A: I want to interview the sexy, snarky, kingpin of modern celebrity chef culture, Anthony Bourdain!
Surprise! I got what I wanted and here it is – twenty hot telephone minutes with Anthony Bourdain. Bourdain is something like the Keith Richards of the food world; he’s host of Travel Channel’s “No Reservations” and author of such foodie required reading as Kitchen Confidential, A Cook’s Tour, Nasty Bits and Medium Raw.
During our discussion we talked about Jersey, modern celebrity chef culture, and his upcoming speaking engagement on Thursday, February 10, 2011, 8:00 PM at the Count Basie Theatre, 99 Monmouth Street, Red Bank, NJ. So if you’re curious about “Food Porn,” read on!
AB: I would say considerably more vulgarity would be a safe bet.
MK: How often do you do the shows like this?
AB: I probably do about forty a year now, so it’s really evolved into an hour long talk; a mix of a talk, raging against whatever’s pissed me off, or excited me; a slowly changing stand up routine followed by a long question and answer session with the crowd
MK: Any favorite crowds?
AB: You never know who’s going to show up; it’s a mixed bag. I’ve done everything from drunken gamblers in casinos in Lake Tahoe, to an entire room smelling of smoked salmon and onions. Cooks on their day off, you really never know, the people who come change from day of the week from city to city. One of the joys of doing it is getting to see who actually watches the show, and it’s a pretty kooky cross section.
MK: You were somewhat reluctant to publicly identify yourself as a Jersey boy . . . correct?
AB: I don’t know, I think I’ve riffed on that. I’ve certainly never concealed it. I grew up in Leonia, NJ, went to school in Englewood, spent all of my formative years driving around Bergen County and beyond. I vacationed at the Jersey shore – I mean that’s who I am.
MK: Do you ever dine in Jersey?
AB: Yes, I slip over the bridge now and again to go to Hiram’s in Fort Lee, a place I’m very sentimental about. I mean, that’s a very fundamental place, that’s where my Dad took me when I was a little, little kid. I have very sentimental attachments to that place, that atmosphere, that flavor – it’s really something I just can’t get anywhere else. Beyond that – honestly – no.
MK: In your minds’ eye, are you a chef, a writer, or a celebrity?
AB: I would prefer to think of myself as a writer because without a story to tell, there’s no product. I guess, a storyteller. I don’t cook anymore, so I’m certainly not a chef, although I think I earned the title after twenty-eight years, but I haven’t cooked everyday for ten.
MK: What is Food Porn?
AB: Food Porn is photos, images of food with absolutely no societal value beyond a desire to titillate. An image of pork fat, with absolutely no content, just endless slow motion images of melting pork fat, I don’t know whether that makes the world a better place, it’s strictly appealing to one’s vicarious thrill appeals to one’s vicarious thrill,
MK: You’ve been in some really authentic places and some touristy places, but has “touristy” ever been good?
AB: I think there are some places that are touristy or cheese ball, but no amount of touristy or cheese ball could ruin it. I mean, Katz’s Deli is authentic but it’s filled with tourists. House of Prime Rib in San Francisco, okay, it’s touristy, but it’s still delicious and nothing can ruin it.
MK: There’s been a huge evolution in food TV in the last 10 -15 years. In the past there was Jacques Pepin, Julie Child, Martin Yang – – but now, it seems that celebrity chefs everywhere. Do you think that has had a positive impact on an American food culture.
AB: Sure, to the extent to which people actually care what the chef thinks, it’s a good thing. The role chef has become empowered that has allowed the chef to serve the food that they themselves like, it’s allowed them to cook better food. Chefs used to be servants. They had to just blindly serve the same slop to the customers, because the customer was always right, even though we all knew they were wrong. So the rise of the celebrity chef has allowed people to cook as well as they can, to a certain extent. No matter how annoying the phenomena, that’s been a positive development.
AB: I love it. I love it. I’m just thrilled. I tough for me, it’s a bit of a mosh pit in there. You know, my wife’s Italian and we need some place like that and having it all in one spot’s it’s fantastic. I’m particularly thrilled that they’ll be delivering.
MK: Have you ever made a 30 minute meal?
AB: I’ve made many meals in under thirty minutes. Unlike the registered trademark, mine are edible.
MK: Do you own any Essence?
AB: I don’t but I’m pretty friendly with Emeril and I’d like to think we’ve buried the hatchet.
MK: Beatles or Stones?
AB: Stones. No contest.
MK: What’s the greatest gift you’ve ever received?
AB: My daughter, without question.
If you’d like to spend An Evening with Anthony Bourdain, click through for ticket information.
For the full interview, complete with Nasty Bits, Russian Lit and Kwanza Cake, click here.