A Cook's Tour - Anthony Bourdain

Happy World Book Day!

When I was living in Barcelona, April 23rd was my favorite day of the year (second to Christmas). On this day, usually, Barcelona is transformed into a huge street library, where every square and avenue is full of people browsing bookstalls, having their books signed by authors, and buying red roses. Everything is decorated with Saint George beating the dragon to save the princess. It is actually the Catalan Valentine’s Day, and instead of chocolate and other random gifts, people exchange books and roses. But this year… well, you all know.

Many people browsing books in a street stand. One person has a red rose in their hand.

So we might not be able to walk the streets of Barcelona looking for the most moving or interesting book and the perfectly beautiful rose for our loved ones, but Literature, thank goodness, is still here with us to help us through these weeks of confinement. As cooking is! I know that lots of people are using this time to learn or perfect their culinary skills.

Then… what about when those two passions merge? I am an avid reader of gastronomic narrative, and the idea of adding a book recommendation section about this genre has been in my mind for quite some time now. I believe today is the best day to do so, don’t you think?

And my first recommendation couldn’t be other but 
Anthony Bourdain’s “A Cook’s Tour”
. I’ve read it three times and I know there are more re-reads to come. That book was the reason why, earlier this year, I decided to move to Vietnam for a while.

The Author

Anthony Bourdain was a chef, writer and TV show host who, tired of the world of haute cuisine restaurants, hung the apron and wrote in 2000 a best-seller exposing all the controversial details happening behind kitchen doors: “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.” I first knew about him thanks to his “Parts Unknown,” a CNN produced travel show where he explored culinary cultures around the world. So, if you’re wondering, the answer is, undeniably, YES, he was my inspiration for this blog and my lifestyle, even. Sadly, he committed suicide in 2018.

The Book

The cover of the Kindle version of Anthony Bourdain's "A Cook's Tour," which is a picture of the chef and writer

A Cook’s Tour” is the result of one of the TV series that preceded “Parts Unknown” that was aired, according to Wikipedia (I love my reliable sources), between 2002 and 2003. As Bourdain himself explains in the book, he wrote it to make up for the things he had to do to keep the show relevant to a broader audience, in order to be truer to himself and his experience. Each chapter is devoted to a different country (except one that deserves more than that) and the premise is the chef going around the globe, searching for the perfect meal. My dream job, basically.

My Review

However, this book is not so much about the amazing stories he shares, the delicious food he describes, or the beautiful places he visits… as it is a walk down memory lane and an inner search for meaning in life. It is beautifully written: honest, witty, simple yet profound. It is not very long, so I read it in a couple of lazy afternoons, but some parts beg for a re-read. At certain points, you need to stop and be quiet for a minute. It’s the perfect “food for thought.”

A Quote

“Memory, that’s a powerful tool in any chef’s kit. Used skillfully, it can be devastatingly effective.”

A Personal Anecdote

A durum from Dürümzade

When I was in Istanbul, in October last year, I was meandering the streets around my hostel and, although I was not hungry, the smell of a little corner restaurant made me stop and ask for whatever that aroma was emanating from. It was Dürümzade. I don’t usually like kebab-like food, but the freshness of the bread, the juiciness of the meat, and the perfect balance of the sauce made me rethink my whole concept of what a dürüm is. While I was sitting in a plastic chair in an uneven pavement eating that mouthwatering wrap, I decided to Google the place to give it some stars in my reviews, and then I found out it was one of the places Anthony Bourdain visited in his travels. My instincts are not bad, then!

Well, I hope you like this section. I was thinking about even organizing a book club at some point! I would love to hear your opinions…

P. S. This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you buy the book using my link, I will earn a small commission, so thank you!

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79 Comments Add yours

  1. Candy Rachelle says:

    I absolutely love AB. He is greatly missed. Gonna check this out.

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  2. Subhashish Roy says:

    April 23rd will now stay in my mind for ever not only as World Book Day but also because of Antony Bourdain. It was great learning about this personality. A great thinker, writer and cook. I stay in a city called Kolkata in India and there is a street here famous for roadside book stalls and they run throughout the year. They also stock second hand books mainly for those students who cannot afford buying new books. The Durum that you mentioned is again found in Kolkata and is a specialty here which we call as roll. Very nice read.

