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A Cook's Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal Hardcover – December 7, 2001

4.3 out of 5 stars 227 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A Cook's Tour is the written record of Anthony Bourdain's travels around the world in his search for the perfect meal. All too conscious of the state of his 44-year-old knees after a working life standing at restaurant stoves, but with the unlooked-for jackpot of Kitchen Confidential as collateral, Mr. Bourdain evidently concluded he needed a bit more wind under his wings.

The idea of "perfect meal" in this context is to be taken to mean not necessarily the most upscale, chi-chi, three-star dining experience, but the ideal combination of food, atmosphere, and company. This would take in fishing villages in Vietnam, bars in Cambodia, and Tuareg camps in Morocco (roasted sheep's testicle, as it happens); it would stretch to smoked fish and sauna in the frozen Russian countryside and the French Laundry in California's Napa Valley. It would mean exquisitely refined kaiseki rituals in Japan after yakitori with drunken salarymen. Deep-fried Mars Bars in Glasgow and Gordon Ramsay in London. The still-beating heart of a cobra in Saigon. Drink. Danger. Guns. All with a TV crew in tow for the accompanying series--22 episodes of video gold, we are assured, featuring many don't-try-this-at-home shots of the author in gastric distress or crawling into yet another storm drain at four in the morning.

You are unlikely to lay your hands on a more hectically, strenuously entertaining book for some time. Our hero eats and swashbuckles round the globe with perfect-pitch attitude and liberal use of judiciously placed profanities. Bourdain can write. His timing is great. He is very funny and is under no illusions whatsoever about himself or anyone else. But most of all, he is a chef who got himself out of his kitchen and found, all over the world, people who understand that eating well is the foundation of harmonious living. --Robin Davidson, Amazon.co.uk

From Publishers Weekly

In this paperback reprint, swashbuckling chef Anthony Bourdain, author of the bestselling Kitchen Confidential (which famously warned restaurant-goers against ordering fish on Mondays), travels where few foodies have thought to travel before in search of the perfect meal: the Sputnik-era kitchen of a "less-than-diminutive" St. Petersburg matron, the provincial farmhouse of a Portuguese pig-slaughterer and the middle of the Moroccan desert, where he dines on "crispy, veiny" lamb testicles. Searching for the "perfect meal," Bourdain writes with humor and intelligence, describing meals of boudin noir and Vietnamese hot vin lon ("essentially a soft-boiled duck embryo") and 'fessing up to a few nights of over-indulgence ("I felt like I'd awakened under a collapsed building," he writes of a night in San Sebastian hopping from tapas bar to tapas bar). Goat's head soup, lemongrass tripe, and pork-blood cake all make appearances, as does less exotic fare, such as French fries and Mars bars (deep fried, but still). In between meals, Bourdain lets his readers in on the surprises and fears of a well-fed American voyaging to far-off, frugal places, where every part of an animal that can be eaten must be eaten, and the need to preserve food has fueled culinary innovation for centuries. He also reminds his audience of the connections between food and land and human toil, which, in these sterilized days of pre-wrapped sausages, is all too easy to forget.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; 1st edition (December 7, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582341400
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582341408
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (227 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #229,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Chef, author, and raconteur Anthony Bourdain is best known for traveling the globe on his stomach, daringly consuming some of the world's most exotic dishes on his hit TV shows Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations and The Layover. Somewhat notoriously, he has established himself as a professional gadfly, bête noir, advocate, social critic, and pork enthusiast, recognized for his caustic sense of humor worldwide. He is as unsparing of those things he hates, as he is evangelical about his passions.

The "chef-at-large" at New York's famed Brasserie Les Halles, Bourdain is the author of the bestselling Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, a candid, hysterical, and sometimes shocking portrait of life in restaurant kitchens that has been translated into more than 28 languages - as well as the travel journal, A Cook's Tour, 3 crime novels, a cookbook, a biography of Typhoid Mary, the bestselling graphic novel Get JIRO!, and others.

