Sunday, January 6, 2008

how the kitchen staff views vegetarians

I'm reading Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential right now. This book first came out in 2000, and was a best seller back then. If you haven't heard of it, it was Bourdain's tell-all about life as a professional chef "laying out more than a quarter-century of drugs, sex and haute cuisine."

Bourdain is something of an egotistical ass, but he seems quite happy about it, and gives the impression that all chefs are similar. Anyway, I thought I'd share his feelings, and presumably the feelings of most professional chefs (except for Mr. Puck!) on vegetarians.

From page 70 of the 2007 First Harper Perennial Edition:

Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. The body, these waterheads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein. It's healthier, they insist, though every vegetarian waiter I've worked with is brought down by any rumor of a cold. Oh, I'll accommodate them, I'll rummage around for something to feed them, for a "vegetarian plate", if called on to do so. Fourteen dollars for a few slices of grilled eggplant and zucchini suits my food cost fine.

So that's his general view of veggies. He then goes on to tell an anecdote, the logic of which I don't really get, that vegetarians are prone to sickness and are germ carriers. "Amoebas are transferred most easily through the handling of raw, uncooked vegetables, particularly during the washing of salad greens and leafy produce. So think about that next time you want to exchange deep tongue kisses with a vegetarian."

Sorry Anthony, but vegetarians are pretty hot, you'll have to try harder than that to put me off exchanging "deep tongue kisses" with them.

Actually, the more I reflect on some of Bourdain's comments, the more I dislike him.

Here he is on chickens, without a moment's thought about, you know... if they are loaded with salmonella because they're treated so badly, maybe we should treat them better!?

Page 71
Pigs are filthy animals, say some, when explaining why they deny themselves the delights of pork. Maybe they should visit a chicken ranch. America's favourite menu item is also the most likely to make you ill. Commercially available chickens, for the most part (we're not talking about kosher and expensive free-range birds), are loaded with salmonella. Chickens are dirty. They eat their own feces, are kept packed close together like in a rush-hour subway, and when handled in a restaurant situation are most likely to infect other foods or cross-contaminate them. And chicken is boring. Chefs see it as a menu item for people who don't know what they want to eat.

Jerk. Chickens aren't dirty. They just get that way when they're confined in such small spaces that they have to crap all over themselves.

And finally, on page 73, here he is on foie gras (the production of which has been banned in England and California and many other areas because it is just so grotesquely immoral):
I don't know who figured out that if you crammed rich food into a goose long enough for its liver to balloon up to more than its normal body weight you'd get something as good as foie gras - I believe it was those kooky Romans - but I'm very grateful for their efforts.

Right. Well Anthony, here's hoping you're reincarnated as a goose.


Veg*Triathlete said...


I'm not sure if Bon Appetite is popular/easily available—perhaps it has its own Canadian version—but if you can, check out the February 2008 issue. There's a whole section on eating green that's 100% meat, meat, meat. And then there's a two page story called, "Why I'm not a Vegetarian." The main reason given? Pleasure. At least the honesty from some of the foodie/gourmands is refreshing.

Marathon Maritza said...

He is so pompous, I've never really liked him much. Now after reading your excerpts, I like him even less so.

And I agree with you on the chickens...mine are very clean animals who groom themselves every day and most certainly do NOT eat their own feces!

Nicole said...

Great post. Anthony needs to get out more. I do think he is good comedy though. Anyway.. Chicago has also banned foie gras! Yay!

VeganHeartDoc said...

That's incredible... how closed minded. It also reminds me of the statistic that only 16% of chefs actually care about how healthy the food is that they prepare.

I'm a vegan who hasn't been sick, not even a measly cold, in over a year.

Krista said...

I always thought that man was a colossal ASS! :)

sp said...

He sounds like a vegertarianist. He's definitely veganist.

Seriously though, there is something of a backlash going on as veg living becomes more popular and mainstream, thus threatening "normality".

I don't think I'd ever be able to read this book.

Smudgemo said...

I find that having kids gets me sick a lot more than vegetarianism ever did. Dirty buggers are always wiping their noses with their hands, touching everything, putting stuff in their mouths and still expecting kisses.

Just like politics, it doesn't matter if you are correct as long as you hammer the message enough.