Interview with Anthony Bourdain: "I Wonder Sometimes If I'm a Malevolent Force"

Aug 17, 2010 at 11:12 am
click to enlarge Anthony Bourdain - Photo: The Travel Channel
Photo: The Travel Channel
Anthony Bourdain
"I'm gonna walk out on stage, talk for an hour, [do] question-and-answer," says Anthony Bourdain of his October 1 appearance at the Fox Theatre. "It's as crazy, as rowdy, as entertaining as the audience cares to make it."

The visit will be Bourdain's first to St. Louis since a book tour in 2001. "I remember going out drinking with a bunch of chefs," he recalls. "I remember liking the chefs I met."

The chef turned author and television host is touring behind his latest book, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook, a sequel to Kitchen Confidential, the memoir-exposé that transformed him from the executive chef at Les Halles in New York City into one of the biggest stars in the culinary world.

Like Kitchen Confidential, Medium Raw overflows with Bourdain's opinions -- incisive, hilarious and profane in equal measure -- on the world of food. His trademark scorn finds plump targets: Alice Waters is targeted for her self-righteousness, and a chapter titled "Alan Richman Is a Douchebag" concludes that the GQ critic, who attacked New Orleans' reputation as a great restaurant town not long after Katrina hit, is not merely a douchebag but instead worthy of perhaps the most profane epithet in American English.

Bourdain finds new heroes, too, like Momofuku chef David Chang, and his skills as a reporter have grown immeasurably. Two of the better chapters in the book are profiles of a chef who lost during the early rounds of Top Chef and the fish butcher at seafood mecca Le Bernardin.

Unlike Kitchen Confidential, however, Bourdain now writes from the perspective of an outsider. He hasn't worked in a kitchen for the better part of a decade, and thanks to 100-plus episodes of his Travel Channel show No Reservations, he has seen more of the world than most. It is no coincidence that the first chapter of Medium Raw is titled "Selling Out."

"I have to beware to keep myself from becoming jaded," Bourdain says. "I've been traveling all around the world. Eating one week in China, Brazil, Spain. I know a lot of chefs, I eat regularly in really good restaurants, [I find myself] in pretty wild, extreme rural situations, exotic situations. Once you've had the really spicy food in Szechuan province, you refine [what spicy means]."