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  3. That is such a cool celebration. Personally, I would not mind if Valentine´s day turned into exchange-books day 🙂 Thank you for the book recommendation. I actually have to admit that I have never heard of Anthony Bourdain before, so it was interesting to learn about him.

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  4. sumit walia says:

    hi
    Never knew the significance of April 23, glad to have known now. I could feel how much you have been influenced by Anthony Bourdain . From your description of him, he comes across a thinker first and a chef just behind that and maybe that was the reason that drew people to him. Of course he must have a marvelous chef considering that he wrote over 2000 recipes. An interesting post indeed.

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  5. Mayuri Patel says:

    I am huge Book lover and I love travel themed books so much. Once I start reading I can’t keep it down and my mind stick to the Pages! I haven’t yet read Cook’s tour but would love to read it. I am glad to know about series of it, would love to watch it.

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  6. Jennifer says:

    I love the cover image of him looking young! It seems like an interesting book. It’s such a shame what happened to him – he was loved by so many. If only he had realized that. <3

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    1. irispermuyaforkontheroad says:

      I wish that would have been the case, but sometimes being loved is not nearly enough, even if you do realize it, unfortunately. Depression is way more complex than that.

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  7. Arnav Mathur says:

    Books are indeed the best memoirs. Really love reading travel themed books, as a lot of these including A Cook’s Tour, as you mentioned have those pages and lines, that make you keep the book down, and let your mind wander. Having said that, i really need to get my hands on this, and also watch the series.

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  8. Bhushavali N says:

    Happy World Book day! When I think of books & Barcelona, the first thing that comes to my mind is Dan Brown’s Origin! Haha…
    Good to know about Antony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour. I loved his shows on TV and yes, it is sad that he passed.
    Haha. I can imagine how going around the globe looking for the perfect meal is a perfect job for any foodie! Good to know about your tryst with Durum. Quite amusingly, its my goto fastfood in Belgium!

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  9. Mila R says:

    Yes, he is my hero! I want to give this to my bf.

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  10. Christiana says:

    I really love books too and it’s really sad how things pandemic has changed everything. This looks like an absolutely wonderful read!

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  11. Jules says:

    Nice review of the book and a tribute to a groundbreaker type of a person. Looks like you are following in his footsteps!

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  12. Yukti Agrawal says:

    I never knew about April 23 is celebrated so hugely in Barcelona with streets converting into libraries. It must be great to see such a unique kind of celebration related to books. Also being a Catalan Valentine’s Day, it is a great way to celebrate by gifting book instead of roses. Gifting knowledge is a great idea instead of plucking roses. This book Cook’s Tour looks a great book as I am a great foodie.

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    1. irispermuyaforkontheroad says:

      Well, actually in Sant Jordi you gift both, books and roses. Traditionally, it was books for men and roses for women, but that’s changing. However, I totally agree with you: I’d rather have a book, that’ll last forever, than killing a rose for a couple of days!

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  13. I really liked it the way you started from Happy World Book day, then advised to learn cooking skills and then about Anthony Bourdain. Thanks for recommending the book. This is definitely the right time to learn some cooking. Rather one can travel through food. I love trying out local cuisines and now am trying to make some too.

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  14. Jessica L says:

    I didn’t know he had a book, but I loved Anthony Bourdain’s tv show. I will have to check this out! Thank you!

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  15. I look forward to reading this book. Thansk for sharing.

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  16. Meghana Rao says:

    I would love to read this book. Thanks for the review

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  17. That sounds like a great book. I really enjoyed his tv show. I will have to check out the book.

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  18. Anthony Bourdain is amazing! I would definitely read this.

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  19. Nina Nichols says:

    I need to add this to my collection! Bourdain is a very insightful person and his travel is enriched not just with different cuisines but also cultures and traditions.

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  20. Jon Brosio says:

    He was truly a scribe, visionary and amazing storyteller. He is sorely missed. Thanks for the book recommendation. Confidential was one of my favorites.

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  21. Neil Alvin says:

    Anthony Bourdain once visited the Philippines. I also tried the place that he visited. Awesome experience!

