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Daily Gullet Staff

Bourdain, Between Meals

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<img align="left" height ="300" width="243" src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1121665566/gallery_29805_1195_9029.jpg">by Rachel Nash Perlow

Anthony Bourdain is a hard man to pin down. A Jersey boy turned chef, writer, and TV host--he's made his mark in the kitchen and in multi-media. He's both a contributor to, and a commentator on, the culture of food. A talking head on TV who is now being portrayed on TV by an actor. Outspoken -- often to the point of outrageousness -- but thoughtful; a horrible speller, yet an eloquent and effective writer, Tony is a mass of contradictions.

The lines have become sufficiently blurred that even he confesses that "I really don't know what the hell it is I do for a living anymore." On the website for his new show, he's referred to as a "gastronomic Indiana Jones," but he laughs that aside and says that "I'm just a guy having a really good time."

On screen he certainly appears to be enjoying himself, blurring those lines even further. Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, a semi-sequel to his much-lauded Food Network show, A Cook's Tour, premieres Monday, July 25 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on The Travel Channel. In concert with that change in networks, the spotlight of the show has also softened a bit. It's "longer, bigger budget, and because it's for The Travel Channel, the focus doesn't have to be relentlessly on food in every scene, which is something we struggled with on A Cook's Tour. A lot of what's interesting about travel is what happens between meals."

In an effort to unravel his many contradictions, Tony chatted recently with Daily Gullet correspondent Rachel Perlow about No Reservations, the Fox network's upcoming sitcom Kitchen Confidential, and his future plans.

Opening

R: Hello Tony! How are you doing these days? What are you up to?

<blockquote>A: I'm doing pretty good. It's hectic these days, but good. I just got back from Las Vegas, chasing Michael Ruhlman around the desert for a TV show and for an article. That's the last thing I did. Let's see, about four days ago, I jumped out of a plane with a flying Elvis, and now I'm headed to Brazil.

</blockquote><img align="left" src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1121665566/gallery_29805_1195_14448.jpg">R: Speaking of Michael Ruhlman, is it true that he is pitching PBS hard to replace Ming Tsai with you as host of Cooking Under Fire for the second season?

<blockquote>A: (laugh) I have absolutely no idea. I just spent a week with Michael and he said nothing about it at all, so I tend to doubt that. Michael's not that conspiratorial . . . I'm dying to see Cooking Under Fire. I haven't been able to see that yet. I want to see that evil Ruhlman do his Simon Cowell routine. I hear he's the bad guy.

</blockquote>R: You need to get TiVo, Tony.

<blockquote>A: You're right. I even have TiVo, I just need to set it.

</blockquote>

R: We both grew up in New Jersey. Tell me about the episode of No Reservations which takes place in the Garden State.

<blockquote>A: The show I did there focused a lot more on stuff I remembered as a kid, and maybe the Asian Invasion, which I see as a really important New Jersey thing. On the fine dining end? I don't know, you tell me!? There's some really great things in Jersey and I tried to highlight them.

</blockquote>R: I was curious, because you said returning to France during A Cook's Tour was going back to your roots, where you tasted your first oyster and had a food epiphany. Were there any gastronomic epiphanies growing up in Leonia?

<blockquote>A: Uh, I don't know. I mean it's always a joy to go back to Hirams [see Battle of the Fort Lee Dogs], and eat a burger or hot dog. You know, one of those deep fried hot dogs? I have a real passionate connection to that place.

</blockquote>R: How is No Reservations different from A Cook's Tour?

<blockquote>A: Longer, bigger budget, and because it's for the Travel Channel, the focus doesn't have to be relentlessly on food in every scene, which is something we struggled with on A Cook's Tour. A lot of what's interesting about travel is what happens between meals, who's cooking and stuff like that. It was really difficult to show those in A Cook's Tour, we had to edit those out for Food Network. Travel Channel is a wider brief. It's about travel and the journey to the meal as much as it is about the meal itself.

</blockquote>R: So is the focus more on travel or is the emphasis on food?

<blockquote>A: I think you could not call it a food show, though it would be very comfortable in a food format. But if something interesting happens between lunch and dinner on a couple of days, and it's as interesting as the food, and sometimes more interesting, we went with that too. It's a travel show whose point of point of view is relentlessly that of a chef and a cook. I mean, it's my point of view, my focus, my way into every culture, every place I visit. Almost everywhere I go generally the fastest, easiest way into the culture is food. So in that sense, it still corners the show, but there's not food in every scene.

</blockquote>R: I was just wondering if it is as much about travel as the World Poker Tour [the Travel Channel's most popular show] is?

<blockquote>A: (laugh) The Travel Channel is very well aware of what they've gotten themselves mixed up with in me. They've been pretty supportive of us doing whatever we want. That's been really nice. They've given us a real wide berth and a lot of freedom out there. So in that sense, it's been a lot of fun. We're back to the days of I can go anywhere I want, pretty much whenever I want, and make the shows I want. Me, Chris [Collins] and Lydia [Tenaglia] working together, that's a dream situation. I've waited a long time for something like this.

</blockquote>R: How were the destinations chosen?

<blockquote>A: I pick them using the same formula I always use. You know, cool places I saw in movies or heard about, or places I see as having some interest to me, personally.

