Anthony Bourdain Interview: Girls, Bloggers & How He Would Like To Die

Anthony Bourdain

Photo credit: The Travel Channel_

I am holding Anthony Bourdain's cell phone number. Three years ago, when I started my blog, never, ever did I think I would be in this position let alone interviewing Anthony Bourdain. I deliberately don't have cable TV at home because when I have it I sit in the hotel room and just watch No Reservations.

When I read other reviews of his new book Medium Raw, I was a touch confused. I checked my copy of Medium Raw to see whether we received some bizarre edited version in Australia but no, it was all kosher. It seemed that I had a different interpretation of it to many of the other reviewers who had read it. I thought that it was a kinder, gentler Bourdain whereas they focused on his heroes and villains chapter. He is a provocateur of course but he also makes many very salient points and like Simon Cowell, you may think that he is a bit blunt but he may just be right about things and he makes you think. He also champions the unrecognised in the industry as well as bringing chefs like the wonderful Fergus Henderson into the spotlight.

I was intrigued to find out what he was like. I knew he gave good quote and that his opinions had changed over the years on various matters and that he himself has said that he likes being proved wrong. I also knew that his life had turned around from his previous novel. And without blathering on any more about what I thought, without any further ado, here is my interview with the intriguing Anthony Bourdain.

Anthony Bourdain Interview: Girls, Bloggers & How He Would Like To Die

Photo credit: The Travel Channel_

NQN: I've read Medium Raw, loved it, but I get the impression that after the anger in Kitchen Confidential that underneath it all you're a decent and sensitive soul. Is that bad for your reputation?

Anthony Bourdain: I'm real glad you think so. I had hoped that that was the case and I was trying to write a book that was more like that than the other thing. Here it's been received as a lot more vicious and out of control in a lot of ways I guess because I went after a lot of the more recognizable names in this part of the world, the elder statesmen of food writing. Yes I hope so. I thought I was writing a kinder and gentler book. I'm very aware of the fact that I'm not working in a kitchen its been years. Of course I'm aware every minute and every day that I'm the father of a three year old girl. That's who I am now. I just wanted to write about it.

NQN: My favourite chapters were the first one which was pure food porn about the Ortolan and the one where you tell us about how you managed to convince your little girl that McDonalds was evil in a rather clever way. Did you ever think that you would be a father?

Anthony Bourdain: I was determined not to be one until just a few years ago. I suddenly had an epiphany and I realised I wanted to have a baby now and I want to have a baby with this woman. I'm old enough.

NQN: What was your reaction when you found out you were having a daughter rather than a son?

Anthony Bourdain: You know it's funny I do not believe in this metaphysical mumbo jumbo but I was away shooting an episode and I came back and I looked at my wife's face and I knew it was a girl. And a few minutes later we went to look for an ultrasound and they told us it was a girl. I was thrilled. It's all about girls for me and quite frankly I'd like another one. I'm really really, really enjoying being the father of a little girl. I am the sun and the moon to this little lady and I'm enjoying that feeling.

Anthony Bourdain Interview: Girls, Bloggers & How He Would Like To Die

Photo credit: The Travel Channel_

NQN: I read somewhere that your daughter is growing up eating prosciutto flavoured baby food.

Anthony Bourdain: (Laughs) Well baby food in Italy is very different than baby food here. She's eating real food but she has unusual taste. Most of the time she eats like every other little kid like hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches but we're in Italy a lot and her mother is Italian so she sees things on the dinner table that a lot of kids don't see on a regular basis. She likes raw oysters and sardines and anchovies and pecorino. That's kind of weird for a kid. I'm not trying to raise a foodie it's just what she thinks looks good that mama and dada are eating.

NQN: You're not going to put any raw oysters in her lunchbox at school?

Anthony Bourdain: Oh god no that's just so wrong. Let her be a little girl. That's just not my intention at all of course. I'm secretly very proud and happy when I see her reaching for something like an oyster I can't help but think it's cool but I think she's like a normal Italian kid.

NQN: Will she ever get one of those evil chicken McNuggets?

