by Patricia Grandjean
Feb 11, 2011
03:57 PMBox Office
Q & A: Anthony Bourdain
(page 1 of 4)
At the risk of oversimplification, you might call ANTHONY BOURDAIN, 54, the punk rocker of celebrity chefdom. Who he is is probably best expressed in the goals he has for his culinary and cultural adventure program, “No Reservations,” now filming its seventh season for the Travel Channel. Bourdain gained renown with his 2000 book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, a racy memoir of his early professional career. Six nonfiction books have followed; the most recent, 2010’s Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook, has been touted as a Confidential sequel. He’s flirted with crime fiction, and will soon publish a new novel—his first in 10 years. “No Reservations” established itself early on with a 2006 show filmed in Beirut (just as the Israel-Lebanon conflict broke out, requiring the TV crew to be evacuated by the U.S. Marines), and others in which Bourdain consumed sheep testicles (Morocco), a whole cobra (Vietnam) and an unwashed warthog rectum (Namibia).
For more info on Bourdain’s appearance at Stamford Center for the Arts, call (203) 325-4466 or visit stamfordcenterforthearts.org; for the Shubert Theater show, call (888) 736-2663 or visit shubert.com.
What do you do at these live stage shows?
It's sort of morphed over time. I guess what started out as book tour ended up becoming public speaking engagements. It's really sort of a mix of a slowly changing stand-up routine and talk/discourse followed by question & answer.
How do you start off these events?
By talking about food, and travel, and food television. I have a sort of core routine I may move away from depending on how things are going. It's like stand-up in that I'm always trying to weed out old material and bring in new over time. And then there's an open-ended, almost anarchic Q & A. People can ask or discuss almost anything they want. As long as it's interesting, I hang in there. So it's as crazy as the audience makes it.
Do you have a story or stories that you never tire of telling, that you always like to include in evenings of this sort?
No, a successful date for me is one in which I can completely veer off topic, like if something happened that day or that week I want to talk about. New is good for me. I particularly enjoy if I'm asked something I've never been asked before, or if someone really wants to take me to task for something. I enjoy a good argument.
What's the most surprising question you've ever been asked? One that stands out?
I don't know . . . I was at a convention of dietitians in Boston which I didn't think was going to be a fun bunch, but it ended up being fun and a really provocative discussion. Much more Michael Pollan territory than I'm used to talking about. It was a discussion about how we might have to eat in the future, and the question of whether or not the government should legislate what we put in our mouths—above and beyond the food's potential toxic properties. Are we reaching a point where the government is going to have to step in and say, "You're eating too goddamn much"?
And to think, you're the guy who—I know this has been brought up endless times—once ate a warthog anus.
Well, I'm a big believer in second thoughts. I'm always open to the possibility, if not the likelihood, that I'm wrong.