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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Anthony Bourdain on Fish Butcher Justo Thomas: Best Food Writing of the Year So Far

Posted By on Tue, Jul 27, 2010 at 10:30 AM

I can't review Medium Raw, the new book from Anthony Bourdain. In part because I finished it only last night and am still forming an overall opinion. In part because I'm such a Bourdain fanboy that an objective reading might be impossible. So I guess take this recommendation with a grain of sea salt: "My Aim Is True," a chapter in Medium Raw, is the best piece of food writing I've read this year.

The chapter -- really, a stand-alone essay -- is a profile of Justo Thomas, the Dominican-American fish butcher at Le Bernardin, widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in the country and perhaps the best seafood restaurant, period. Each day Thomas, a man in his late forties, butchers 700 pounds of fish. Alone. When he is on vacation, it takes three men to fill his role.

Bourdain follows his daily routine with fantastic attention to detail, especially what makes each fish a challenge and how Thomas has customized his knives to his various tasks. Unlike much of his work, Bourdain largely stays in the background of this chapter -- until the end, when he becomes an active participant in the story and brings it to a surprisingly moving conclusion.

"My Aim Is True" is the rare piece of food writing that manages to be informative, entertaining and heartfelt. I would link to the chapter if it were available online, but as far as I can tell, it isn't. So, you know, find a copy of the book and read it.

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