Anthony Bourdain is a character. He’s one of those who I’d easily place into the love him/hate him category. And it’s fair enough, as he’s not one to take a lukewarm stance on just about anything. When I learned he was coming to Union Square on June 8th, I instantly put it into my planner. This was going to happen. I couldn’t miss it.
But then I saw that was right when my parents were coming. My parents still live in Alabama. Although my mom is a fan of his TV show No Reservations, I wasn’t sure she was ready for non-censored-for-TV Tony. She seemed interested in coming, so I frantically scoured my apartment for my copy of his first book, Kitchen Confidential. If she could make it through cover to cover and still (1) be remotely interested and (2) find him still somewhat entertaining then this might could work. Not only did she finish the entire thing before we’d made it all of the way from NYC to Maine, but she was inspired enough to come back and head over to Korin in TriBeCa to get one of Global’s chef’s knives. And so she sat there with me by my side throughout the hour and a half wait for Bourdain to finally come out on stage.
As expected, the entire top floor of Barnes & Noble was packed and the overflow seating was completely full. And Bourdain was so Bourdain, even if in a slightly older and more thoughtful version. But he wasn’t completely watered down now - nor do I think he ever will be. Unlike his polite conversation the day before with Matt Lauer or the somewhat restrained version of himself on the Travel Channel, this discussion was straight up him talking to the crowd - no holding back when it came to langugae. I didn’t keep track, but I think I could’ve easily covered the cost of dinner if I’d received a $1 for each f bomb he dropped. One question from the audience was what his favorite type of pork. Seemingly stunned, he stood there for a minute with a confused look on his face before he broke into hysterical laughter. “Oh pork,” he exclaimed. “I thought you said porn…“
Regarding his newest book, “Medium Raw”, he explained that going into the project he thought it was time to pull together a follow-up to “Kitchen Confidential”, a piece he explained focused on the way the restaurant industry was at that point in time. He wanted to comment on how things had changed and, while he was at it, show a softer side in comparison to the guy shown in “Kitchen Confidential”. He’s now a father and has come a way from his drug ridden days captured in his prior piece, an image he has not seemed to shake (during the Q&A, he even noted he’s had fans try to slide him drugs during the signing portion, leaving him to wonder “did you not learn anything from what I wrote?”). As he began the editing process though, he said it was obvious that didn’t quite happen. Oh well! I actually managed to find someone’s video of this intro as well as the excerpt for the reading online (courtesy of EmondPhotography - if you didn’t already gather, just a warning, not work friendly to pull this one up!).
The Q&A session could have gone on all night. Opposite of most signings I’ve attended, people seemed to come prepared with their question of choice, and they did a reasonable job of accommodating them. What is his favorite recent obsession/restaurant of choice? Marea. Mmmm. One I need to try. What are his thoughts on Alan Richman? He thought those were best left in his chapter devoted to this very topic (see chapter 14). What’s the must-visit area of the world for foodies? Tokyo, followed by Singapore (“clean and in a nice simple package”). If Singapore is too far, he said “Spain definitely does not suck.” What are his thoughts on the Ruth Bourdain Twitter account? He said he felt like someone beat him to the punch, already sort of looking back mocking himself and taking away his right to do the same in his older years – but he also said he thought it was brilliant and hoped it continued indefinitely. Kudos to cranky Ruth Bourdain! Best pizza in NYC? Charged question indeed in a packed room of locals. His option? Serafina, more due to convenience, the thin crust, and ability to get it home in a box and it be remotely warm.
I’ve just begun Bourdain’s book. At present, I’m in the middle of reading a book I urgently need to read for work. I’m also reading several comparitor books for my book proposal, which I likewise need to finish as soon as possible. Yet what could I not resist throwing into my bag this morning? You got it. I’ve just barely started, but I was dying on the train this morning as I read the details of his encounter with Sandra Lee, host of Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee, following the premier of Julie and Julia. She subtly manages to make him extremely uncomfortable, caused probably due to “comments I may or may have not made, in which I may have suggested she was the ‘hellspawn of Betty Crocker and CHarles Manson.’ The words ‘pure evil’ might have come up as well.” The visual of him squirming as she poked at him (saying “no love handles”) even stating “you’ve been a bad boy”. He goes on to say he’s no longer fighting the Food Network’s quasi-food people and disputing if they are or are not reputable enough to be trotting across the TV screen on a weekly basis. It’s like his response regarding Yelp in the Q&A session. It doesn’t matter what he thinks, we as a society are already there. I do like, however, that this concession isn’t without ellaboration. While they aren’t going away anytime soon and he may opt to somewhat make nice with them (especially if bribed by food baskets, ehem Rachel Ray), his thoughts and reverence towards the legends and the outstanding in the industry says everything about perpective in the industry as a whole.
Also, after reading the first couple of chapters with his description of his wife and how she’s reacted to affectionate female fans, perhaps I’ll lightly retract my joking comments that I was going to visit my boyfriend. TBD on that, as is my final review of the book.
Are you a fan of Bourdain and his show? Which side of the fence are you (love him/hate him)?