Anthony Bourdain Hates on Vegans and Tells Cracked-Out Kitchen Stories
It was 10:54 p.m. and Anthony Bourdain sat in the lobby of the Lincoln Theatre still signing copies of Medium Raw. Two hours after wrapping his reading and Q&A session, the line had finally dwindled to a dozen. There was a female security guard who stood, bored and pissed and sneering. But Bourdain was smiling. He mugged for digital pics. He shook hands. He slugged a shot of grappa. And weirdly, he seemed to enjoy scribbling his name 700 times in 120 minutes. Apparently, this guy is even more perverse than his enemies claim.
So, did you get an autograph and a photo with Tony? Did you hear his anecdotes about McDonald's and crack cocaine? If not, New Times was there, and we brought you back a condensed transcription of Bourdain's shit-talking and speechmaking. No book, though. Sorry.
Anthony Bourdain: It would be inaccurate to say that I was ever a great chef. It's something I need to remind people. In fact, none of my dearest friends in the world, as I mention in the book, would ever have hired me to work in their kitchens. That's not false modesty. That's just simply a bald statement of fact.
When Kitchen Confidential hit, I was standing next to the deep-fryer with no expectation that I would ever be anywhere else in my life. You know, to me, if I was absolutely certain of anything, even after Kitchen Confidential came out, it was that I would never see Vietnam, I would never see Brazil, I would never see Rome. I would never get to see all those places.
Now I have the best job in the world. I get to go do what I want. I work with friends. I get to choose where I want to go. I get to do whatever the fuck I want when I go there. I'm a self-indulgent TV writer. I rip off all my favorite directors. I'm drunk half the time on the show. It doesn't suck being me, you know. So it would be a mistake for people to expect me to be the same guy from the same very limited scope of experience.
But I've become jaded. Why isn't Per Se the greatest meal of my life anymore? What's happened to me? You've got to be in a pretty sorry, twisted state when you cannot really enjoy Thomas Keller's food like you used to. But the fact is, I ate a lot of meals at a lot of good restaurants. I'm that jaded, privileged, elitist foodie that I always detested.
So let's talk... Are there any vegans here? Really? I'm surprised you had the energy to come. [Laughs] OK... Questions?
Are you going to the Deuce bar?
Well, now I'm not. [Laughs.]
What ingredient can you not live without?
I can't live without salt. People have gone to war and killed each other for centuries over salt for a reason: giver of life. There's one of the great wrongheaded statements of all time: "I'd never trust a chef who smokes." I don't smoke anymore. But for years, you saw me smoke on TV. All chefs smoke. Maybe they don't smoke on TV. Maybe they're not smoking in a picture. But they're either smoking cigarettes or they're smoking cigars or they're smoking weed. This alone is an argument for salt. But yeah... salt, butter, pork.
Can you talk a little about the fat problem in America?
I write about trying to keep my daughter away from McDonald's... the king, the clown, and the colonel. I don't think we can take the high road. We have to demonize, terrorize, terrify. I believe you have to start young. How hard is it to scare the living shit out of a 3-year-old? Cooties works! You might mention, "I was speaking to your friend little Timmy, who told me that apparently some kids have gone missing, last seen with Ronald McDonald." That's a winning argument with a 3-year-old. You're not gonna win this on the facts. I think that's the only way -- really appealing to our lowest instincts. It's unpatriotic to overeat. It's eroding our state of readiness. How are we gonna squeeze down a hole after Osama if we can't get our fat asses in there? That sort of thing, you know. It wins elections, and it might win this.
Are there any restaurants in Miami that stand out?
Honestly, I really keep my head down here. Someone will have to tell me the name of the place. It's a ways out of town. It's Hiro...
Yeah, Hiro's Yakko-San. That's the most awesome place I've been to in Miami. That's exactly in my happy zone. I had a great meal there, a little strip mall in the middle of nowhere.
How do you feel about the Chase card plugs on No Reservations?
When the fuck did I ever keep it real? I'm not endorsing Immodium, but not because I have any integrity. I'm just too vain to be the guy who's like, "Hi, I'm Anthony Bourdain and I travel the world and get the shits all the time!" In the end, I'm a whore. It was never a matter of whether or not I was a whore. Really, I was just haggling over the price. I was waiting for the right guy. And Chase came along and I had a couple beers and he made me feel better about myself at the right moment. The next thing you know, it's "Lemme get this."
Where did the earring go?
My daughter was born. I'm there. I'm leaning in. She turns around and I'm seeing that face for the first corkscrew turn and almost instantaneously I say, "OK, that's it for the earring. The thumb ring's out. Obviously, any thought of wearing my Dead Boys shirt is out. In fact, the leather jacket's going in the trash. [Audience groans.] Dads cannot be cool! Is there anything more tragic than some guy in dad pants fucking rocking out? He's scaring the shit out of his daughter, saying, "Do what I tell you, young lady! Or I will dance! I will dance in front of your friends!" What am I gonna do? I'm 54 years old. C'mon, it's fucking time.
What are you going to do if your daughter turns to you one day and goes, "I want to be a vegetarian"?
I'll say, "It's a phase! It's a phase!" I will live with it. I will love my daughter. But I will cook bacon around her every day.
Do you have any scars left?
No, my hands are soft like J.Lo's butt. It's been ten years since I cooked. No more screaming and cursing and sweating in the kitchen, keeping it real on the line... I'm bitching about the thread count at the Four Seasons.
Who was your worst restaurant employee ever?
The worst restaurant employee is the one who absconded with the paychecks for the entire kitchen. That was a bad one. Or there was the crazed, ex-Aryan Nations guy who tried to chop wood with his hands in the parking lot and broke his wrist doing it, making him completely useless. But I'm thinking of somebody else's employee, actually. [Laughs.] It's Jonathan Eismann. All of his cooks were complete knuckleheads. And one day his best cook disappears, and he goes downstairs and finds the guy in the walk-in smoking crack and jacking off at the same time. And because that was his best cook, he closed the door and said, "I'll just wait till he's done."
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