Oven gloves are off as Bourdain attacks British chefs

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Nigella Lawson is not a real chef, Jamie Oliver fulfils the role of a non-threatening rock star and Rick Stein has the appeal of a homely dad to grown-ups moping about lonely city apartments.

The New York-born Anthony Bourdain's verdict on Britain's celebrity chefs in his latest literary outing almost matches the acidity of his best-selling exposé of New York's restaurants, Kitchen Confidential.

In The Nasty Bits, a collection of his recent journalism, the heroin addict-turned-culinary adventurer tackles everything from an Innuit slashing of a seal corpse to a London pint of stout to "smug" Woody Harrelson's devotion to raw food. But his writing is most newsworthy to a British readership in his humorous sprint around the television cooks who have hypnotised viewers on this side of the Atlantic.

Lawson, he states, is a celebrity but not a chef - which is "fine" because she is interested in the good "fun" stuff like pork fat. Lawson and Stein - the fish cook whom Bourdain describes as likeable and a "serial pyromaniac" - are likened to televisual parents to the millions of adults who live alone in flats. The big family meals seen in films look "strangely appetising", he says, and a nesting impulse takes over.

He writes: "Let's face it. Nigella probably cooks better than your mother. And she's a lot better looking, and cooler. Nigella wouldn't mind if you smoked weed in your bedroom before dinner, would she? She wouldn't criticise you if you came home with your nose pierced and a fierce, full-back tattoo depicting St Peter and Dee Dee Ramone shovelling coal down the crack of your ass. Of course not. She'd say, 'Remember to clean that nose with alcohol - and wash your hands for dinner! We're having roast suckling pig with quince chutney'."

Bourdain, whose Kitchen Confidential sold 280,000 copies in Britain, theorises that celebrity chefs may be acting as a replacement for lower sexual activity because they experienced an upsurge in popularity after the Aids scare of the Eighties.

"Are celebrity chefs seen as safer, non-threatening alternatives to, say, rock'n'rollers, or porn stars of the past?" the veteran chef asks, adding that "perky" Jamie Oliver would probably be a safer presence in a home than the heavily tattooed ex-Motley Crüe rocker Tommy Lee.

In the same chapter, Bourdain recalls how Ainsley Harriott was forgiving about the "very nasty" things he had said about him when he encountered him in a bar in Australia. The visit was part of Bourdain's recent globetrotting, a searching out of strange and novel food experiences - and the occasional corporate junket.

Following the success of Kitchen Confidential, Bourdain travelled the world from Cambodia to Brazil with a small film crew for a television series and accompanying book, A Cook's Tour. In The Nasty Bits, he serves up not a planned meal but a literary stew, containing pieces such as his lobster-killing guilt and his recollection of scrounging the back streets of Hanoi for eel. He details his 30-course meal with Ferran Adria, the experimental Catalan chef whose peculiar dishes have led to El Bulli being voted the world's best restaurant.

Bourdain's book is subtitled "Collected Cuts, Useable Trim, Scraps and Bones" and split into five chapters, each representing one of the five tastes known to the palate - salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and umami - and it is published on 1 May.

Heated spats in the kitchen

Gary Rhodes vs Delia Smith

Spiky-haired Rhodes dismissed her television show How To Cook as "offensive". "I really don't believe that the majority of people cannot boil an egg," he said. "It is insulting to their intelligence."

Delia Smith vs Antony Worrall Thompson

Smith attacked the star of BBC's Food and Drink programme, saying his show was "disgusting". He replied: "I can't be doing badly if I get a reaction like this from the coldest woman on television... I am sure she will still be with us in 10 years' time - a little greyer and wrinklier, propped up by her walking frame."

Gordon Ramsay vs Everyone

On Ainsley Harriott: "Ainsley's not a chef, he's a fucking comedian." On Nick Nairn: "I ate in Nick's restaurant and the only fucking memorable thing were the carpets." On Sir Terence Conran: "I would rather have food at my four-year-old daughter's prep school than at Quaglino's". Sir Terence replied: "I can eat food as good as his from the Heinz baby range."

Comments