Anthony Bourdain is my culinary hero. He rose to fame in 2000 after writing Kitchen Confidential, which became an international best seller and gave him celebrity status overnight.
In my mind he’s the cool guy of the culinary world, the Lou Reed of cooking. He worked his way through the New York culinary underbelly in the 80’s and 90’s, battling drug addictions and experiencing firsthand the perils of working in the restaurant scene. After the success of his book, he left the kitchen and since 2005 has been hosting his own TV series, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, on the US Travel Channel, arguably one of the best shows on TV. He now travels the globe eating weird and wonderful cuisine. He’s even been to Edinburgh where he sampled a deep fried king rib at a local chip shop!
Last year he published his sequel to Kitchen Confidential: Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook. And this past weekend Mr. Bourdain was in Vancouver, promoting the book and speaking about his adventures. We of course bought tickets and spent the evening with Mr. Cool at the Vancouver Centre for Performing Arts. I haven’t laughed so much in ages.
Dressed in black and looking sophisticated, Anthony took the audience on a behind the scenes tour of No Reservations, explaining how they manage to get away with showing footage that some might view as inappropriate or even illegal. Such as eating hallucinogenic plants in South East Asia and munching on a raw seal eyeball during a traditional Inuit hunt.
He ranted about his dislike of vegetarians and the Food Network (albeit admitting their parent company has recently bought the Travel Network). He expressed utter frustration about US chain restaurants that regularly ruin good food. In particular the Olive Garden, which he stated he can’t help but fantasize about blowing up! He described hilarious ideas about teaching kids to form negative associations with McDonald’s, by for example convincing them that good old Ronald McDonald is an evil kidnapper.
He was extremely candid and open with a wonderful ironic and sarcastic sense of humor. He talks about things as he sees them, a quality I respect and enjoy very much.
For the last 30 minutes of the evening he invited the audience to ask questions. When asked his opinion about Gordon Ramsey’s hit TV show, Hell’s Kitchen, he called it “an exercise in humiliation that has nothing to do with cooking”! Raising the point I have asked myself many times, where do they get these pathetic people who can’t cook to save themselves. So funny, I am still laughing.
When asked about his favourite place to eat in Vancouver, he diplomatically stated that he doesn’t know the city well enough to say, although he did mention that a good friend had recommended L’Abattoir, in Gastown.
Our evening with Anthony Bourdain was a great experience. If you love food and travel I recommend you read his books and watch his TV show.