Anthony Bourdain : Les Halles Cook Book
This is my favourite cook book, simply because Anthony Bourdain is my favourite chef. Now – here’s the thing, I don’t really follow recipes, my approach to cooking is more ‘feel’ than focus…but that’s just me, I don’t have the attention span to follow recipes to the letter…..and I prefer to make up my own.
That’s got nothing to do with Tony here, oh no, the reason this is my favourite cook book has nothing to do with the way the recipes are set out in the book, the measures, the method, the process…no, no…this is all about Bourdain’s attitude to the culinary arts and by extension life itself. So my favourite cook book and chef have almost nothing to do with food……….and everything to do with food.
If you have ever been lucky enough to have read Kitchen Confidential then you’ll know what Anthony Bourdain is all about. In the book he delivers a balls ‘n’ all account of his life through the lens of the professional chef…a world I was ‘lucky’ enough to experience for a short space of time. So I have the measure of Bourdain’s pedigree, I lived the life he lived, bled the same blood and burnt the same skin…if I was to write a cook book (which I might) this is the one I would produce and if you were to take away all my books this is the only one I’d murder your kids/pets/grandparents over.
“This is not a cook book. Not really. It will not teach you how to cook” – Bourdain
Les Halles cook book is a book for cooks and chefs – there is no fuck-ology in Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles cook book. This book is for those cooks who understand the need for a good set of knives and who do not, repeat do not use glass chopping-boards. Bourdain talks extensively in this book about ‘scoring the good stuff’….his attitude to quality produce is akin to that of an educated heroin junkie – you think you’ll find Bourdain wandering the aisles of Tesco, Sainsbury or Morrsions…fuck no, he’ll be hitting up Uncle Ho in the depths of the golden triangle hunting for Cobra heart.
Bourdain talks about ‘system D’ in his book Kitchen Confidential – this is the unseen force that makes all kitchen brigades work in unison without written rules or a handbook. You learn how to move in a professional kitchen really quickly..if you don’t you get cut, burnt, scalded then fired – I know. Les Halles cook book presumes you have this but if you don’t it will spell out what you are doing wrong in the first 40 pages.
If you cook, if you consider yourself a good cook then this book is a must…you won’t learn anything new – in fact Bourdain sets out right from the get go that “the recipes are old standards, versions of which you can find in countless other books” but what Bourdain brings to the cook book party is the total and utter removal of bullshit. The recipes are classic French – Steak au Poivre, Moules, Confit de Canard etc,etc but they are presented with the French ‘snout’ ie you probably won’t be able to do this at home – this is a refernec book for us cooks, it’s not an ‘Intro to Dinner Parties’ manual.
Les Halles is two brasseries in Manhatten named after the famous French district and Bourdain operated there as Exec. Unfortunately he no longer ‘boils’ at Les Halles but thankfully I was lucky enough to dine at his establishment when he was and I can honestly say it was a total knock out…the guy talked the talk but he was more than able to walk the walk! To my great regret and sadness I wasn’t able to meet the guy but a buddy of mine was lucky enough to run into him in Coney Island – you can check out her blog right here and maybe asked her what the experience was like!
Here is the lucky scamp with Bourdain right here!
Other books by Bourdain:
4 thoughts on “The greatest cook book by the greatest chef?”
Great review of a truly great book! Spot on, Rory. CHeers
Cheers Jeff – the man just rocks!!
This book is on my short list! Great review.
Thank you! Its the one I would save if the kitchen burned down!!