</blockquote>R: Are there any places you still have a burning desire to visit?

<blockquote>A: A lot of them are on the list for this year. Uzbekistan…

</blockquote>R: Wait! How is Uzbekistan on a "burning desire to visit" list?!

<blockquote>A: Oh, I have a friend in Samarkand who has promised me a great time. During summertime it's supposed to be one of the most beautiful cities, and it should be different and exciting.

Though I've been to India, I haven't done a show about it. And, we could easily do at least eight shows on mainland China. So there are a lot of places left in the world I'd like to go.</blockquote>

<img align="right" src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1121665566/gallery_29805_1195_942.jpg">R: What was the closest you came to death while making No Reservations?

<blockquote>A: I'm thinking when I jumped off a cliff in Sicily. It was a really high cliff over the Mediterranean, into surf of indeterminate depth. Oh! I think it was probably rolling the quad bike over myself in New Zealand, that was pretty cool. I went up a dune. It looks like the "Evil Kneivel at Caesar's Palace jump" gone wrong. It's a pretty impressive roll down the dune, in a painful embrace with a quad bike.

</blockquote>

R: Ouch! Did you end up in the hospital?

<blockquote>A: No, actually, I emerged unscathed -- to the shock of everyone who saw it. We caught it on film. I mean everyone who saw it was even more traumatized than me. But the most important thing is that we got the shot.

</blockquote>R: Was there anything especially humiliating?

<blockquote>A: Everyday. My crew loves to film me sleeping -- on a plane, in an airport, or wherever they can catch me -- especially if I'm drunk or snoring.

</blockquote>R: You have a reputation that you will try anything, food-wise. What's tested that limit?

<blockquote>A: I'm not a big fan of that putrefied shark in Iceland. That was really unpleasant. I mean, I've done it. I just don't want to do it again.

</blockquote>R: So, is that something you've refused to eat?

<blockquote>A: Yeah, my second and third pieces of putrefied shark. The first one I have to try. I feel compelled and always will. But the second and third times to be polite at functions, it was just… I finally said no. I'd had enough.

</blockquote>R: You've often talked about your favorite cuisines. What's your least favorite? Would that be Icelandic?

<blockquote>A: I don't know. This was a very traditional dish that's part of a yearly celebration, so it's not something they eat year-round. The worst? I think America has the very best and the very worst. It's something I wrestle with everyday, comparing us to other cultures. I think if you're going to find the very very worst in the world, you'll find it in the U.S.

</blockquote>R: What is the single best food discovery you've made in the last year?

<blockquote>A: The joys of Sicilian food in Sicily. I was really surprised how much fun I had there and how good the food was there. I mean, I knew it was going to be good, but it was great. I think there's this terrible, unfair assumption that Sicilian food and southern [italian] food is a little simpler, rustic, less refined. I didn't expect cooking at such super high quality. And food production and the ingredients were really just astounding.

</blockquote>R: You mentioned that you just returned from Las Vegas. Tell me about your trip.

<blockquote>A: We did a show that I think is an examination of the morality of cooking as much as it is about the food of Vegas. You know, the sort of moral struggle that chefs must go through when they decide to open up in Vegas. You’re opening an outpost of your life’s hopes and dreams. It’s the classic struggle in all our souls. Las Vegas. Is it selling out to the forces of evil? Is Vegas the ugly-shorts heart of darkness? I think a lot of people have to wrestle with that before they go out, and it’s something I wrestled with eating out there.

</blockquote>R: You've obviously been traveling a lot for the show. Got any advice about air travel?

<blockquote>A: Oh man, avoid all American air carriers. They're the worst. I mean, it's a shame how far we drag behind other countries. How good air travel can be, and how bad!

</blockquote>R: So, what's your favorite airline?

<blockquote>A: Singapore Airline and Cathay Pacific are both sensational. That's the way an airline should be run.

</blockquote>R: Have you become proficient at getting upgrades?

<blockquote>A: I'm getting better at it; God knows I have enough frequent flyer miles! When you travel as much as I do, you find yourself becoming an expert on a lot of things you'd never imagine you'd be good at: timing of laundry, upgrades, which airport you can smoke in, packing bags in sequence. These are all skills I never thought would sneak up on me.

</blockquote>R: On this trip, you're going to Brazil, then LA, then Uzbekistan, have you packed separate bags for each leg of your trip?

<blockquote>A: Yes, but fortunately there's going to be some overlap between LA and Uzbekistan climate. Otherwise, I would have had to have someone meet me at the airport in New York with clean clothes. That's how tight my schedule is.

</blockquote>R: So what's planned in Brazil?

<blockquote>A: It's a literary festival in a little village called Paratin. Bloomsbury, my British publisher, they have a literary festival there every year. I've never been able to go in the past, I've always been doing something else. So, I made sure I was able to go this year because all my friends at Bloomsbury say, "it's great, you're going to love it."

</blockquote>R: Are you going to do a show there?

<blockquote>A: There'll be a meeting and do some press, but I'm not going for No Reservations. This is a small literary festival held in a rural beach community on the coast of Brazil. Sounds like a murderous assignment! (laughs)</blockquote>

No Reservations

R: In 2003, on raintaxi.com, you said: "[You've] been accused of being more interested in chefs and in the lifestyle, than in the food, [that you're] more interested in the tribe of cooks, and their customs [and] attitudes." So, does No Reservations explore this so-called tribe?

