So You Want To Be A Waiter

The best book on waiting tables that you have never read – yet

Cookbook of the day – Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook

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Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking             
Anthony Bourdain

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA

ISBN-13: 9781582341804

 

Yes, it’s as good as you expect.

From its butcher paper  thick, absorbent antiqued cover to the best procedure for a plate full of pomme frites, this combination of harangue, pontification, excoriation and tough love will…I repeat…will make you a better cook, if only for the tutorial on stock.

You may never want to pair foie gras with prunes, as he outlines in the foie gras aux pruneaux recipe because, when he writes “I can’t guarantee it as an aphrodisiac, but I would think that a man (or a woman) who knows how to appreciate and cook foie gras would, in the simple act of searing a slice of luxuriously fattened goose liver, be exhibiting in one task both a delicate sensibility and enticing cruel streak”, you might wonder what kind of signal the addition of prunes would send to your would-be partner – “Yes dear, this is your skin in 15 years if you don’t stop sunbathing in Majorica” or, “Ahhhh, my aging bowels are going to feel a lot better in a couple of hours”. Don’t worry about the meta, just exclaim (to yourself) “Convention be damned! I’m adding prunes to foie gras and, you know what? Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”.

Do yourself a favor and buy this in the hardback edition. It’s got a velvety feel when you pick it up and has a nice heft due to the thick bond weight of the paper. The cover has an over-sepia’ed (much like this very much-beloved blog that you are reading) photo of Bourdain that betrays a rather superficial knowledge of the power of Photoshop (although there’s a much defter touch with the occasional color photos within), and Tony isn’t immune to food porn tendencies,  but these are reasons to celebrate this volume. After all, fond is a messy thing.  It’s not perfect, it’s not uniform and it’s got burned bits. All things that help it elevate a good sauce into a great one. 

And make sure to pay particular attention to the 3 1/2 page “General  Principles”. That alone will hold you in good stead throughout the years, even if your biggest ambition is to make the perfect grilled cheese salad. The actual introduction is all culinary drill sergeant and inspirational exhortation, and is the kick up the ass that you’ve needed for a while. “General Principles” will set you straight on what’s basic and essential.

Every chapter has plenty of guidance, wisdom, inside tips and, yes, more hectoring. Face it – you need a “come to Jesus” moment every now and again, right?

2 responses to “Cookbook of the day – Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook

  1. Food Service Ninja May 21, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    if Bourdain writes it buy it-I have to admit I havent gotten around to getting his murder fiction featuring a chef as a main character yet.

    If your reading a blog with this title you need to get Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and WaiterRant’s book whose blog is waiterrant.com

  2. mark May 28, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    Agreed – not just an excellent cookbook , but a fun read due to Bourdain’s acerbix style of prose. Unpretentious cooking at it’s best!

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