Anthony Bourdain: She's never had one and I will do my very, very best to keep her away.

"It's like going to a mental hospital and picking on the patients"

NQN: What are your dreams for her?

Anthony Bourdain: All I can hope for is a happy, healthy kid with no self esteem issues who knows that she is loved. Weird would be good, if she's a little weird then that's good.

NQN: If she grows up to be a chef?

Anthony Bourdain: I would of course be mortified at the first mention of the possibility but then again secretly proud. Of course I'd be proud but I've lived that life. It's a hard life. I would hope she would choose something else but I'm going to try to not steer one way or another. She's going to make up her own mind no matter what I say so I just want her to be happy and feel good about herself.

Anthony Bourdain

Photo Credit: Royce Carlton_

NQN: Does your wife Ottavia work in food?

Anthony Bourdain: Yes she worked in restaurants at front of house and she was the general manager of a restaurant when we met. We were introduced by Eric Ripert the chef of Le Bernardin. She doesn't anymore though.

NQN: You're doing a speaking show where you talk without props or entourage and you tell people what's exciting or pissing you off.

Anthony Bourdain: It's a complete work in progress and the entire format could change at the drop of a hat and it's a one man thing where I walk out and talk for an hour and then exchange questions and answers with the audience for an hour depending on the crowd. I've been doing this for a few years now and I'm doing this in venues where they have bands play. I've done a few with friends like it's me and Eric Ripert or Mario Batali and we're sitting there talking with a moderator and it's just done really very well.

"I think foie gras is a false issue..."

NQN: So what is exciting you now?

Anthony Bourdain: Paris is exciting again. Because of all of these new young, reactionary and revolutionary chefs who are serving up amazing food out of these tiny casual places for 35 euros for a full meal for a Michelin quality meal. I don't know how it happened but Paris is suddenly a very exciting place to eat again.

NQN: What's not impressing you?

Anthony Bourdain: Anything that is angering me? Actually you know the direction that dining has been going in the last year has mostly been very positive I'm really happy with the food truck scene that has been expanding here, pop up restaurants and the general democratization of food. Making the food better and the service a lot more casual. They're all very positive trends.

_NQN: You just need another Sandra Lee to make another Kwanzaa cake. Did she send you one or a fruit basket like Rachel Ray did? _

Anthony Bourdain: No but she did come up to me at a party and that was one of those deeply terrifying episodes of my life.

NQN: It did sound bizarre. But you survived.

Anthony Bourdain: Yeah yeah..but she pretty much had me for breakfast.

NQN: There is a chapter with heroes and villains in the book, are you trying to sort the good from the bad in this industry?

Anthony Bourdain: Someone wrote in a review that that whole chapter is juvenile and it is a sort of schoolyard thing making the friends and enemies but it was fun.

NQN: How has travelling changed you? You must watch movies with subtitles?

Anthony Bourdain: Sure (laughs). When you travel everything changes. It is a humbling experience and you see how insignificant you are and how little your world matters to the rest of the world. How much harder people work in the rest of the world, how difficult their lives are and how terrible things can happen to really good people. Those things make an impression. When you walk in another person's shoes for just a minute it's a life changing thing.

Anthony Bourdain
Photo credit: The Travel Channel

NQN: I read that your favourite destination is Vietnam?

Anthony Bourdain: Surely it's one of them. There are a lot of destinations that I'm very happy to see again Vietnam is way up there. The north of Spain I love San Sebastian, Barcelona, anywhere in Italy, Sardinia parts of South America. I tend to like places with palm trees. I'm a Mediterranean at heart with a love for South America and South East Asia. Clean, orderly countries I'm not as happy in. I like hot messy countries and dysfunctional, passionate countries with spicy food.

NQN: You write about the James Beard dinner and how unappreciative the diners were.

Anthony Bourdain: And how clueless it just seemed like a moribund enterprise. The institution was moribund. The people there were clueless. Here you have this great chef that worked so hard and come such a long distance and I thought that his efforts were wasted on a bunch of irrelevant, clueless, doddering, semi senile idiots.

