HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >


"Nasty Bits" by Anthony Bourdain

I just got my free copy of "Nasty Bits" by Anthony Bourdain. After trying to get through it on the way to work this morning, I come away relieved that I didn't pay for the book. I like Bourdain...I find him amusing but this book is just a retread of his more obnoxious musings; Americans eat like shit, fusion is the devil, dishwashers are badass, chefs are outlaws, rascals and rogues...or at least the good ones are.


Is anyone else beginning to find his writing style a little tedious? I'm waiting for him to produce something of merit, something useful, something worth poring over.

This book isn't it.

I was half tempted to leave my copy on the subway for someone more appreciative.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I left my copy in London for the same reason.

    1. Haven't read his stuff, but this part of his persona on TV is a real turn off-- the faux bad-ass danger junkie, who just happens to be on carefully planned freebie junkets surrounded by camera and sound crews. When he plays the role of an open-eyed explorer with even a little humility and self-awareness, his travels can be fascinating. Otherwise, it's a hipster doofus joke.

      1. I'm reading my free copy now and it is pretty good, but I am releived I did not pay for it. HIs other book, Kitchen Confidential, is much better and kept me much more interested.

        1 Reply
        1. re: AmblerGirl

          Bourdain has written many books, including several fiction novels. Nasty Bits is in line with his previous book, A Cook's Tour, insofar as they are accompaniments to his TV series. He's basically describing his adventures as he films the shows. There's certainly plenty of commentary beyond what was on TV, but the main focus is the show. I wouldn't compare either of these "show" books to his unique insider bio, Kitchen Confidential.

        2. I've read about half of my free copy and, while I've enjoyed it, I've found his writing style a bit much to read the whole thing straight through. I have temporarily put the book down in favor of other reading. It seems like there is a lot of whining in his pieces, which inevitably end with him saying he knows he shouldn't be whining. These pieces were all originally published in magazines, etc, so I can see them being very enjoyable on their own, but it's too heavy as a whole.

          1. How on earth did you people all get free copies (and where do I get mine?)

            If someone here doesn't want it, I'll gladly pay shipping charges to take yours off your hands.

            (Now if only I knew a way to get my contact information to you...)

            1 Reply
            1. re: NYChristopher

              Amstel was giving these away if you signed up on their website (in November, I believe). Almost everyone's copies have been arriving this past week, so there's a lot of posting about it now.

            2. I agree that Nasty Bits is tedious and boring and I couldn't get through A Cook's Tour, which I picked up after loving Kitchen Confidential. I think Bourdain is just not a good travel writer...he's good with writing based on his experience in the kitchen and amplifying the quirky kitchen personalities he runs into.

              He also has a short, excellent piece in the otherwise pretty worthless essay collection Don't Try This at Home.

              1. The Nasty Bits is a compendium of travel essays he wrote for various magazines, so if you are looking for unifying themes and continuous train of thoughts, you are SOL. If you treat it as a bunch of short articles to be read in between tasks or while sitting down for a "rest" it is really good.

                1. His voice (writing voice not speaking voice) really grates on me. He a tad too much in love with himself, methinks. He needs to let his subject matter be more interesting than he is. Which, um, it is?

                  1. I'm still glad I didn't pay for KC...! Thanks NYPL!

                    1. My free copy came the other day, and while it's amusing, I do get a bit tired of the "frontier boast" that seems to be a big part of his "yeah, I'm a player, I'm a tough guy" shtick.

                      I keep a stick of incense burning, that helps to cover up the testosterone fumes wafting off the pages.

                      Fun to watch his shows, but the attitude is a bit much.

                      1. i have much the same conclusion as the rest of you: i like bourdain's writing style very much but with NASTY BITS its just too obvious that these were the editor's rejects. as soon as you begin reading you know why these were NOT part of his other memoirs and books. also, if you happen to watch many of his TV shows, youll feel like youre reading copy from those since many of the stories are identical.
                        overall: not bad since it was free. do NOT pay for it.

                        1. The free copies were part of a promotion by Amstel, advertised on MSN or something. It's over now.

                          I really liked all AB's previous books except the mysteries. The Typhoid Mary one is really good. My favorite is probably the cookbook; great writing there. I find his style interesting: there's the foul language and all, but at times it's very refined and literary, almost English-teachery in a way.

                          Nasty Bits is, as pointed out, a collection of magazine and newspaper articles. The writing seems much more hyped to me than in the other books-- maybe a function of the article form. I got sort of tired reading the pieces one after the other and I absolutely hated the one about fat people. (His note at the end of the book only made me hate it worse.) I had just met him and he seemed like a very nice man and the meanness of that article blew me away.