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  22. Great post, although I may be one of the few people never to have seen Anthony Bourdain tv shows

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    1. irispermuyaforkontheroad says:

      I envy you! Because that means you get to watch them for the very first time 😉

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  23. Vlera says:

    Great post, we need many posts like thi about books, because the world is leaving the books for tech.

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  24. Allan Anova says:

    Based from your blog post, it seem a very nice book. I’m really curious about it and would like to get one.

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    1. irispermuyaforkontheroad says:

      I’m glad that I inspired that curiosity! If you feel like helping this blogger, you can get one through the links in the post 😉

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  25. solrazo.com says:

    Wow! With the words you used to describe everything, I could feel how awesome the book is! And I think food for thoughts are great to digest too!

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  26. Cassie arico says:

    I love his books and reading about all his travels

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  27. Rosanna says:

    I’ve been looking for things to read and definitely want to check out this book! Thanks for sharing!

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  28. Nina Bashaw Photography says:

    I had no idea he had written a book. It sounds like in an interesting read, I’ll have to add it to the list of books to check out, especially sense my husband and I love to cook.

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    1. irispermuyaforkontheroad says:

      He actually wrote many, many books. I haven’t had the chance to read them all yet, but this one especially touched me.

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  29. Kelly says:

    I’m glad I came across this. I’m always looking for books that aren’t too high in the commitment category, I like how you said it could be read in a few lazy afternoons!

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  30. steph says:

    This was a great blog post, I will have to give this one a read now.

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  31. Courtney says:

    I had never heard of World Book Day or how it is celebrated in Barcelona. That sounds so magical! Hopefully next year will be back to normal. I’m definitely going to check out Bourdain’s book. Thanks for sharing!

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  32. This was an interesting blog post to read. I might have to pick up “A Cook’s Tour”. Especially if you say there are parts that beg for a re-read. I love books that make you stop and think along the way. Certainly food smells can evoke the most powerful memories. As can food. Glad you shared your views.

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  33. Lydia says:

    I absolutely love books! But World Book Day takes on a whole new meaning when you’ve got kids to take to school! Lovely post, thanks for recommending this book

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  34. Jody says:

    What a wonderful and informative post!

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  35. Marta says:

    Love him. I meet him when he did a show in Croatia. Wonderful man, very funny to be around. I miss him.

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    1. irispermuyaforkontheroad says:

      I am so jealous that you got to meet him! I would have loved to get to know him in person.

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  36. Dada says:

    To be honest, I have never read or seen any of Anthony Bourdain’s food show. I know that many people adore this guys and thanks to you I am now reall curious what this man is all about! I will watch an episode of his food travel program! And perhaps even read his book!

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    1. irispermuyaforkontheroad says:

      Let me know what you think when you do, please 🙂

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  37. Pam says:

    Anthony Bourdain is one of my favorites ever. His brutal honesty throughout his books and shows is what brought me to loving travel as much as I do. I’d love a book group – no one ever reads the same books as me haha

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    1. irispermuyaforkontheroad says:

      Same here! Consider yourself added to the book club list. Hopefully in a month or so I’ll reach out 🙂

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  38. Paolo says:

    I am a Anthony Bourdain fan. I remember when he went in the Philippines and tried sisig and balut.

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  39. Shreya Saha says:

    It’s wonderful to know about April 23 and yes, I am sorry that this year we can’t do much about it. However, coming to Anthony, the book he has written seems to be really interesting. Searching for the best meal across the world while also reflecting on the meaning of life sounds really a great read.

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  40. Jay Artale says:

    I’ve read another of his books, and he’s a great writer. Really authentic. Now you’ve piqued my interest to read this one as well. It’s such a loss to the culinary and travel world.

    Love the idea of a book club … add me to the list – I’d be happy to participate. Would they all be travel related?

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    1. irispermuyaforkontheroad says:

      Aw, thank you! You are added! Yes, ideally they will be all food and/or travel related 🙂

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  41. Raksha says:

    I know for a fact that Anthony Bourdain was an awesome cook and a traveller. His shows were spectacular. I have never read Cook’s tour book. I think it will be a great addition to my small library of books.

