1) Tony Bourdain’s Nasty Bits: Some good, some bad, some ugly, much like Use Your Illusion, II. A few gems, but feels like a series of loosely connected refritos put together on deadline. Bourdain’s having trouble with a second act, other than being the celebrity Tony Bourdain. Fortunately, he’s smart enough to figure out a solution.
2) Jim Harrison’s The Raw and the Cooked: Repetitive. Okay to stitch columns together into a book. It just shouldn’t be so obvious. Anecdotes reappear, including a citation from a wealthy French friend, Jack Nicholson on overeating as only heroic in the Midwest and Elaine’s big veal chops. Even oddly esoteric word-choices, such as “factitious,” are repeated ad nauseum.
3) Michael Ruhlman‘s The Reach of a Chef. Big-font, triple space, wide margins. Much like a Princeton lax player’s senior thesis. Anyone else remember Courier 14? I did like Ruhlmann’s first two books but “Where’s the beef?” This mash note to celebrity chefs is a food version of Almost Famous. Get some distance!
4) Bill Buford’s Heat: Great New Yorker articles on Pasternack and Batali show Buford’s strength as a writer of profiles. However, amateurish sections on Renaissance food history overreach. Also packs a fair amount of stuffing into a book that could have been far shorter. There are four or five great articles in here, but not worth it at hard cover prices.
5) Danny Meyer’s Setting the Table: Concise, clear and larded with personal, sometimes painfully personal, anecdotes. But too many smudges on the glass for such a perfectionist. Counted 4 typos in the book, and big ones.
Could also use a bit more punch. I’d like to see some suggestions for fixing the restaurant industry, applying his ideas to different formats, cities, etc.