<blockquote>A: No, because I don't really shoot a lot of professional cooks. I mean, you see them, they pop up. They are often the people showing me around in the show. But there aren't that many straight cooking scenes where it's a trained chef sending out stuff in a restaurant situation. It's farms, homes, markets, stuff like that.

</blockquote>R: So you do you think there's another show for you to do about that aspect?

<blockquote>A: I don't know. When we get lucky, it's nice when I can highlight people I know around the world who cook professionally. I hope to do that, and as the opportunity arises where I can explore that, I will. But it's not the focus of this show. It's more home cooks and street food, more than anything else, whenever possible.

</blockquote>R: Who's doing it right these days? Who's got it figured out?

<blockquote>A: I think it's impossible these days to not look at places like Malaysia and Singapore as being an ideal situation, where there's great food everywhere. Where every hawker stand has something really fantastic and a great cook who makes, you know one chef/one dish type operations -- Hainanese Chicken Rice or Fish Head Curry -- there's just so much good food out there. That's who's got it figured out, as far as a food culture. That's what been the focus of my interest these days.

As far as which chefs have things figured out? I think Mario Batali's got it all figured out. If any chef does, he's got all of God's gifts. He's doing good work.

</blockquote>R: I noticed the picture of the two of you shopping on the Travel Channel website [not the picture above], and the comments were quite interesting…

<blockquote>A: You should see the show -- it's pretty wild! Let's put it this way, Mario gets to kill me in one of the shows.

</blockquote>R: Since you're still alive, so I'll take that as a metaphor?

<blockquote>A: No, it's a very disturbing scene! (laughs) The Food Network execs' are going to shit themselves when they see it.

</blockquote>R: Sounds like Mario's going to be moving to the Travel Channel too?

<blockquote>A: No, they're just going to be dismayed with their lovable matinee star. Mario had a real sense of humor to play along with the show.</blockquote>

Hell's Kitchen

R: What did you do for the Fourth of July? [this interview took place on July 5th]

<blockquote>A: I stayed in and watched television. I had just arrived from Las Vegas via Long Island and I was in no mood to see fireworks, let's put it that way. Ordered in Thai food. I was very disappointed that Hell's Kitchen wasn't on, I was planning on tuning in. I've been watching every episode! I'm completely devoted to the show. It's just fabulous fun, hilarious.

</blockquote>R: What did you think about [Hell's Kitchen contestant] Chris getting berated for calling himself an Executive Chef, since you're an Executive Chef yourself?

<blockquote>A: As I almost always do, I agree with Ramsay. When he was explaining his decision, he didn't say "you're not better than Elsie." He basically said, "when you say you're something and you don't live up to it repeatedly, well it pisses me off." He fired the guy because he pissed him off.</blockquote>

R: Who do you think is going to win?

<blockquote>A: Well, I think Evil Mike is clearly almost the perfect restaurant animal, isn't he? He's treacherous, manipulative and extremely capable tormented loner. Sounds like chef material to me!

</blockquote>R: Are you referring to his late-night talking to himself?

<blockquote>A: Hey, nothing wrong with that! (laughs) Let's put it this way, that kid's got it! He's cold blooded and manipulative. Those skills will serve him well!</blockquote>

Television

R: Have you seen any advance episodes of the Darren Star/FOX series Kitchen Confidential?

<blockquote>A: I've seen the pilot, yes. I think it's pretty funny. Let's see, there's a partial dismemberment, implied oral sex and drug use, all in the first half-hour episode -- I'm encouraged by that!

</blockquote>R: Does it follow the book?

<blockquote>A: You know what? I don't look at it like that, I mean, it's shocking when you see your name on TV in a character, but it's something else. I'm not sitting there saying "wait a minute, I didn't say that, that didn't happen, that's not in the book." It was not an expectation.

</blockquote>R: Did you have any input at all, or did you take the money and run?

<blockquote>A: I consulted on the show, I have a good relationship with the producer and the writer, for that matter. And, I'm told I might be chasing Bradley Cooper [who plays Jack Bourdain] around a kitchen at some point soon.

</blockquote>R: Are you appearing in a cameo?

<blockquote>A: No, no, lord no. I'm not going to his place, he's coming to mine. We're going to cook together. I want to see if he's got any moves. I thought it might be fun.

</blockquote>R: Any chance of seeing it on No Reservations?

<blockquote>A: Well, that would run into some really bizarre contractual problems.

</blockquote>R: There's a "reviewer who is Jack's ex" in the pilot? Any reaction to that? Is there anything true to life about it?

<blockquote>A: Oh, no, my god no. That's sort of one of the apocryphal classic restaurant situations, you know the chef with the reviewer. It didn't happen to me.

</blockquote>R: What do you think about chefs and reviewers having a relationship?

<blockquote>A: I think it's impossible to avoid. We all kind of swim in the same pool, so there's some overlap. I'm sure it's happened, but I don't see it as any more of an ethical problem than anything else. Food reviewing is a swamp, you know.

</blockquote>R: So, more importantly: Will your TV special on Ferran Adria and El Bulli ever air in the US?

