Highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even vegetarians could like this book, March 9, 2002
By 
mike waugh (Baton Rouge, LA United States) - See all my reviews
I must admit that I really like Bourdain. I'm a strict vegetarian, and he really knocks them in this book. But, simply put, he is a passionate writer. While I might not have liked to eat most of the things he describes, he describes them so well that I feel like I didn't miss out on anything--in the same way that I like war stories but have no desire to actually be in the fray. However, he is compassionate and honest. He witnesses a pig slaughter and describes it as an unpleasent experience, but he believes that since they use every part of it, and make it taste so good, that it makes sense. He sticks to his guns as far as his sense of what is good. If something tastes good or bad--he lets you know and why: especially vegetarians who overcook their vegetables, which could be the worst sin of all.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Enjoyable Look into Cooks and Foreign Locales, November 29, 2005
By 
sporkdude "sporkdude" (San Jose, Ca United States) - See all my reviews
This book is a journal of Anthony Bourdain's travels across to try new foods. He travels a varied and sizable portion of the world, with each chapter describing a new location and new foods to eat. It is worth noting that this book was written during, and is the perfect complement to the show "Cook's Tour" on Food Network.

This book is quick, fluid, and enjoyable. He delves into details that are fascinating, such as the history of a certain city, the rise of Mexican chefs, his French summer home, the dangers of Cambodia, and so much more.

All in all, it's a great little read that mixes a little bit of history, cooking, multi-culturalism, and Bordain's opinionated sayings. Nothing spectacular, but a good fun book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Even better than the first course, April 15, 2004
By 
Dangle's girl (Astoria, NY United States) - See all my reviews
Who else but Tony Bourdain could get away with starting off a piece on food in Cambodia with a bitter rant against Henry Kissinger? Much less regale the reader with his various temper tantrums, drunken escapades and intestinal woes for more than 300 pages and still come out smelling like a rose. Bourdain only gets better in "A Cook's Tour," a book whose limp title hardly reflects the bacchanalian revels within. The highlights in this book are often Bourdain's lowlights, his frequent bouts of melancholy and fits of pique against the indignities imposed by the TV crew trailing him around the word. And no one writing today has captured the sleazy half-life of expats in third-world Asia better than Bourdain in a few brilliant paragraphs on Phnom Penh. Travelers, food fans, fans of great writing, you'll treasure this book.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bourdain Light ... Half the Zeal, May 22, 2005
By 
Valjean (Orcas Island, WA, USA) - See all my reviews
It took 186 pages, but the real Anthony Bourdain finally showed up.

That's an unfair comment, but based on reading a few of Mr. Bourdain's other works I feel qualified to pontificate on his strengths. The first nine chapters of 'Cook's Tour' betray none of the glorious culinary abandon from 'Kitchen Confidential' or his latest cookbook (cross-promoted with his current employer, Les Halles restaurant in New York City). When he finally arrives in England and tears into a rip-snorting endorsement of chef Fergus Henderson--and a passionate defense of "real British cooking"--I actually breathed a sigh of relief. If only the whole book had this unique energy.

But, alas, it doesn't. Bourdain perhaps senses this from the start; the introduction is almost apologetic about the book's purpose ("traveling around the world searching for the perfect meal") and though he humorously warns us in advance about the whole adventure being filmed for a food-oriented TV network (guess which one) this angle clearly impinges on the book's narrative. With this muddy purpose we get 185 pages of "I went here and this happened" stories--from Portugal to France to Russia and beyond--without any clue where we're going and worse: virtually none of the author's blood-curdling culinary opinions. Bourdain munches and sips from various things in these locales, but without any dramatic or even comedic culinary context. He apparently wishes us inspiration from reading about his childhood flashbacks (France) or politically-inspired guilt (Vietnam). Sorry Tony -- I'm just not that interested.

Fortunately when we get to England Bourdain wakes up. I found the remainder of the book as delightful, funny, and viscously honest as the beginning was navel-gazing and confused. His paeans to local cuisine in Mexico and Vietnam are breathtaking; the Mexican connection is especially poignant since he visits the home of a few of his fellow Les Halles cooks and finds himself staggered by their culinary culture. This essay ('Where Cooks Come From') is alone worth the price of the book.

Like more than a few tomes, 'A Cook's Tour' would earn top marks from me if only the author had stuck to his obvious strengths (extolling passionate cooks and funky-but-delicious food, skewering hypocritical and pretentious culinary trends) throughout. Slogging through the aimless essays where none of this is in evidence was disappointing and frustrating. I can only hope Mr. Bourdain--clearly one of our best current food writers--learns his lesson and finds (another) good subject into which to sink his razor-sharp teeth.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Anthony Bourdain eats the world!, May 9, 2009
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A moveable feast, October 17, 2007
By 
Michael Lindsey (Seattle, WA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
As a fan of Bourdain's current television show (No Reservations), I was already predisposed to enjoy this book. But I am happy to say that I was not disappointed.

Bourdain's writing is wonderful- conversational in tone, but still informative, educated but earthy, ribald but still respectful. He eats, drinks, and smokes his way across the globe, TV crew in tow, and lives to tell the tales.

If you long to have an international adventure of your own, or already have one or two under your belt, his stories of bliss and terror (often to be found side-by-side) are sure to excite the imagination, and prompt a nod of recognition among those who have shared similar experiences.

