Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Chef's Christmas by Anthony Bourdain: Review

The crew at Restaurant Saint Germain find themselves miserable on Christmas Eve. Once a culinary hot spot, which could easily afford to let the bartender skim a hundred dollars from the till each night, the restaurant now sits as a lonely reminder of past glory. Even Executive Chef Rob Holland (the world's sexiest chef), has been a stranger lately to his own kitchen. This December 24th, the empty dining room of Restaurant Saint Germain serves as a constant reminder that the crew will soon be hunting for new jobs.

However, every good Christmas story features, at least the possibility of, a Christmas miracle. Just as things look their bleakest, will a feverishly made tasting menu consisting of; a torchon of foie gras, cornmeal blinis with shavings of homemade gravlax and Beluga caviar, lobster ravioli with white truffles and a morel sauce, sweetbreads crisped in duck fat, and other truly inspired dishes; made by Chef Rob Holland, be enough to save the dying eatery, or will it be Restaurant Saint Germain's proverbial last supper?

Originally published as a thirty page bonus story within Anthony Bourdain's 2006 book, "The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones," "A Chef's Christmas" is available, by itself, as an hour long unabridged audiobook, read by the author. While this work of fiction is a rare departure from Bourdain's culinary non-fiction genre; the only other work of fiction, to my knowledge, being the murder mystery "Bone in the Throat;" "A Chef's Christmas" contains elements one would expect find within one of his books.

Filled with accounts of back kitchen shenanigans and vivid descriptions of world-class gourmet cuisine, "A Chef's Christmas" is unapologetically told through the mastered use of a colorfully raw vocabulary, which would embarrass many seasoned sailors and Teamsters. Anthony Bourdain's hardcore fans have come to accept, and even look forward to his brazenly crass writing style, possibly because it comes across as uncensored and therefor honest. Plus, referring to a Christmas tree salesman as an "inbred mother*&$%er" humorously sets the story apart from other works of the Christmas miracle genre, such as; "A Christmas Carol," "It's A Wonderful Life." or "Miracle On 34th Street."

Basically, if you're a reader/listener who can be excited by depictions of top-notch epicurean delights, and you can accept a certain degree of vulgarity without being offended, then "A Chef's Christmas" by Anthony Bourdain may be a welcome addition to your Christmas library. Personally, I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.
*Described dishes are linked to recipes for similar fare, and listed gourmet ingredients; gravlax, Beluga caviar, and white truffles; are linked to definitions and further information. Recipes may not reflect the way Anthony Bourdain would prepare the dish in question.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the heads-up, James. This sounds right up my street!

    A very Happy Christmas to you!