Friday, May 16, 2008

Deconstructing Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential, Part 1

I'm in love with the book Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. More like mildly obsessed about it. And by mildly, I mean heavily. I've read the book, and I've got a hold of audible's audiobook of it, which is narrarated by no other than Anthony Bourdain. It couldn't be more than what I could have ever hoped for. With the book and the audiobook combined, I've read the book probably about 5 times. Because you do pick up something you've missed before or for my benefit have forgotten about. Every sentence is a like a hidden piece of shaved truffel that landed on a sauce plate that you are licking clean after you've had the best dish you've ever had in your life. And I'm not done licking just yet.

What is so interesting about it? Its his style of writing for one. His writings are very loaded with explosive visuals. You can see it. You can smell it. You can even feel the texture of it. Something not easy to accomplish for any writer. He writes like how I wished I could write. And lastly, you feel it. He's giving you the exceptional highs and the truly low lows (yes I'm proably quoting him there) of his life.

The formula for the story in a nutshell is a story you've heard countless times from just about any "Beyond the Glory" or biography (of any band that has gotten over a drug addiction). It starts with their humble beginnings. How their meteoric rise to success lead them to a crazy life/partying. How that crazy life lead to drugs, and them experiencing the lowest of the low points in their career. Then from going to hero to absolte zero, they decide they've had enough and do something about it, and stage a comeback tour. The formula is a foundation for any good biography. What sets him apart is his style of writing. And I believe some of it can be broken down.

For starters, he uses the words pretense, pretentious, pretentiousness a whole lot. Why? I don't know yet. But maybe there is a lot of that in cooking.

He knows how to exaggerate, without the negatives of exaggerations. He'll say something like "a meal you'd happily give your left kidney for." How many times has he said on TV "the best thing I've ever tasted"? proably only a few times, but he probably says something like that on a weekly or monthly basis for TV. He just changes it up a little. Its important that he does this because by him saying that, the viewer gets to imagine tasting something so good, its better than anything that they've personally tasted. And let me tell you, I've tasted some really good stuff in my lifetime. And I know that Tony has tasted a whole lot better because he travels and eats for a living. So every time you hear how good it is from him, he makes you feel like its better than anything you can ever imagine.

So over the next few posts, I'll be listening to the audiobook and I'll be desconstructing any patterns I recognize for my pleasure.

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