If you liked Anthony Bourdain's entertaining, hyperactive and sometimes disgusting memoir 'Kitchen Confidential', then his 'Les Halles Cookbook' will be right up your street, albeit with more recipes than memories. It's a cookbook that is more full of character than most. Of course, your enjoyment of it all comes down to whether you like the character or not and Bourdain sometimes seems to go out of his way to irritate.
The executive chef at proudly carnivorous New York restaurant Brasserie Les Halles since 1998, Bourdain's recipes are French bistro classics that he has translated for the domestic audience. The recipes are not all he's brought from the professional kitchen as he also attempts to get the home cook to work like a pro, with sections on the concept of mise en place - basically your pre-stocked workspace - meal planning/seasonality (called Scoring the Good Stuff), the importance of a good sharp knife and a veritable paean to the cult of stock making and importance of demi-glaze. He also brings his kitchen manners - as in little or none - to the table, with frequent admonitions and dictatorial instructions. You get the feeling that Nigella's warm, fuzzyness wouldn't last long if it came into contact with Mr Bourdain.
Although there is the occasional obscure dish - Civet of Wild Boar, anyone? - the 'Les Halles Cookbook' is a well structured book, based on solid French principles. Dirty, grainy pictures from the front line (the Les Halles kitchen, that is) by Robert Discalfani give a suitable air of urgency to proceedings. This is a book to learn and to cook from.