<blockquote>A: I don't know. I hope so. Nothings shaking now, but it sold all over the world, just about everywhere but here. We're just going to sit tight. Ferran Adria is going to be at the South Beach Food & Wine next year, and I think we'll do an event with him. And I think it's very likely we'll be selling DVDs.

</blockquote>R: What's the appeal of television?

<blockquote>A: It lets me go places that I'd otherwise never be able to get to, and to pretty much do what I want. It's pretty amazing.

</blockquote>R: Do you prefer it to writing?

<blockquote>A: Writing is a lot more personally satisfying because you have total control over it. Whereas television, you have to pay homage to the television gods every time you point a camera. It makes things artificial, it changes you life, it's strange, and it has conventions that you have to live by. But at the same time, I've been having a lot of fun, probably because the three of us have had such freedom with it; I've been having a lot of fun doing it.

</blockquote>R: Do you have another book in the works?

<blockquote>A: Yeah, I'm working on a novel now and a collection for next year, and then a pretty big Vietnam and Asia book.

</blockquote>R: Tell me more about the novel, is it another foodie detective kind of novel?

<blockquote>A: There's always going to be a chef character and food involved. It's a crime novel. I try to do them after a non-fiction project, it's an escape for me.

</blockquote>R: How would you rate sales of Les Halles Cookbook in light of your own expectations?

<blockquote>A: It did really well, it did very well. It did better than my expectations. I really had no idea what to expect with a cookbook, I'd never done one before, so I never thought about it until I started doing it. So I had very modest expectations and it did much, much, better than that.

</blockquote>R: With all due respect to your partners in the book [Les Halles owners Jose De Meirelles and Philippe Lajaunie], it really has your voice. Was that a problem with your publisher at all? Did they want it to be more of a cookbook cookbook?

<blockquote>A: No, my publisher and I have a really close relationship, and they know exactly what they're getting. This is something I really benefited from. She knew exactly what she was getting and was excited about that from the very beginning, the whole concept. You don't expect a cookbook from me where I suddenly start talking like Martha Stewart. In a lot of ways, in pretty much everything I do, including television, I think I benefit from low expectations. I get away with a lot because of that.</blockquote>

<img align="right" src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1121665566/gallery_29805_1195_8605.jpg">R: In a 2000 interview with Restaurant Report, you said: "[you were] a spoiled, miserable, narcissistic, self-destructive and thoughtless young lout, and badly in need of a good ass-kicking." Have you changed since you said this?

<blockquote>A: Yeah, I think so, I really try very hard not to disappoint people or hurt people or just go crashing through life thoughtlessly. I like to think I think about my actions and the results of my actions now, which is something I didn't really think a lot about back then.

</blockquote>R: The Vietnam book you mentioned, is that going to be a cookbook?

<blockquote>A: No, I'm just going to live over there for up to a year, maybe more. I'm hoping to head over in January or February 2006, and get set up in a place.

</blockquote>R: What are you planning on doing while you're there?

<blockquote>A: I just want to live fairly quietly, but observantly, in a small fishing community. Somewhere near Hoi An, is what I'm looking at.</blockquote>

</blockquote>R: If you're just planning on being there for about a year, is it still "New York forever"?

<blockquote>A: Yeah, I mean, of course. I don't know actually. Who knows? Anything can happen in Asia.

</blockquote>R: You're still listed officially as the Executive Chef at Les Halles. How closely are you still involved?

<blockquote>A: I serve almost no useful purpose at all there. I'll swing by and eat, hang out, do some events there fairly frequently. And I'd like to think there's still a job waiting for me when this all turns to shit!

</blockquote>R: So you haven't ruled out returning to a professional kitchen someday?

<blockquote>A: My feeling is, always be prepared for the worst. I think this comes from twenty-eight years of cooking. I think ruling out cooking again invites an ironic twist of fate.

</blockquote>R: In 2004, on Askmen.com, you said: "A lot of what I love about this business is anathema to somebody like [Thomas] Keller. I like volume, okay, that gives me a rush." Is this related to addiction, do you think?

<blockquote>A: No, I think a lot of chefs, once you've done high speed, high volume, like a big multi-banquet operation or hotel kitchen, feel that can be a lot of fun. The sheer joy of pumping out 500, 800, or 1000 meals, all in one night, and menus changing constantly, it's just very challenging. It's a game that's very exciting. It's a different kind of a rush. That's all I meant.

And obviously Keller would never want to be a banquet chef, I don't think he ever had to. That is the antithesis of what he does, which is a controlled 85 meals.</blockquote>

R: You then continued by saying, "Volume is bad for food. The more volume, the less quality . . ." Are you saying that you wouldn't eat at a place where someone like you cooked?

<blockquote>A: No, I'm not saying that at all. I think I would say that when you eat my food, you certainly would not be going with anywhere near the expectations you would have of Thomas Keller, or Kerry Heffernan [of Eleven Madison Park] for that matter. I never claimed to cook at that level. I don't make three-star food. I think there's a really great and important place in everybody's heart for my kind of food and for two-star food.

</blockquote>R: Of course, not every meal can or should be four-star.

<blockquote>A: If you've eaten a lot of four-star, like I have, who'd want it to be?</blockquote>

Food politics

R: So, is it over for foie gras?

