I too thought that this book would be more in the vein of Anthony Bourdain's written works such as Kitchen Confidential etc, but it really is a companion edition to his Travel Channel show No Reservations. Think of it as a kind of scrapbook containing lots of pictures of the places Tony and his crew have travelled to, covering aspects of how the show was put together, and witty captions for the pictures. Bourdain's acerbic wit is reflected here, and I only wished there was more of it.
All in all, a worthwhile addition for fans of No Reservations, but if you're mainly a fan of his written works, then you may want to give this one a miss.
on October 30, 2007
I've been discovering that the more I learn about food and travel, the more I want to learn about it. Somehow, there is a part of my brain that just clicks into action when I get the opportunity to do either, and preferably, both at the same time. So when I hear, and better yet get my hands on, anything new by ranconteur and outlaw, Anthony Bourdain, everything gets tossed aside until I can indulge in his latest adventures.
No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach, is his latest accounting of the strange and wonderful in the world around us. At first I thought it was going to be just another version of his splendid series of the same name on the Travel Channel. Happily, I was going to be surprised.
This time, we are treated to an opulently illustrated and photographed look at Bourdain as he wends his way through five continents and many countries. Some of the places he went to would prove to surprise him, and full of colour and vibrancy, others were the last stop before hell, and one in particular would shake him up. Each place is accompanied by a short essay and captioned pictures, and while he doesn't mention everywhere he's been in the series so far, what he does include has a point to it.
In addition to these travelouges, the reader gets to meet the hardworking and at times, suffering crew, that is with Bourdain on his crazed travels. Too, there are insights as to what is going on behind the scenes -- as when the episode is going rotten and there's nothing to stop it. Such as Iceland and Sweden, which are, bluntly, boring as hell and not much to do there besides get blasted out of one's skull. Or Namibia, one of the most awful places on Earth.
To balance that, there's Japan, China, India, Vietnam -- Bourdain has clearly 'gone bamboo' as they say, and fallen head over heels for parts of Asia, and I suspect will be spending more of his time there. It's in these chapters that he waxes lyrical and his prose takes on a nearly poetic quality.
And then, there is the section on Beruit.
If you read just one section of the book, read this one. Arriving on the eve of renewed Israeli bombing, Bourdain and his crew find themselves thrust suddenly into a war zone, and they might not get out. If you've seen this particular episode, you know what I'm talking about. Bourdain has some of his strongest writing here, and he gets damn good with it, capturing the uncertainty, the confusion, and most of all the regret that two days has in it. This chapter alone is worth the price of the book.
Then there is a lighter side to things to balance those dozen or so pages. Those who travel will find one section on bathrooms -- the best (Japan), and the worst (Uzbekistan) -- that is downright riotous. How to pack for a trip, and what is vital for survival -- hint: Imodium, an iPod, and aspirin are a necessity. How to find your way to the real food. How not to be an Ugly American.
Most of all, Bourdain shows his respect for the ordinary people here, in all of their many ways and thoughts. He might be profane in how he says it, and he won't be shy in telling you exactly how he thinks, but it's great fun along the way. He's got a wicked wit, an attitude that would shame the devil, and underneath -- he's in touch with his own humanity and fraility. It's refreshing to read in our world of craziness, where most celebrities hide behind a cosmetic mask and try to be perfect. Bourdain on the other hand, is brutally honest, and in the end, that's why I admire him. He's not putting on a con or an act, he's a traveller, and that's what makes him worth reading.
So settle in with your favorite drink of choice, forward your call for a few hours, and enjoy. No Reservations is a perfect little passport and snapshot of the more unknown parts of the world, heavily spiced with reality, and dished up with plenty of brazeness to give it all a bittersweet tang. Most of all, maybe you too will find a few places in here that you want to try for yourself in the future.
It's a big wide beautiful world out there, and Bourdain is the best of traveling partners. Five enthusiastic stars, and if Mr. Bourdain ever reads this, I for one hope that he will keep on writing.
on November 21, 2007
As a big fan of Anthony Bourdain's writing, in particular of A Cook's Tour, I thought I'd check this book out. First thing I noticed, it's mostly pictures. Nice pictures in general, some of them are pretty creative, but for the most part it's just pictures of the food show traveling around the world. Got to give them props for going everywhere, it looks like they hit every continent except Antartica. They did some impressive travelling.
However, this isn't A Cook's Tour, where the author's impressions of the food and the country are foremost. Here, it's several pages of pictures of food and scenery, Iceland for example, and maybe half a page noting that Iceland can be a dull place. Think National Geographic with more pictures, fewer words and less insight.
(Note to author - We get it aleady, you don't like Rachel Ray. Geez.)
on November 2, 2007
If you're a fan of Anthony Bourdain's previous books, (Kitchen Confidential, A Cook's Tour, and The Nasty Bits) you may be disappointed in this recent release. It is more of a companion to his Travel Channel series, "No Reservations," than it is another chapter in his chronicle of food around the world. More picturesque than anything, the book does provide first-hand insight into the production of the show, including the Beirut episode. But for fans who have read his previous works, you'll find most of the same stories and locations here. That said, it is still worth adding to your collection, but only as a supplement instead of a featured title.
Lush pictures and snappy commentary make up the book version of "No Reservations." The edition is suitable for coffee table status. For those who are not watchers of the show, the book may have less appeal. It is mostly a picture-book travelogue.
What you have in the narrative is classic Bourdain - funny, profane, thoughtful and resilient. The pictures evoke some of the emotions of the TV series. The sweat-lodge "massage" scene from Uzbekistan is hilarious, (even if it was not so for Bourdain.) The stint in Iceland was a hoot. The moodiness of Borneo evoked. Bourdain is an ectomorphic pencil-necked geek but he can flat-out write as well as he can cook.
Still, he cannot resist taking tweaking snide shots at other TV food celebs like Rachel Ray, Bobby Flay, Ina Garten, etc.
Dude - get over it! They are successes too, without the nicotine Jones or the heroin habit history. Yes, yes Tony, we know you're hipper than thou, we just don't need it shoved in our face - or in the faces of other Food Channel chefs again and again and ....Other TV chefs are as popular and well-known (or more so) than you but I don't see them throwing darts your way, not that they couldn't. What have they done to you? Did one of their production crew kick sand in your face at the beach? Hide your man-purse? What? What?? (Why be catty toward those folks when you have fish-in-the-barrel targets like, say, Rocco DeSpirito?)
I also think I'll pass on any notion to serve up Namibian warthog for my next barbeque idea... at least not before stocking up on a medicine chest full of antibiotics.
Withal, though, I urge you to savor the show for its delicious insights and - if it's to your taste - reserve your own copy of "No Reservations."
on February 18, 2008
I should have perused this in more detail at the bookstore, but alas I got too excited to see another book by Mr. Bourdain. I finally looked at it this weekend and much to my disdain it is primarily pictures. Nice pictures, but only pictures nonetheless. There is some minor text but not enough. I was hoping to find out more back stories about what happened, biting commentary (related to the episode not FoddTV "chefs")maybe lists of places from the show, recommendations of restaurants to eat at, etc.
I am a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain and of No Reservations, this book just didn't cut it for me.
on December 28, 2007
A nice coffee table book. Lovely photos accompany small bits of text describing the locations visited in the creation of No Reservations. If you've seen the show, there will be little new information in this book. Some places move the author to describe behind-scenes activity, to give background information, or to share his frank opinion of the experience or locale. Mostly, the pictures tell the story. If you like picture books, you'll like this book. If you prefer to actually read a book for its content, you'll want to choose another.