If you remember, I asked readers to send me questions they wanted to ask Anthony Bourdain, famous book-writing, ex-bad boy chef, Travel Channel food star who will be at Abravanel Hall this Saturday night.
I thought your questions might be more interesting than the ones a jaded food writer like me would come up with-you're the fan base, right? That turned out to be only sort-of true, but still, I did ask the questions you wanted me to, and these are them. After I interviewed him, I read his new book, Medium Raw, and found he'd expanded on most of what we talked about in the book. So I advise you to buy it. Or go see him on Saturday and ask him yourself.
"What literary figures would he invite to a fantasy dinner, and what would he prepare for them?" George Orwell, Graham Greene, George V Higgins, Ross McDonald..." At this point I squawked the expected PC baloney about what??? no women??? and Bourdain added, "Joan Didion." Didion fans will understand why I figured she could count for two at a dinner table. "I'd keep the menu simple: pasta." "If he had to choose a last meal, what would it be? From appetizer to dessert." Sea urchin sushi, roasted bone marrow with toasted baguette and sea salt, and a scoop of great sorbet made from wild strawberries."
"I would ask about his daughter, but not in an Us Weekly kinda way. I heard/read him once mention it was fascinating to watch her form her own tastes and discover food. How has that changed him and his relationship with food or certain foods? How will he influence her tastes, while still allowing her to form her own dislikes and likes? Will she have to sit at the table until she finishes her kidney beans like I did, except for her it's sea lion eyeballs?" I like to think I'm the best kind of hypocrite here. I have mixed emotions about organic food, in general but when it comes to her, I want organic. I don't force her to eat anything in particular; I let her discover foods. She's presented with a lot of variety; what passes in front of her is not the usual American diet. She likes raw oysters, of all things. She's a big fan of The Little Mermaid <whose best friend is a crab named Sebastian for those of you who don't happen to have or have had a 3-year-old girls in your life> and she loves crab, so when she's eating crab, she says, I'm eating Sebastian, yum-yum. I don't know what to make of that. She likes olives. Seh likes pecorino. But she likes normal American kid food like hot dogs and grilled cheese sandwiches.She is not exposed to fast food at all. I am prepared to take the low road on that. I build up the idea that Ronald McDonald is a horrible villain. "Bourdain has made no secret of his long association with recreational drugs. How did that help his creativity as a chef? How did it hold him back, if at all?" I think heroin was in no way anything but a loss for me. I don't regret that I made the decisions I made, things turned out okay, but drugs didn't help in any way and they were not a creative thing. Let me be clear: I was a journeyman chef at best, I didn't have a lot of creative artistry in the kitchen.
"How does he deal with "turista"? I see him eating all that street food from around the planet -- does he ever get sick? Any advice for tourists like me. I'm afraid to try the local fare, especially if it's not from a decent looking resto."
Immodium or a prescription like it. You have to anticipate that this is going to happen occasionally. We eat what the locals eat. If they don't drink the water, I don't drink the water. By eating street food steadily, my system has built up good natural defenses. But I don't think it's good to be scrubbing our hands constantly and eating antiseptic food constantly. If you're too worried about getting sick you'll miss out on great cuisines like China, Vietnam, Mexico...
"What did we do to deserve Rachael Ray?" "Can TV food shows get any worse?" "Ask him to talk about why Rocco Dispirito sucks." MTV didn't want music, they wanted people yelling at each other. There are no chefs on the Food Network anymore. But people didn't want that, they wanted this sub-moronic stuff. And the Food Network is providing what people want with spectacular success. Even their magazine is successful. I hate it. It makes me crazy.
"What does he think of food blogs and the so-called experts that post on them." I get asked this all the time and it doesn't matter. It's happened already. Anyone without any expertise at all is just as powerful as an experienced writer. The inmates have taken over the asylum already. It's done. It's a big bathroom wall, anyone can write anything. In the end, the readers will make the decision about what is worth reading. You learn to read that stuff and find the information you like somewhere in it."
"I'd like to know which of the many talented food writers he likes the most." Jonathon Gold is a shining beacon of hope and food in a largely bleak world. I love AJ Liebling. Jim Harrison. Adam Gopnik has done some good things.
"Can he use a flint and steel to light a campfire?" No.
"Do you have any preconceptions about Utah food?" Some one said something about green Jell-O. And there's some kind of potato dish...