<blockquote>A: I think eventually, yes, probably. I think we can look at Michael Ginor's strategy at Hudson Valley Foie Gras. He's supporting the anti-foie gras laws, he's basically resigned himself to the fact that within seven years, he won't be able to produce in New York, and maybe even sell. I think that tells you what you need to know about the future of foie, certainly in America.

</blockquote>R: What do they think about this in France?

<blockquote>A: I'm sure that somewhere they will continue to produce it, illegally. But I'm thinking, between the EU and attitudes these days and the way the world is politically, I think it's an indefensible position. It's a very difficult issue to defend for a politician. Who's going to say, "I am for the forced feeding of ducks and geese so that rich people may sup upon their livers"? You know, that's not a vote getter.

</blockquote>R: Is Pamela Anderson an effective spokesperson for PETA?

<blockquote>A: Oh, I don't know. Listen, there are a couple of things I'm really supportive of PETA for. I like their anti-fur campaigns, as long as they're not throwing blood on people. I think their print ads are really effective. I pretty much agree with them, although I'm hardly going to become an activist. But if it's delicious, obviously I'm going to eat it, so on that point, well, we differ.

</blockquote>R: Yeah, because they think everyone should be vegetarian.

<blockquote>A: I obviously don't buy that. But they have been effective in some areas. Where they've been smart. I think the fur campaign, they show you pictures and make you think about it. They show something being skinned alive, it makes you think, "is fur that important to me?" When they leave it up to you, that's where they've been effective.

</blockquote>R: I thought you were referring to the "I'd rather be naked than wear fur" stuff.

<blockquote>A: Well, all of that stuff. It can't hurt. I mean, how do you change behavior? I would use that same kind of campaign to get people off fast food. Basically shame, humiliation, alternate role models to make something look not hip to do. I think all of this has a place in advertising.

</blockquote>R: What do you think about genetically modified foods?

<blockquote>A: I'm not necessarily opposed. I'm willing to believe that there's something useful there. I'd like to see it proven one way or the other. I don't have a closed mind about it. It sure sounds good to me, if it works. I'd like to know if it does or not. Is it a good thing or a dangerous thing, or a bad thing or not. I don't have any ideological opposition to the idea of it. I just don't see it as threatening. It could feed a lot of people, potentially.

</blockquote>R: What's your take on the organic movement?

<blockquote>A: I think it's an important and positive sector of what's going on in food right now, especially if it's an artisanal product. By the same token, I'm willing to believe that a tomato grown in a green house can provably taste better than an organic tomato. It's an ideological thing. It can be annoying, but as a real world development, the fact that people are taking the time to try to raise good vegetables and produce, is a really positive thing.

</blockquote>R: What about Slow Food?

<blockquote>A: I think it's a wonderful idea that's attracted a lot of like minded people. It's influenced the way people eat and cook and behave. And I think focused on things that have been overlooked, so I think Slow Food is a really great movement.</blockquote>

Wrapping Up No Reservations

R: Let me get back to No Reservations for a minute, how many episodes of have been filmed?

<blockquote>A: We've finished eight, and have four left to go.</blockquote>

R: Are you planning doing a second season?

<blockquote>A: They're talking about it already, sure. We already have a whole bunch of countries and places in mind that would be really fun to go to, that would make great television. India is way high on my list. We're doing a show on mainland China this year, and I want to do a lot more of them, and definitely India. A tremendous number of people watch my show in Southeast Asia and Asia. I'm really aware and happy about that, and I'm anxious to make as much as possible Asian-centric shows for Asian viewers. I know they're watching. A Cook's Tour airs on Discovery Channel all over Asia. Discovery Asia ran it almost from the beginning, right after it started airing on Food Network.

</blockquote>R: Are A Cook's Tour repeats going to be running the US at all?

<blockquote>A: They're airing at like four in the morning on Food Network. I'm terrified that they'll start showing them again during prime time, once [Fox's] Kitchen Confidential comes out. That's the sort of cynical, gutless shit they pull.

</blockquote>R: I can see why they'd want to score on the hopeful popularity of the new show.

<blockquote>A: Well, let's put it this way, if they suddenly start plugging the show and put it back into rotation, I will piss myself laughing.

</blockquote><img align="right" src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1121665566/gallery_29805_1195_9791.jpg">R: Did it end because they didn't want to spend money on it?

<blockquote>A: It was great for two years. The people who used to run it, for a while, were able to make those kinds of decisions at Food Network. One of them was Eileen Opatut, and the other was Judy Gerard, the president. I liked them. They let me get away with murder at that network and they were both really really proud of the show, and happy that they did it, and I really respected that. But these munchkins who came in later were clearly (pause) it was impossible from the get go. There was pressure for more and more domestic shows. Obviously, they wanted the budget to conform more to their business model and their important target viewership. This means I'd be doing barbecue shows every week (they get huge ratings spikes every time they show you a barbecued rib on that network). So it would be funny if they suddenly "rediscovered" those shows.

We have a collection of quotes from various executives near the end at Food Network, as the old machine that we liked was going out and these new people were coming in. Some of them were really hilarious. [For example] "they talk funny, we can't understand them," was a comment on any show where there was anyone with an accent.

</blockquote>R: Well that's just par for the course, according to many members of the eGullet Society.

