The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Globe Life

March 28, 2008

Book review: Bourdain has ‘No Reservations’ when it comes to travel book

‘No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach’

By Anthony Bourdain

I’ve long admired Anthony Bourdain. Sure, he smokes way too much, he drinks to excess, and he swears constantly. But he is who he is, and he doesn’t apologize for it. And who he is, is ever-evolving.

He first found success as a respected chef in New York City. Then came fame as a writer; his first best-seller, “Kitchen Confidential,” provided a hilarious, shocking and sometimes stomach-turning insider’s view of the restaurant business. These days, he’s known for his wildly entertaining Travel Channel show, “No Reservations.”

Bourdain’s latest literary offering, “No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach,” isn’t a companion book to the series in the traditional sense. Rather, in a very personal way, it revisits the places that left the strongest impressions — good and bad — on him.

As with any good travel book, the pictures are plentiful and beautiful. However, they aren’t lifted from video footage. Instead, they’re behind-the-scenes photos taken by everyone on the “No Reservations” crew.

Although the photographs could speak for themselves, Bourdain introduces each section, detailing what he and his crew experienced in places ranging from Uzbekistan to Cleveland. He’s a skilled, observant writer. He looks beyond the clichés that litter so many travel books and aims to impart what a country and its people, food and culture are truly like. He can be as snarky as he is empathetic, sometimes in the same paragraph.

The captions are where it’s at, though. There Bourdain cuts loose and really speaks his mind. He’s not above getting in a dig at his former employer, the Food Network, either: “Traditional Icelandic holiday treats. Testicle terrine — marinated in lactic acid. Blood sausage — marinated in lactic acid. Rotten shark. Marinated in lactic acid. The smell alone could drop a charging rhino (or Rachael Ray) in its tracks from fifty yards.”

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