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  42. Harshita says:

    I love this quote: “Memory, that’s a powerful tool in any chef’s kit. Used skilfully, it can be devastatingly effective.” This is so true but something I struggle with as i often have to refer to books and online recipes for forgotten steps/ingredients. And I am sure that in this period of lockdown this book will be a great read; definitely want to give this a read.
    Also had no clue of how Barcelona transforms on April 23! I have to share this with my partner and I know he would want to experience this for sure.

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    1. irispermuyaforkontheroad says:

      I totally recommend it, you can find it in the links if you want to support this blogger 🙂

      As for the memory, I think he was referring to the power of a flavor to take us back to a certain point in our lives (because our grandma used to make that dish, because we tasted it for the first time in that first date, because it was a celebration menu…) rather than the actual ability to remember recipes by heart.

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  43. I love reading and eating at the same time. <3 This looks like a great book! Thanks for sharing.

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  44. I’ve never heard of Anthony or this book till now! I’ll check it out!

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  45. I loved watching Anthony Bourdain’s TV shows – his culinary adventures were always such an inspiration to me as well! I’m surprised at myself that I’ve never read this book, so I’m definitely going to pick it up. Thanks for recommending it.

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  46. Taylor says:

    I keep seeing his books recommended, so I feel like it’s the universe telling me I need to read them! Thanks for the overview. 🙂

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  47. chad says:

    He is an idol of mine!!! I cried the day he died, such an amazing icon…

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    1. irispermuyaforkontheroad says:

      I cried to 🙁

      It was a dream of mine getting to know him, but I didn’t have the chance…

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  48. Nice reading and very inspiring.

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  49. Viano says:

    Oh wow! I’ve never heard of him till now. It’s so sad that he took his own life. Unfortunately, we’ll never know why.

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    1. irispermuyaforkontheroad says:

      Well, actually, while we cannot know the exact reasons why, in this book, you can see some of his desperation, nostalgia, and sadness transpire. It’s a fun book, but amongst all the jokes and the sarcasm, there is certain existentialism poking its head through the lines.

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  50. Kelly says:

    I love reading. Not so much cooking, but I do love to eat, and I love Anthony Bordaine. I watched his shows all the time. I had planned on visiting Barcelona this October for my 60th, but due to COVID, I am now unable to go.

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  51. Rachel says:

    I love Anthony Bourdain, I’ve yet to read this book but I love reading so I’ll add it my list. Thanks!

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    1. irispermuyaforkontheroad says:

      I really recommend it! It was a game-changer for me.

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  52. lipstickcafe says:

    A book club sounds great! I love book reviews!

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  53. Danielle says:

    I have always loved Bourdain! He has lead an incredible like and will always be remembered!

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  54. Iphone says:

    I feel this very informative. Thank you for this great article. RidaAli

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  55. Elizabeth O says:

    I am a book lover. I need to check this interesting book and read it.

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  56. Michele says:

    You had me at books. I love a good book fair, free books, book stores. I think this would be my favorite day if I lived in Barcelona. Anthony Bourdain knew his stuff. I loved watching his shows.

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  57. This sounds like such an interesting read. Anthony Bourdain sure lived a life full of travel.

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  58. Mindspeaks says:

    I was in search of an interesting book and this is a great suggestion. Also I am quite interested in cooking .

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  59. aisasami says:

    Anthony Bourdain was such an inspiration to the culinary world. I have never read his books but I think I will during lockdown! Thanks for the recommendation.

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  60. Polly says:

    Anthony Bourdain is inspirational and until now I still feel sad whenever I remember what happen. He was a traveler too just like me. He always inspired me to visit new places and to explore food and this book is a wonderful example of that and a must read for anyone. His other books about cooking are more autobiographies, and they are equally interesting (ehem… Medium Raw). ♥️

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    1. Qarrey says:

      Haven’t had of Anthony before, until now. He seems to be a great other. I will surely check out ‘A cook’s tour’s.

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  61. I need to check out this book!

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  62. Maria M says:

    I think my husband would want to read this…he’s a self declared “foodie”. haha

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  63. Devin says:

    Looks like a cool book. I loved trying that food in Istanbul – could never pronounce it though.

    Devin | deventuretime | https://deventuretime.com/

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  64. Nice post. How funny that you enjoyed your food at exactly the same place as Anthony Boudain. It’s a small world.

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  65. Mrs. Type A says:

    Such an informative post. Great memories of Anthony Bourdain!

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