<blockquote>A: You know that foodies are not their target audience. They're about food as much as MTV is about music.</blockquote>

Finale

R: Organ meat or muscle?

<blockquote>A: (pause) It's just so hard to pick. I wouldn't want to eat liver every day for the rest of my life, so I guess muscle.

</blockquote>R: Food in Newark, New Jersey or London, England?

<blockquote>A: London

</blockquote>R: Rocco DiSpirito or Gordon Ramsay?

<blockquote>A: Gordon Ramsay! Oh, no contest.

</blockquote>R: McDonald's or starvation?

<blockquote>A: McDonalds.

</blockquote>R: What do you like there?

<blockquote>A: Um, almost nothing. But if I'm in a really starving, stoned, self-hating mood, I can see myself eating one of their foul burgers. You know, you're happy while you are eating it and then you, literally, you stink, and you hate yourself afterwards.

</blockquote>R: Is there any chain restaurant food that you can tolerate?

<blockquote>A: Well, if I'm stoned, or even semi-stoned, and it's late at night, I don't mind The Colonel every now and again. I think he's evil, but I like his chicken.

</blockquote><img align="left" src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1121665566/gallery_29805_1195_12481.jpg">R: Tums or Rolaids? Or Imodium?

<blockquote>A: Imodium's great. It's a life saver, let me tell you. The whole No Reservations crew, we are well acquainted with Imodium.

</blockquote>R: Any words of wisdom for the people of eGullet, who are your demographic?

<blockquote>A: Jeez, I don't know. Try to get an upgrade whenever possible. Tourist class can be killer.</blockquote>

Each episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations will air several times each week. Click here for the schedule.

Want more Bourdain? There's "The Bourdain Identity," an article Tony wrote for the Daily Gullet in December 2002. Also, here's the eGullet Q&A with Tony Bourdain from June 2002.

When Rachel Nash Perlow was a little girl, she wanted to be a chef, but a stint in a country club kitchen cured her of that notion. She helps out the eGullet Society with behind-the-scenes work and as a host, in addition to working on her vegetable garden and playing with her two poodles. This is her second interview for the Daily Gullet.<i>

Rachel wishes to thank Jon Lurie for his invaluable help in editing this piece.

Photos by Diane Schutz copyright 2005.

Photo by Nari Kye copyright 2005.</i>

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{Chuckle}

You folks are probably being rendered speechless by all of this. I mean... man's got a lot to say, right?

Personally I was surprised he was so calm about PETA.

One burning question remaining for me is... why "Jack"? I know that wasn't his decision, but dammit I want to know!


Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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R: Speaking of Michael Ruhlman, is it true that he is pitching PBS hard to replace Ming Tsai with you as host of Cooking Under Fire for the second season?

Oh yeah, oh yeah -- oh, sweet tapdancing baby Jebus, please let it be so!

Imagine a contestant showing a bit of attitude, and instead of Ming Tsai trying to burn them with some infantile and incomprehensible put-down about not wearing sunglasses in someone else's kitchen, Tony Bourdain giving them a good talking-to? I'm hooked right there, dude.

Of course, I'm a dork. I still get a kick out of googling "Emeril" and "Ewok." :smile:

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Tony-

I got quiet a laugh from reading about your experience with the "putrified shark" in Iceland. The reason for that is because I am currently reading Kurlansky’s “Cod” book and that was the first time I’ve ever heard about this dish. I remember thinking to myself, “jeez, this sounds nasty” and the very next thought was “I am sure Tony would try though” And what do you know I was right! So can you give us some more details about the Iceland experience and the rotten shark? How does it taste? Will we see it on the show?

Looking forward to Monday night’s airing.

Elie

edit: silly typo


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Chef Bourdain is one of the few reasons I miss cable...


Deadheads are kinda like people who like licorice. Not everybody likes licorice, but people who like licorice, *really* like licorice!

-Jerry Garcia

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Just as a heads up to everyone, Tony is still in Uzbekistan. Feel free to post your inquiries, but it may take a little while for him to get back to us.

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Wonderful piece, Rachel - I really enjoyed it!

Looking forward to Monday night :smile:

Patty

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Re: Decoding Ferran Adria:

Instead of selling it at the South Beach Food & Wine festival, why not sell thru your production co.

Unless there are hopes of running into some good connections there.


2317/5000

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Great interview, well thought-out questions, Rachel.

Couple of random thoughts:

I saw something about putrefied shark on the National Geographic Channel and thought "There's something I'd like to see Tony try!"

The PETA comments took me by surprise too.

I'm wondering, with his stance towards vegetarianism, what if his thoughts have changed any after going to India?

Finally, I've noticed that FoodTV has, conveniently, started airing Cook's Tour on Sunday afternoons . . . :hmmm:

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Kevin- Actually FTV usually airs Cook's Tour on most Sunday afternoons. I have seen it several times.

Elie


E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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That was a great peice. Always entertaining with Tony around.

The only beef I have is the genetic engineering statement. I mean have you tasted fresh truffles, boleti, morels, etc., do you think they taste bad? Mother nature doesn't deserve to be messed with, and that is what the definition of genetic engineering is, messing with Mother's natural encoding. Have you heard of Chaos theory, and the layman's way of explaining it by the Butterfly Effect? You know, the butterfly flaps it's wings over in Vietnam and that small wind variation is the root cause of storms two weeks later in New York. You don't screw your mom, that's called incest, and if that's not a sin, it should be.

