Live to eat: On reading Anthony Bourdain

For the past few weeks, I’ve been gobbling up the writings of Anthony Bourdain.

I’ve always loved the petulant, rock-star-like host of the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations” – and I’ve always wanted to be the female version of him. I love how he just immerses himself in an often-but-not-always far-off locale’s culture, and eats anything and everything in his sight.

My introduction to Mr. Bourdain came when I caught his “Iceland” episode several years ago. I was hooked. He was bitter, he was smoking (something I no longer do but adore watching people do on screen) and he liked to eat and drink – how could I not fall for him?
Funnily enough, after reading his “No Reservations: Around the World On An Empty Stomach,” I learned that filming that very episode was among his least favorite moments of the show.

Through the years – especially as I found myself becoming a food writer – I’d really taken to learning more about Bourdain and watching his shows whenever I could.

Knowing my standing Monday-night activity of watching “No Reservations,” my editor gave me the aforementioned “No Reservations” book for Christmas last year.

For whatever reason, I didn’t open the book up until this Christmas, and I really regret it because it was a great tome. I was happy to see that his writing style, though briefly showcased in this book mostly full of pictures, was as irreverent, witty and riveting as his personality on the show. He gave great background and behind-the-scenes info on the show – from filming episodes all over the world with his crew and mishaps that happen on the road to, of course, the food.

Needless to say, I was now hooked on Anthony Bourdain The Writer, so I was excited to come across his bestselling memoir “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.”

The book, which came out in 2000, gave the first real glimpse beyond the swinging doors of a restaurant kitchen, that sweltering, fast-paced, often unattractive world people don’t normally get to – or care to – see.

I love Bourdain’s “colorful” storytelling style, and, having grown up in a restaurant family and taking many a meal in a said sweltering, fast-paced, often unattractive kitchen, it really brought me back to my youth: Watching my dad hustle in the kitchen, my mom run the front of the house and, my favorite part, eating, and eating well.
Clams casino, crab au gratin, my dad’s special Chicken Denny, ice cream parfaits, chicken francaise, brisket …

I know that’s where my love of food comes from being around good food all those years, and while my parents aren’t in the business anymore, I still relish a good meal (even if it’s just jarred pasta sauce and rotini). I eat with gusto, every meal, every day.

My mom accuses me of “Living to eat, not eating to live,” and it’s damn true. I’m unapologetic about it and rightfully so. As Bourdain so eloquently shows week after week, there’s a whole world out there to discover, and one of the best ways to learn about a new place, is to dine like a local.

If you’re a Bourdain fan, too, what is your favorite “No Reservations” episode?



About nikkimmascali

I am an editor, writer and New Yorker who has ink for blood and the blog name + tattoo to prove it. Also of note: I follow more dogs than people on Instagram. This is my blog about reading, writing and absolutely no 'rithmetic because I am horrendous at math.
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