so you wanna be a chef

The restaurant kitchen may indeed be the last, glorious meritocracy—where anybody with the skills and the heart is welcomed.

Michael Ruhlman was able to post a complete chapter from Anthony Bourdain’s book, Medium Raw, on his website. It’s a fine read and certainly makes the book sound enticing.

I, Robot

Tonight I finished reading Isaac Asimov’s acclaimed collection of short stories: I, Robot. This is my introduction to Asimov’s writing but I enjoy it already. While I enjoyed his style of writing, I was most impressed by the heady concepts which I found pervaded the anthology. Besides the in-depth consideration of the psychology of robotic machines, we’re presented with a picture of the human impact of the presence of such technology from its near introduction to its startling potential future.

At a brief 256 pages (or 192 in my 70’s edition belonging to my wife’s late father) it makes for a quick read of all stories. Now I feel like it’s but a small taste to whet my appetite for more of Asimov’s work.

A Tale of Two Geniuses

Malcolm Gladwell’s recent New Yorker Article, “Late Bloomers,” has already been linked around the internet, but I can’t help chiming in having read the piece. Whether or not you or me or anybody else is destined to reach “genius” status, it’s encouraging to understand that not all brilliance manifests itself at an early age. Additionally, I loved the notion that late-blooming talent is often aided by outside forces:

Sharie was Ben’s wife. But she was also—to borrow a term from long ago—his patron. That word has a condescending edge to it today, because we think it far more appropriate for artists (and everyone else for that matter) to be supported by the marketplace. But the marketplace works only for people like Jonathan Safran Foer, whose art emerges, fully realized, at the beginning of their career, or Picasso, whose talent was so blindingly obvious that an art dealer offered him a hundred-and-fifty-franc-a-month stipend the minute he got to Paris, at age twenty. If you are the type of creative mind that starts without a plan, and has to experiment and learn by doing, you need someone to see you through the long and difficult time it takes for your art to reach its true level.

The article is a lengthy one, but certainly worth a read. It makes me (and hopefully others who pursue good artistic output of any kind) relax a little bit about my own creativity and dulls the false sense of urgency to do something significant before I age “too much.” The article also seems to celebrate the pursuit – the research and preparation as a component of the art itself. And that, I can appreciate.

Kitchen Confidential

cover of the book Kitchen Confidential

Last night I finished reading Anthony Bourdain‘s Kitchen Confidential. This book was easily one of the funniest volumes I’ve read in the past several years. Coarse, profane, yet insightful – this book is less an exposé of the commercial kitchen than of the author himself. Bourdain shares expertly crafted anecdotes about his restaurant years, all the while exhorting the readers to accept and appreciate professional cooking (and it’s oft unseemly cast of characters) for what it is.

Two stand-out chapters (also the longest, I think…):
1. A Day in the Life – Here we follow Bourdain from his waking before 6 AM through a grueling restaurant Friday ending, exhausted, in a bar at 1 AM. The pacing and detail is extraordinary, convincing me further that I never wish to run a restaurant 🙂

2. Mission to Tokyo – The chef is sent by the owners of Les Halles to a satellite restaurant in Tokyo to consult about the menu. Left to his own exploring devices, Bourdain rapidly falls in love with Japanese food culture. The sense of discovery is palpable, and the reader (or at least THIS reader) is filled with a desire to see the Roppongi district.

I absolutely recommend this book. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it IS hilarious and informative. The format is mildly scattered – more the feeling of semi-chronological narrative with various asides – but easily readable. Taste and enjoy.

Glengarry Glen Ross

Last night I started and subsequently got sucked into David Mamet‘s Glengarry Glen Ross – his drama which won the Pulitzer in 1984. This short play (2 acts, about 100 pages) feels like a series of rapid-fire conversations which demonstrate the lengths to which desperate and/or ambitious men will go for their ends. Mugs sent this to me shortly after Christmas, and it was well worth my reading. I highly recommend it.