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Coquus, the way I read it, Tony is keeping an open mind to GM foods, waiting for evidence for one side or the other to rear its head and possibly end the debate. He hasn't endorsed it.

Admittedly I don't know much about genetically modified foods, but I also don't believe that the point of GM'ing is to change the taste of the food (your comment re: tasting truffles etc), but rather to increase the yield of crops.

Given my limited knowledge on the subject, I couldn't comment on whether it is ultimately good or bad - however, in the hypothetical scenario where crop yield increases with no detrimental biological, environmental etc side-effects (and before dumping a load on me, I understand that we do not and cannot understand the long-term effects yet)... why would this be bad?

ETA: Just to be clear, I am not endorsing GM food either, I'm just putting the question out there.


Edited by BCinBC (log)

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Coquus, the way I read it, Tony is keeping an open mind to GM foods, waiting for evidence for one side or the other to rear its head and possibly end the debate. He hasn't endorsed it.

Admittedly I don't know much about genetically modified foods, but I also don't believe that the point of GM'ing is to change the taste of the food (your comment re: tasting truffles etc), but rather to increase the yield of crops.

Given my limited knowledge on the subject, I couldn't comment on whether it is ultimately good or bad - however, in the hypothetical scenario where crop yield increases with no detrimental biological, environmental etc side-effects (and before dumping a load on me, I understand that we do not and cannot understand the long-term effects yet)... why would this be bad?

ETA: Just to be clear, I am not endorsing GM food either, I'm just putting the question out there.

Without hijacking this thread let me respond. I get worked up over food politics as it is clear from my food safety thread, so I'll try to restrain myself, but I think by remaining neutral he is endorsing it. It's true that GM foods are being marketed to us now as high yeild and no risk, that they don't spread is the claim of the GM food industry. The taste issue is a result of our loss of native species which would be adversely affected by the GMO, in two ways, the natural way: by the chance of cross breeding with similar natural species and the competition which occurs between plant species. And the corporate way: as has happened in India, S/E Asia, etc. with rice growers no longer being able to sell their rice which has been naturally bred to yeild high, and taste great because whomever corporation has a patent on it. I'm glad you and Tony are still on the fence BC in BC, but it would be really nice to have you on my side of the fence. I copied this discussion to my thread in case anyone wants to discuss it further.

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=70409


Edited by coquus (log)

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Hi bourdain.

Do you know if the new show will be airing in Canada and if so when?


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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R: Is there any chain restaurant food that you can tolerate?

A: Well, if I'm stoned, or even semi-stoned, and it's late at night, I don't mind The Colonel every now and again. I think he's evil, but I like his chicken.

Is this a reference to the Pentavaret?


"Well, there's egg and bacon; egg sausage and bacon; egg and spam; egg bacon and spam; egg bacon sausage and spam; spam bacon sausage and spam; spam egg spam spam bacon and spam; spam sausage spam spam bacon spam tomato and spam; spam spam spam egg and spam; spam spam spam spam spam spam baked beans spam spam spam or Lobster Thermidor a Crevette with a mornay sauce served in a Provencale manner with shallots and aubergines garnished with truffle pate, brandy and with a fried egg on top and spam. "

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Okay...Just back from Uzbekistan. Roaring heat, dodgy food, many adventures--not all of them pleasant.

I'll try and knock down as many of above questions as I can quickly--as I've got a date with some Immodium and a soft, flat surface.

Will show air in Canada? I'm guessing yes--on a Discovery affiliate. Don't know details and don't know for sure--but my guess would be that's where it'll end up.

The Adria doc: We'll likely be physically selling DVD's at the South Beach Food and Wine--probably in tandem with the US publication of the 1st El Bulli book. But you can be sure that if we go the trouble and expense of creating copies for sale--that we'll also be selling them on-line and elsewhere. Will let y'all know when that happens.

Putrified shark? It tastes exactly like you'd think; Putrified, slimy, rotten, with a sharp overtone of pungent acid. Unspeakably awful--with absolutely NO saving grace notes. Worst thing I've EVER put in my mouth. That should tell you something. Cadaver's ass.

GM foods? Well. we've been modifying crops and foods in "genetic" ways since the beginnings of agriculture and livestock. Messing with mother nature every way we can since the beginnings of time. Certainly the world--and crops look a lot differently than they did before we started cross-breeding, grafting, fertilizing etc. So I have no theoretical problems with the scary sounding term "GM" in principle. The question for me is: At the end of the day, do the negatives for the planet outweigh the positives. Does the dilution of flavor and quality, disruption of traditional farming methods--and general "unnatural" character of GM food production outweigh the very real need to feed millions and millions of people who are--right fucking now--starving to death. I don't see how we can answer that question without further research--and I think the nature and seriousness of that question (even if it means enriching Evil Agri-Empires) demands at very least that we not close our minds to the possibilites. Worst Thing Ever--or a Good Thing? We just don't know yet--and I'd like to know more.

