Anthony Bourdain is one of those people who elicits strong reactions of zealous admiration or vile disgust in people, sometimes at the same time. He is no doubt the bad boy of food and travel. He is never afraid to tell you what's on his mind, and even less concerned what people think of him. That is, after all, how he became so popular.
Medium Raw is more a series of essays than a continuous narrative. Bourdain pontificates about everything from the history of his contempt for the Food Network to the softening of his heart proceeding the birth of his daughter. Many chapters in this book are page-turning, but others felt conceited and indulgent - written only for the benefit of his audience to see how important and knowledgeable he is. I skimmed through about seven chapters in this book because I just didn't find the subject matter all that interesting.
What I did find captivating and/or endearing:
1) Bourdain writes a couple chapters in this book about his daughter and what it's like being a dad
2) After many years of ripping on Jamie Oliver, Tony concedes in Medium Raw that Oliver is a hero of the food world in his chapter titled "Heroes and Villains".
3) Tony has always been vague and elusive about his disdain for the Food Network. He'll give a sound bite here and there, and then talk around his feelings. In this book, he finally gives the background behind those bitter feelings.
Passage that pulled me into the book:
Ms. Johnson was clearly not delighted to meet me or my partners. You could feel the air go out of the room the moment she entered. It became instantly a place without hope or humor. There was a limp handshake as cabin pressure changed, a black hole of fun - all light, all possibility of joy was sucked into the vortex of this hunched and scowling apparition. The indifference bordering on naked hostility was palpable. My partners and I left knowing that it was the end of us at Food Network. - p. 8
Medium Raw: a Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook by Anthony Bourdain
First published: June 2010
Number of pages: 304