We have been a fan of Anthony Bourdain for ages, beginning back in 2003 with A Cook's Tour, which was his short-lived first attempt at travel television (he's written quite extensively on his displeasure with that adventure). We are hooked on No Reservations, his most recent and popular travel and food show.
After visiting the restaurant in New York City where he became famous, Les Halles, I developed an interest in French bistro food. So I was very happy to discover the Les Halles Cookbook on Amazon recently and was very excited when it arrived (BTW, if you're in Australia now is the time to stock up on your cooking book library from Amazon - the Aussie dollar is rocking as of the time of this post). The book is from 2004, before he really exploded onto the food and travel scene with No Reservations.
As to be expected with any book that Anthony writes, the introduction and early chapters are informative and witty. It starts with a very interesting history of Anthony's start with Les Halles and then continues with what he considers his "General Principles" - preparation (your mise en place), sourcing ingredients, your knives, and how to make stock. I found the chapter on sourcing ingredients really interesting because one thing I've always struggled with is how to devise a dish from scratch without some sort of recipe. Starting with what's good at your local market is a great way to get past that - and it's a pretty fundamental cooking principle that I need to get comfortable with.
In any case, one review on the back cover is right on the mark - despite Anthony's irreverent tone and language this is one top notch book on French bistro food, filled with the fundamentals. You can learn quite a bit from his chapters on topics ranging from soups, beef, fish & shellfish, to "The Big Classics", and "Blood & Guts".
The photography is fantastic, with a rustic 70s type feel to them. But make no mistake, this book isn't about photos - it's all about the food and how to get it right. The best thing about Anthony's writing style, in my opinion, is that he sets you at ease. A recipe may be quite complex but he clearly lays out what you need to do and doesn't leave out any required detail.
The best line is from the Introduction. "If you can make a decent chili, you can make cassoulet. A lot of the same principles are at work. Don't let the French name fool you. Ever." Classic! In the end, that's really the mission of The GourmetMale - to get guys to realise that it's not that hard to cook well and that there's a lot of pleasure to be found in providing tasty meals to family and friends.
Now, what are my chances of getting Anthony to drop in for a guest blog? I'm guessing pretty slim...