_NQN: Did you get a reaction from them? _

Anthony Bourdain: What writers there are no writers at the James Beard House it's like a dinner club for a bunch of old golfers. I have certainly got a reaction from the writers I mention in the book though.

NQN: What have they said?

Anthony Bourdain: They've called me all sorts of terrible names and have reached out to their fellow food writer friends who ended up calling me terrible names.

NQN: Is that water off a duck's back?

Anthony Bourdain: (Laughs) I've been enjoying it a lot.

Anthony Bourdain

Photo credit: The Travel Channel_

NQN: Someone that you formerly disparaged was Emeril Lagasse but now you seem to understand where he is coming from or at least his position.

Anthony Bourdain: I don't like his show, I don't understand why he continues to do it but I understand more and I'm more sympathetic. I do understand the economics of why he does it to support his restaurants so I think that as a function of being on television for so many years, of being a family man, of being in business with so many people and having come to know him. I find him very likeable.

_NQN: In 2004 you said "I think Rocco DiSpirito has really raised the bar for what I consider grotesque" which is a funny quote. Have you changed your mind? _

Anthony Bourdain: (Laughs) Uh yeah I just do not understand at all, nice very smart guy and very talented guy and great cook but I just will never understand his quest for fame and his need for fame. He will do anything to not do what he does so well it seems. It's a mystery to me.

"I look at the blogosphere like a bathroom wall, anyone can write on... but at least power has been diffused rather than resting on a few balding, liver spotted heads."

NQN: You are a recovering addict and yet you write that people give you little sachets of powder. Is that common?

Anthony Bourdain: It's not uncommon. It happens at least a few times a year when I'm doing a book signing and someone slips me a packet of cocaine. I'm like didn't you read the perils? Didn't you read the book?

NQN: Do they give other people cocaine at signings?

Anthony Bourdain: No I think they think that I would like it.

NQN: What do you say to them? Thankyou kindly?

Anthony Bourdain: Well it's always done very quickly. They'll come up for the autograph and slide a little envelope across the table and only later do I discover it is as I expected cocaine.

Anthony Bourdain

Photo credit: The Travel Channel_

NQN: You were obviously a different guy back then during Kitchen Confidential. What do you think of you back then?

Anthony Bourdain: I look back at a really arrogant guy and a much younger, arrogant on the basis of not much. Arrogant because I had to be. I went to sleep terrified every night. I had no money I was behind on my rent, I hadn't paid my taxes for years I had no health insurance. That arrogance got me through the day.

NQN: What is your current position on vegans, vegetarians and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) . I understand that this has changed over the years.

Anthony Bourdain: With vegans and vegetarians my only argument is that my mother raised me to be a good guest. You know? I just think it's bad manners to go to someone else's house you eat what is offered and you are grateful for that whether its someone's house or another country. Also curiosity to me is a virtue.

As far as PETA is concerned there is an overlap there for sure. I think they're extremists and crazy and potentially dangerous and some of their splinter groups who seem to either work in concert with them or inspired by them have done some pretty frightening things. I'll eat foie gras for the rest of my life out of spite.

I think foie gras is a false issue. No good chef would serve the kind of foie gras that is produced in the same way that is shown in those terrifying PETA films. On top of it all we have a common interest. PETA doesn't want a cruelly treated stressed out animal who lives in fear. I don't like animals treated that way because they taste less delicious. Its a good thing from a humanitarian point of view I mean what kind of sick freak would like to see an animal hurt and from a point of view of someone who likes delicious food the liver of a goose or duck who doesn't live under conditions of stress or fear is so much better than from terrified animals. It's the difference between a real chicken and a KFC chicken.

NQN: Or a chicken McNugget.

Anthony Bourdain: I think that's yet to be established that that is actually something that you could call chicken.

NQN: I've heard rumours...

Anthony Bourdain: Well its worth examining (laughs)

Anthony Bourdain Interview: Girls, Bloggers & How He Would Like To Die

Photo credit: The Travel Channel_

NQN: What are your thoughts on bloggers?

Anthony Bourdain: I think it's the brave new world. I think it's a good thing.