As other reviewers have noted, this is almost two books- one is a spicy masala of travel experiences, the other a long-form love letter to Vietnam. In an apparent attempt to avoid the impression of having written two-books-in-one, he has broken up his Vietnam experiences into several parts, spread throughout the book.

But the result is that Bourdain appears to us as a man obsessed with his new love- no matter where else in the world he has last discussed, whatever horror or pleasure he has just recounted, he can't keep from going back to Vietnam. The food, the people, the overall atmosphere - a stark contrast(and odd union)between a controlled, communist society, and the laissez faire energy of the street. He clearly loves it, and cannot stop talking about it. He has gone to the supposed heart of darkness and has found it much to his liking.

But what if it is two books? I find that I like them both. Plus, Bourdain's enthusiasm is infectious - I love Bourdain's Vietnam too. It sounds like a great place. Pho, anyone?

Please note that this book does feature the slaughter of many innocent (but delicious) animals, excessive use of drugs and alcohol, and deplorable acts of gluttony. But if you are a fan of Mr. Bourdain, you already knew that. It's not for the faint of heart- but for the rest of us, this is an enjoyable read. Highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Kitchen Confidential, October 10, 2003
By 
Derrick Peterman (San Jose, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I enjoyed this much better than Kitchen Confidential, because this book is about more the food, and less about Bourdain. And when the author writes about himself, he really touches more upon the human experience that everyone can relate to rather than the "kitchen locker room" stories that started getting tiresome in Kitchen Confidential. As the author searches for "the perfect meal" and goes to great lengths to find it, we begin to understand how food relates to people live not only in the places he travels to, but all over the world. A major sub-plot is Bourdain's self-parady as a culinary celebrity as the Food Network films him on his travels which became the Cook's Tour series still shown on the Food Network.
The book starts with Tony and his brother returning to France, and the memories they had growing up, many involving food. Rarely are the words "touching" and "Tony Bourdain" used in the same sentence, but the passage where Tony Bourdain talks about his deceased father is indeed touching.
From here, we learn of Bourdain's love of Vietnam, harrowing adventures in Cambodia, a trip to St. Petersberg, Russia through a haze of vodka, eating deadly fish in Japan, and other journeys. There seems to be no place on earth the author won't go, and nothing too bizarre to ingest at least once.
The chapter on San Francisco was a riot, with a long rant against vegetarians that was entertaining because of its great energy and because it held a few nuggets of truth beneath the bluster. Anyone who watches the Cook's Tour episodes on the Food Network will appreciate the "behind the scenes" commentary, which usually involve Bourdain confessing he was drunk or stoned when various segments were shot.
Of course, the quest for the perfect meal is pointless, as Bourdain concedes at the end of the book. We also find out that trying exotic dishes isn't necessarily what it's cracked to be. Cobra bile tastes exactly as appetizing as it sounds.
Books like this are about the quest and the truths found along the way, not the final destination itself. This is a great ride.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars on the road and out of the kitchen., May 16, 2002
By 
I'm new to reading travel books. I read "Blue Highways" in college and Bill Bryson's book about the Appalachian Trail recently. I guess I've been lucky so far...this is a good read in that vein. Neither of my last two finds are Earth shattering, but that's what makes them inspirational and sort of a bit-more-than-commonplace. What I mean is, it inspires you to try new things that you really can do on a realistic scale.
I've seen the Food Network show that the book builds upon. You'll read about what your not seeing. That's the beauty. On the TV show you may see Tony grimace through eating igauna for a moment, but in the book you get a great description of just how horrible it was. Or how he had to re-shoot his entrance to a restaurant---after a full course meal with waitress-induced drinks.
It's all about taking the cooking show out of the kitchen and getting adventurous. Can you see Emiril(sp?) sleeping in a floor-to-ceiling tiled dive hotel and then helping kill what he eats? Or haggling to buy a whole goat, riding camels over sand dunes all day (i can't see either Emeril or Mario doing that...unless it's on a Supercamel), and finally drinking beer, smoking hash, and eating the goat? Me either. And it's done with a great description of getting the goat and even the mud covered oven it's cooked in. The night sky. The campfire jokes.
In a nutshell, if you like cooking shows, like cooking, and like travelling, then give this book a whirl. This would be a great book to take traveling as it will inspire you to dig beyond the well-travelled main streets in search of the authentic experience wherever you are. Sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. Tony's NY city-boy point of view only accentuates the more rural experiences in the book.
A good read on it's own, it's really fun to watch the episodes after reading about them---or vice versa. The writing style is easily read and satisfying. A taste of what it's like to be in Vietnam or Russia in search of good food. I'd like to go on a trip like this---and with a knowledgable street-wise chef like Tony. I can't afford to yet (maybe never). Reading the book is OK for now. NOTE: Tony's experiences that involve animal slaughter are not handled lightly. Tony takes it very seriously and explains coming to terms with the realization that all meat comes via a death. Slaughters in the book, and there are only two or three, are done not in large slaughter-houses but by every-day people in various countries getting their freshest food the best way they can---live at a market or in their yard. They then have Tony eat in their homes, around their tables.
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A Cook's Tour
A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain (Hardcover - December 7, 2001)
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