Deriving in large part from his popular series of television travelogues, Bourdain's new collection of essays breezes along. Bourdain writes as he talks--irreverently, earthily, and determinedly free of euphemism. The reader can almost hear him dragging on his cigarette between sentences. In just a few pages he lays bare the gritty, fill-those-tables economics that govern a restaurant's success without respect to the competence of its cooks. He surveys the current crop of overpublicized chefs in their trendy Las Vegas digs and finds their eateries flourishing if soulless. He fears that celebrity (and vast riches) will undo many potentially great chefs, but exceptions such as Mario Batali and Emeril Lagasse confirm his faith in the higher side of his profession. Anyone who's ever dined in one of the thousands of undistinguished and indistinguishable "family" restaurants clogging the nation's highways will appreciate Bourdain's take on "Restaurant Hell." His lusty paean to the old, freewheeling Times Square of drugs, sex, and crime offers a contrarian, in-your-face riposte to New York City's touristy gentrification.
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