                          1. I got this for Christmas and quickly read through it.

                            My first impression was there was a lot of rehashed material. I work in a kitchen so I agree with most of what he's ever said. A disclaimer, which I'm sure he's made, is that all of his crazy stories, his story in general, it's just a story. There's a lot more stories out there. It's not THE story and I don't think he's claiming it is. Perhaps we have heard a bit much how badass and underground the life is because honestly, it's not like that for all of us. Sometimes it is.

                            A lot of value, I think, in Bourdain's writing comes from his assessments of food culture. I understand it may come off as repetitious at times and this last book could have been better edited. From a literary point of view, I suppose it could be better. From my perspective, I find myself sort of rooting him on, going on these endless rants that I find myself making to my friends and family. I read an interview of him where he said something along the lines of, "The U.S....I don't know if I can go back. It's so different over there (referring to Vietnam I believe)" and there was a sort of...desperation in his tone. Take a chef who's been cutting open cryovac bags of beef tenders and portioning them exactly the same way and serving the mung to oblivious diners, the same boring prepacked, homogenized crap that makes up 99% of american dining, for 30+ years, and then send him to Vietnam, the polar opposite, where everything is fresh and sold on the street...I dunno, I like that dynamic. I find it endearing and somewhat heroic.

                            And in the end, he calls himself on his own shit. He makes disclaimers. I rather enjoyed one of the last sections where he explains each bit, one where he blatantly calls himself out..."I had my head way up my ass for that one..." or such.

                            Anyway his writing is for enjoyment. He's in a particularly interesting position. His cruelty towards overweight people and lack of compassion for anyone not sharing his food philosophy, I have to say it, amuses me. Being behind a line is war, every goddamned night, and sue the guy if he's learned to hate the enemy. The problem is he's in the spotlight now, out in the open. There's a chef in there somewhere yelling and cursing (and you wouldn't want to hear the things that come out of a chef's mouth on a busy friday night. If you think what Bourdain says is mean, and it is, it's charming compared to what I've heard or said myself about our dining public) only now he's got the whole world to hear him, and he seemingly doesn't care. I personally admire his honesty. In an age where everything is moving toward politically correct-ness, it shows a little vulnerability in him. Surely all of us think unsavory thoughts irrationally at some point, who among us would be brave (or callous) enough to put them to print? Risky move perhaps, he acknowledges he could go under at any time, even writes about it.

                            It just cracks me up.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: fooddude37

                              Good write-up - I agree. In last week's No Reservations, he's in Seattle at Salumi, with Mario's dad, mom and family - and as he's showing such love and respect for them and their food, he's talking to them frankly about those little annoyances called customers. That's a show that I hope there's an article on - way too much going on for the 1 hour show to cover both Portland and Seattle, plus Salumi.

                              1. re: fooddude37

                                can't say it any better than you fooddude37, great! I don't care of all this critique of how he writes, his arrogance, etc., he is spot on, on the assessment of food culture.

                              2. Nasty Bits is more fun reading from a good writer. Yes, it's trimmings from his hard drive -- it says so on the cover. If you're waiting for him to produce something of merit, worth poring over, he already has: Kitchen Confidential, the Les Halles Cookbook, Bone in the Throat. If you want more sophisticated food literature than that, he isn't your guy. Elizabeth David and MFK Fisher are excellent options.

                                I don't find his writing style tedious. I find it consistent. He's always Bourdain, and I like his personality a lot. I like how honest he is: a snarling cynic where his trade is concerned, but human and kind when one on one. It's a blend of integrity and anger that I hope to follow for many years.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: orezscu

                                  Nicely put. I enjoyed "The Nasty Bits", and I enjoy Bourdain in general. He isn't shy about expressing his opinion, and it is just that, his opinion. If you don't like him, ignore him.

                                  1. re: orezscu

                                    I agree. I am about 2/3 of the way through the book and I enjoy. One has to remember it is a collection of writings and not a cohesive story or themed work as a whole.

                                    I really enjoy Tony's philosophies and as snarky as he is, there is always a tremendous respect towards the local foods and philosophies.

                                  2. Just got me free copy and immediately gave it as a "noblesse oblige" gift - a perfect use of this particular book. Nothing compares to Kitchen Confidential, but these days Mr Bourdain is best digested in hourly installments on the Travel Channel.

                                      1. re: Matt M.

                                        The Amstel offer is no longer available.