Bourdain: The Definitive Oral Biography

Ecco. Oct. 2021. 448p. ISBN 9780062909107. $28.99. COOKING
After decades of Anthony Bourdain candidly sharing his own story, his longtime assistant Woolever (co-author, World Travel: An Irreverent Guide) has written an unfiltered study of Bourdain’s life, as seen by the people closest to him (among them his producer Zamir Gotta and CNN colleague Anderson Cooper). The narrative addresses Bourdain’s life from childhood on: his kitchen career as a line cook and eventually executive chef; nominal writing success with early novels; breakthrough memoir Kitchen Confidential; and early awkwardness on camera, plus the cult success of No Reservations and widespread fame of Parts Unknown. Woolever compiles the perspectives of Bourdain’s friends and family about the way these professional experiences impacted him, including during his tumultuous final year. Life was rarely rosy; Bourdain could be harsh, jaded, and disengaged when things didn’t go his way. But those moments coexisted with Bourdain’s global compassion and incredible personal selflessness (evinced by his championing Jason Rezaian’s case and supporting writers via his book imprint). Woolever offers good insight about these aspects of Bourdain and his world.
VERDICT Any Anthony Bourdain fan, of which there are many, will enjoy this thoughtful tribute to an impactful cultural figure.
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