Anthony Bourdain

It’s when the orders are pouring in and the supplies are running low and the tempers are growing thin that one sees System D practiced at its highest level. Hot water heater explodes? No sweat. Just push the rillettes over and start boiling water, carnale. Run out of those nice square dinner plates for the lobster spring rolls? No problem. Dummy up a new presentation and serve on the round plates. We know what to do. Meat grinder broken? It’s steak tartare cut by hand, papi. Few things are more beautiful to me than a bunch of thuggish, heavily-tattooed line cooks moving around each other like ballerinas on a busy Saturday night. Seeing two guys who’d just as soon cut each other’s throats in their off hours moving in unison with grace and ease can be as uplifting as any chemical stimulant or organized religion.

One thought on “Anthony Bourdain

  1. shinichi

    System D (in French, Système D) is a shorthand term that refers to a manner of responding to challenges that requires one to have the ability to think fast, to adapt, and to improvise when getting a job done. The letter D refers back to either of the French nouns débrouillardise or démerde (French slang). The verbs se débrouiller and se démerder mean to make do, to manage, especially in an adverse situation.

    The term gained wider popularity in the United States, after appearing in the 2006 publication of Anthony Bourdain’s The Nasty Bits. Bourdain’s sous-chef likens the use of System D to being a modern-day MacGyver (i.e., one who is able to get the job done with a mix of whatever resources are available and a great deal of personal innovation). In American culinary slang system D is getting the job done “on the fly.”
    In The Nasty Bits, Bourdain references first coming upon the term while reading Nicolas Freeling’s memoir, The Kitchen, written about Freeling’s years as a Grand Hotel cook in France.

    In recent literature on the informal economy, System D has become a shorthand name for the growing share of the world’s economy which makes up the underground economy, which as of 2011 has a projected GDP of $10T.

    There is a range of terms in other languages describing similar circumstances, examples for those are Trick 17 in German or Trick 77 in Swiss German and Trick 3 (kikka kolmonen) in Finnish.


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