Review: Kitchen Confidential and Medium Raw

Eric Renderking Fisk revisits the work of Anthony Bourdain after his untimely death. | June 17th, 2017

I will admit wholeheartedly that Mr. Bourdain’s work influenced The Fedora Chronicles. When I first read his original book that launched his carreer, I said to my wife and everyone else that would listen that this is the kind of work I wish we were doing here on this very site. This is the kind of expose that I should have been doing all along, I should be telling folks via my work here about what it was like growing up as a jazz era retrocentric, what it’s really like at conventions, what’s wrong with nerd/geek culture and how we can fix or change it, and how to plow through the misconceptions of stereotypes.

Most importantly, it was Anthony Bourdain who taught me and a handful of other writers how to stand up to bullying in our own genres, and how not to be afraid of specific words like fuck, bullshit, and asshole.

Sure, you can – and should – swear occasionally in your writing when it’s necessary. Just don’t overdo it, asshole.

In “Kitchen Confidential,’ Anthony Bourdain laid a lot of sacred cows of the food industry bare. He came right out and told many of his readers what I already knew about the restaurant industry, that many cooks and kitchen staff are nothing like what you see on television, and that many restaurant owners and managers are borderline criminals and thieves.

And others are genuine criminals and thieves, while there are other restaurant owners are genuinely nice people who get screwed by everyone else who isn’t.

You could say that Eric Renderking Fisk has been borrowing or stealing Mr. Bourdain’s act since I’ve been laying bare the retrocentric nerd/geek culture bare and not allowing the dirt in our community swept under the carpet. I’ve made a career of coming right out and saying there are aspects of Steampunk culture and Star Trek fandom that’s bullshit. I totally admit that.

While I’m at it, I’ve also been drawing inspiration and angst from the likes of Harlan Ellison, Dennis Miller, Dennis Leary, George Carlin, and so on.

I totally admit that I’ve borrowed a lot from Mr. Bourdain’s work, and why shouldn’t I. I think there is a huge need for every aspect of western culture to have someone who speaks out against the injustices we see in it and embarrass the perpetrators of bad behavior. A prime example was when some idiot Batman Cosplayer made mean-spirited remarks about Erica Dodd and her Harley Quinn costume. I came right out and said that that guy has chronic tiny dick syndrome.

Harsh? Yes.

True? Maybe, but I’m more concerned and worried about those of you who ran to his defense. How do you know he’s not suffering from tiny dick syndrome? Personal experience, perhaps?

And like Anthony Bourdain, I’ve also employed an unhealthy amount of self-deprecating humor. I am often wrong but never in doubt. And when I’m right it’s about things I wish I wasn’t. I wish I was wrong on so many topics like how a specific episode of someone’s personal drama is going to end.

I totally admit that I was messed up by having neurotic parents in chaotic surroundings and I’m the product of having watched too many classic and period films. I own that shit.

You should own your shit. Be proud of it. If I can’t make fun of myself occasionally then I’m letting you have all the fun and I would sound like a self-righteous, sanctimonious, hypocritical prick. Which I am, anyway.

There are a lot of us who are better writers because they read “Kitchen Confidential” and his follow-up book, “Medium Raw.” If not better, more honest. His way of writing was to simply say “This is how I see it now, this is how I feel about it now, and this is why this sucks.” He also said, “this is how I screwed up, this is what I did wrong, let’s have a good laugh at my expense while I hope you all learn from my mistakes.”

Not in those exact words, but that’s the gist.

One of the greatest aspects of his writing is to get the point across that people are people. We are all the same to some extent. The people who are in the service industry are human beings, just like you, and to miss treat people who are in different class strata than you are unacceptable and unforgivable. You should not feel superior because you’re rude to the people who serve you coffee, work in retail, fix your car, or all the other hard jobs you can’t and won’t do.

Being a doctor or lawyer who likes to piss on the tattooed barista because he or she made ‘bad choices’ doesn’t make you a good person. You’re merely an asshole who happens to be a doctor or lawyer.

His overarching message is that everyone who performs a necessary task in society deserves respect. Everyone. Because of that, I would like to believe that after being embarrassed for being one of those smug jerks on occasion, I’ve repented.

The other side of that message is that everyone who does a job that others think is beneath them has stories to tell. Everyone who has a difficult job always has stories about what they do for a living that is worthy of being told and shared.

I am going to admit that I feel as if the world is now worse off without Anthony Bourdain. We are less of a species without the likes of him without more of his writings and shows like “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown” that showed us how people live in different parts of the world. He was brash and harsh, but he also had a huge heart that was all too willing to show us that people are the same everywhere. While our menus and standards of what we like to eat are different, we all have hopes, dreams, concerns, and aspirations. You can be wise and sincere without all the pretentious “Martha Stewart” crap.

And he did all these great things under the guise of talking about food and how it’s prepared.