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Meeting Anthony Bourdain

May 10, 2013

When a random groupon showed up on my computer screen on yet another lazy afternoon of aimless internet surfing, I couldn’t believe my eyes for a few seconds. Anthony Bourdain is coming to a nearby town. Living in a small town in America means all the big events, personalities are reserved for those times when I travel to the so-called big cities. So I didn’t bait an eyelid before snatching tickets for Anthony Bourdain’s show ‘Guts and Glory’. I am huge fan of his show ‘No Reservations’ through which I get to know the exotic cuisines of various countries across the world. The show was still a month away and in the meanwhile, I read a couple of books authored by him and waited like an anxious teenager about to meet her favorite rockstar/band.

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Then the day arrived. I wrapped up my work as soon as possible, drove 30 miles and reached quite early for the event. The excitement was quite palpable in the auditorium the minutes before he walked in. He walked in to a crowded auditorium with people cheering on loudly.

Then in this usual no-nonsense way, he effortlessly took over the stage. He started by making fun of Paula Deen, a chef in food network who purportedly gave a twist to the southern food by making delicacies like double-cheese burger between two Krispy Kreme donuts, while silently suffering from Type 2 Diabetes. She then signed a $10,000,000 endorsement deal with big pharma company to push Diabetes medication. When he first criticized her, he got a lot of flak from NewYork Times and the like, but in hindsight he was spot on. He goes on to comment on TV personalities like Adam Ritchman of Man vs. Food show, who even though makes a show that is quite entertaining; Bourdain wonders what message does this give out to people in other parts of the world? When a farmer/goat rearer from the opposite side of the world comes home after a day of hard work and have his measly meal in front of the TV, he sees an American shoving down unnecessary and large amounts of food down his throat with beefy white guys cheering him on in the background. He says “America is bad. I am going to join Al-Qeada”. Anthony Bourdain points out the necessity of sending out the right message to the people through our shows.

Being in a show as good and glamorous as ‘No Reservations’ means he constantly gets enquires about any vacancies in his crew to work on the show. He proceeds to show a number of videos to demonstrate his line of work. He shows on hilarious video of him removing a leech from the thigh of a female camera crew member only to show the tag on her underwear inside out, which proves that it is her second day on his particular piece of clothing ! He goes ahead and narrates another story in which he had to eat half-cooked meat (sourced by questionable means) covered in dirt; because the ethinic tribe in one of the remote areas that he visited had gone to such lengths to source it for him. Sometimes, you have to take one for the team.Β He says that no matter how horrible you think the food is, if somebody cooks something for you in their home, you eat it and you ask for seconds. He also narrates an incident in which the crew wasn’t allowed to shoot a simple meal of beans and bread in Egypt because the food wasn’t available to many of the local people. He isn’t saying that he started the Egyptian uprising, but you never know πŸ˜‰

He brings out the importance of respecting the local culture no matter which part of this world you are visiting. This is a point which is very close to my heart. There is a reason factored in by age old beliefs, financial, geographical and sociological factors because of which people of a certain region live/eat/cook they way they do. You don’t have any right to comment or disrespect it. Period. You are the visitor and this is your learning opportunity. He tells that sometimes in order to shoot a 4 minute clip at someones home; his crew arrives atleast five hours early to interact with the family, make them comfortable, understand the culture and their way of living. I believe that is what makes his shows what they are. Totally transparent and informative.

He mocks Olive Garden, P.F. Changs and the like which dishes out really bad ethnic cuisine. “How hard is it to make good pasta?” He asks. He has equal contempt for vegetarians.

He professes that being a father to a five year old means he is constantly worried about the stuff his girl eats and the fast food industry across the globe. He is worried about “the King, the Clown and the Colonel” and the lengths to which they go to entice our children. But he is equally proud of the adventurous eater his daughter is.

The show ended with questions from audience. When asked which is a place that he would recommend to travel to and eat; he answers ‘Beirut, Lebanon’. He exclaims that the complexity of the culture and food would excite anybody. If not a chef, he answered he would have become a drug dealer and a really bad one at that.Β  His favourite book to write was ‘Get Jiro!’, his latest graphic novel. And he considers his worst show to be the one on Romania.

Even though we talk went on for about one and a half hours, it still felt short when you are hearing someone as amazing as him. I came home with two of his books autographed by him and was happy to have met him. It was an evening well spend.

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Do you like Anthony Bourdain or his show ‘No Reservations’? Which is an episode that you remember or close to your heart?

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3 Comments
  1. I am not familiar with Bourdain’s shows or books. I have heard a lot about his book Kitchen Confidential.

    I am super J of you for getting to visit such an event! πŸ™‚

    Bourdain does like a super egoistic man, though. 😦

    • Oh, he is snobbish but in a good way πŸ™‚

      Yes, I am reading his book Kitchen Confidential now. Quite an insightful read on the restaurant business.

  2. Grrrrr ! I am so J. K and I love his shows. we have rented out a lot of his shows from the local lib as well πŸ˜› I haven’t watched a lot of Paula’s shows, but have watched a lot of Adam’s and well, while Adam’s is more of entertainment, Bourdain’s show is more of enrichment and entertainment! I love exploring local cuisines (though my choices get restricted to vegetarian ones) and I love the way he carries himself throughout!

    Have fun! You will tell us how it was, won’t you? πŸ™‚

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