NQN: Some people say that bloggers don't know what we're talking about.

Anthony Bourdain: I think they're the people that complain and are the same idiots that were so outraged when Dylan went electric. Who were complaining about the electric guitar, who were complaining about cable televisions. It's so ludicrous. Like as if somehow bloggers are less qualified. Less qualified than what? A bunch of old duffers that hate what they're doing? That are trying to find a way to write the same damn article for 30 years. Who have been getting backhanders and basically blowing each other for years. I think the bloggers are welcome. It's a brave new world. It's going to take time for some of the chefs to get used to but it almost doesn't matter what I think or what anyone thinks because that is the future and I have to say that I'm pretty happy with it because it could hardly be worse than the way that it was.

NQN: Do you read any food blogs?

Anthony Bourdain: I do, I read a lot them.

NQN: Which ones?

Anthony Bourdain: I read Eater, Grub Street in New York, Regina Schrambling's Gastropoda and Cooking For Assholes is wonderful - that's a really great one. And whenever we are planning a show whether its in Vietnam or Peru or anywhere we go the first place that we're looking at is local food bloggers. You've got people that are doing nothing but blogging on street food in Saigon. What major news outlet could do that? There are people chronicling every noodle joint in Hong Kong that's valuable resource. So that's pretty awesome and there's room for everybody.

I look at the blogosphere like a bathroom wall, anyone can write on and eventually some kind of consensus can be reached. If you spend enough time online you very quickly are able to discern who is talking a lot of shit, who's a troll, who seems to be someone worth noticing or keeping an eye on. Like every other aspect of entertainment and news it is a rapidly fragmenting thing but it's also a much more democratic one and it can be vicious that's true but at least power has been diffused rather than resting on a few balding, liver spotted heads.

NQN: You travel 10 months of a year. Is there an unfulfilled fantasy? You come up with the destination ideas

Anthony Bourdain: I haven't been to Cuba yet I really want to shoot in Cuba before Castro dies and it becomes Miami South. And we were hoping to retrace Joseph Conrad's steps up the Congo river.

Anthony Bourdain

Photo credit: The Travel Channel_

NQN: Would you do a cooking reality show?

Anthony Bourdain: I've been offered just about all of them at some point or another. Never say never but I'm very happy with this. I have the best job in the world why would I want to do otherwise. I don't have time, I don't need that much more money and I'm really happy. I work with friends and I don't have to take orders from anyone. I go where I want and I make television the way I want. I have a creative freedom on the show.

I understand why Gordon does what he does. I happen to really like the BBC Kitchen Nightmares and I'm a big fan. I think that's a really good show and I even like the F Word. But I loathe the American Hell's Kitchen. I understand why he does it. I mean its $250,000 an episode so he deserves some money but it's not something I would do at any price. It's a quality of life thing. I don't want to spend more time than I have to with freaks, idiots and meatheads. And I don't want to act, I don't want to do schtick unless its fun. It's not like he's enjoying. I mean the contestants on that show are just so pathetic and deluded. It's like going to a mental hospital and picking on the patients.

Anthony Bourdain

Photo credit: The Travel Channel_

NQN: What about the next book? Will you be even more mellowed?

Anthony Bourdain: The next book I'm doing a crime novel. I don't know I'm even thinking of doing anything even remotely similar to this book again. It will be therapy at this point. I'm really done talking about myself and writing about myself that it's probably a good idea for all concerned.

NQN: You have a skull tattoo and when you had it done you said that you wanted to question mortality. This is a morbid question but I'm really interested in your answer. How do you want to die?

Anthony Bourdain: I want to die exactly like Marlon Brando in the Godfather. I will be running around in the backyard with my grandchild with an orange wedge in my mouth and then keel over among the tomato vines. I want to die in Italy, I want to be an Italian patriarch at that point in time with my belt around halfway up my chest growing tomatoes and making bad wine in my backyard.

So tell me Dear Reader, what are your thoughts on Anthony Bourdain?

Medium Raw is published by Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$34.95

Anthony Bourdain
Photo credit: The Travel Channel

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