His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Times of London, Bon Appetit, Gourmet and many other publications. He has shared his insights about team building and crisis management with the Harvard Business Review. He has been profiled by CBS Sunday Morning and Nightline, and has been a guest on The Late Show with David Letterman, Morning Joe, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Daily Show, Charlie Rose, The Colbert Report, and Real Time with Bill Maher.

Bourdain joined the writing staff of HBO's Treme in 2011, contributing to the popular drama's restaurant storylines. He recently launched his own publishing line with Ecco, Anthony Bourdain Books, an imprint of HarperCollins. His first titles will be released in early 2013.

No Reservations, widely popular all over the world, has won two Emmy Awards, with several other nominations. 2013 will see the premiere of two new television shows hosted by Bourdain: The Taste, a cooking competition series for ABC with Nigella Lawson, and a travel docu-series for CNN.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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.
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By A Customer on November 27, 2001
Format: Hardcover
or Mr. Bourdain would write faster. Bourdain is not afraid to try anything in the way of victuals; sometimes it's as gross to read about what he's eating as it may have been for him to consume some of these items. And his writing is extremely vivid; I've been to some of the places mentioned in this book and he's captured many details.
I've read some recent criticism of Bourdain, but I've enjoyed all of his books. He doesn't pretend to be anyone other than who he is, glorying in all of his faults, addictions (past and present), and making this reader guffaw out loud on many occasions.
So when is the TV show scheduled on The Food Network??
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Format: Paperback
I purchased Kitchen Confidential and A Cook's Tour at an airport based on the recommendation of a chef who was cooking in our ski chalet. I read the two books by the time we'd returned home.

As I read the reviews here, I'm amazed by some of the negative comments. Bourdain's offensiveness, the "shock value" of the cuisine and the fact that there are no recipes in the books seem to be common points of issue. One reviewer even recommended the purchasing of Jamie Oliver's books because they have cooking information in them.

Bourdain likes to smoke, drink and use some occasional drugs. That is part of the adventure. I was laughing every time he recounted one of these stories. He's offensive, that's why he's funny and the writing is so entertaining. He also made an extraordinary number of friends in these countries (many are thanked in the notes at the end of the book) so he was hardly just trashing every foreigner he came across.

As to the "shock value", sure he ate Cobras heart and other gruesome items that clearly would "shock". But in most cases he did it because these items were regional delicacies/specialties e.g. beating cobra heart. By and large he discusses "normal" food and I found this balance extremely interesting. Tales of the seafood, soups and other dishes that he eats in Vietnam comprise the majority of those chapters, not the cobra. Get past the occasional shocking item.

I own all of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks and when I want to cook, I use those. When I want to have a bit of a laugh, Jamie Oliver's recipe for home made pasta isn't going to provide the entertainment I'm looking for. Bourdain will.

Kitchen Confidential and A Cook's Tour are obviously not designed to be recipe books.
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Format: Hardcover
Anthony Bourdain has fallen pray to the same trap as Bobbie Flay and Emeril Lagasse (as he will remind readers of the book throughout in small segments describing the pains he went through to help the TV series), but at least he is honest about it.
The premise of this book, and the TV series that it is a companion to, is for Bourdain to travel around the world looking for the perfect meal. His travels take him throughout asia, into Europe, Africa and even parts of the US, as he looks for culinary delight. He describes with admirable detail the food, people, and culture of the places he visits, often with vary favorable comparisons to our own culinary culture. He regrets the US' "refridgerator culture" and how we have lost track of where our food comes from. Mixed in with the food talk is some other random rantings and ravings, as can be expected from him. The paragraphs on Henry Kissinger, and the comparison of Cambodia to Vietnam are probably the most off topic in the book, but you can tell that he wrote them which a lot of personal feeling.
Bourdain is a pretty engaging fellow, and his writing, while not some stellar example of perfect prose, has a very personable feel to it that makes the book quite the pleasant read. What comes out more in the book than the TV series, was that this was his plan to exploit his fame from "Kitchen Confidential". He knows full well that he has become that which he has professed to despise, but his open and honest acknowledgement of it deserves some respect. It's hard to fault the guy for taking this opportunity when he could, for it's plain that he truly enjoyed touring the world, and most of the food that he found.
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