Arguments based on morality, philosophy, current notions of quality--and general suspicion about intent (however reasonable) seem pretty thin--when you've been to India and Cambodia and Africa where millions need food--ANY food--NOW. I'm not suggesting we embrace GM with open arms. I suggest careful, incremental further research, an open mind--and strict oversight and study of results/effects.

I thoroughly respect your suspicions and cynicism about the good intentions of Monsanto and Con Agra and the like.

Vegetarians in India. I'm surely more tolerant--in fact, respectful, of a culture that is traditionally vegetarian--for religious reasons. I'm less respectful of body-worshipping, smug, self-important hippies who have the priviledge of travel and choose to behave just like squeamish tourists--terrified of impurity. unhealthy food and "strange" cultures. They're no different than the ugly American tourist who eats every meal in the hotel coffee shop. Plus it seems rude and insulting to your host to decline anything offered--especially in an older culture than our own.

Try announcing you're a vegetarian in Uzbekistan--or Portugal--or Vietnam--and see how many friends you make over dinner. May as well stay at home.


abourdain

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I have two words of advice for all the air miles you're logging.....

Ativan and earplugs.

Ambien, muscle relaxers, a couple of stiff drinks, avoid the food..


abourdain

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I have two words of advice for all the air miles you're logging.....

Ativan and earplugs.

Ambien, muscle relaxers, a couple of stiff drinks, avoid the food..

I had to google Ambien....I'll have to add that to my drugs for travel list.

I find with Ativan you get the extra benefit of not giving a shit if even Osama Bin Laden is sitting beside you because of the anti anxiety goodies included in these smart little pills.

Avoid the food....always.

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Without blowing the most disturbing, humiliating and painful episode EVER, I can tell you that after a Midnight Express-like traditional "massage" in an Arab-style Hamam (bathouse) in Samarkand, I will likely require powerful muscle relaxers and pain-killers daily for the duration. That I am not at this moment, in a neck brace, truss and feeding tube is a miracle.

"Complainent alleges that the defendants, Zero Point Zero and Travel Channel, did knowingly and with reckless disregard for his personal safety, induce/coerce him into a situation which could and did directly cause grevious personal injury, harm, and personal embarressment. The ensuing damage to his health--and the reputation destroying and disturbing implications of the resulting images have and will cause irreprable damage to his career and ability to seek other employment. Mr. Bourdain seeks redress in the amount of 22 billion dollars for damages, lost income, pain and suffering. Which is to say it really fucking hurt."

Okay. I'll settle for a Whitman Sampler.


abourdain

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I had to google Ambien....I'll have to add that to my drugs for travel list.

I find with Ativan you get the extra benefit of not giving a shit if even Osama Bin Laden is sitting beside you because of the anti anxiety goodies included in these smart little pills.

Avoid the food....always.

Ambien's lovely. The antianxiety effects of Ativan go along with some pretty striking amnestic effects (your mileage may vary), so not my drug of choice.

Apart from the perfectly foul quality of airline food, it can also interfere with Ambien's taking effect: eat before you board, take Ambien when you take off.


Edited by therese (log)

Can you pee in the ocean?

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GM foods? Well. we've been modifying crops and foods in "genetic" ways since the beginnings of agriculture and livestock. Messing with mother nature every way we can since the beginnings of time. Certainly the world--and crops look a lot differently than they did before we started cross-breeding, grafting, fertilizing etc. So I have no theoretical problems with the scary sounding term "GM" in principle. The question for me is: At the end of the day, do the negatives for the planet outweigh the positives. Does the dilution of flavor and quality, disruption of traditional farming methods--and general "unnatural" character of GM food production outweigh the very real need to feed millions and millions of people who are--right fucking now--starving to death. I don't see how we can answer that question without further research--and I think the nature and seriousness of that question (even if it means enriching Evil Agri-Empires) demands at very least that we not close our minds to the possibilites.  Worst Thing Ever--or a Good Thing? We just don't know yet--and I'd like to know more.

Arguments based on morality, philosophy, current notions of quality--and general suspicion about intent (however reasonable) seem pretty thin--when you've been to India and Cambodia and Africa where millions need food--ANY food--NOW. I'm not suggesting we embrace GM with open arms. I suggest careful, incremental further research, an open mind--and strict oversight and study of results/effects.

I thoroughly respect your suspicions and cynicism about the good intentions of Monsanto and Con Agra and the like. 

Thank you for the clarification, though I suspected as much from some things you've said in the past. I am the first to admit that I don't understand much of it and haven't bothered to check up on it for the most part. There are certain things I reject out of hand however, like the patenting seed stocks for example, and cloning of animals and subsequent shortening of DNA. It scares me to think that these products are here already. What scares me about it is that I am not aware to what degree I am already their guinea pig. Though I'm not necessarily opposed to being studied, it's tiring to think that corporations are the ones doing the studying. I'm not equipped to deal with their constant spinning of the facts. As for the rest of it I do try to keep an open mind for the possibilities, and hope they don't erase us from the planet in trying to get rich, rich, rich. I also hope that there is exhaustive and independant study being done of the results/effects.

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Tony, I have a question. Is the market in Paris (which replaced Les Halles) open for public access?

Rick

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:blink: That was great work. Excellent interview. My big sister Sharon is the head of casting at Fox and chose the characters for the TV show. She tells me the show is a hit in the offing. Looking forward to it...

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