Anthony Bourdain

16 02 2011

“Is there anyone in the restaurant business here?” ::Cheers and hollers:: “Well how the fuck did you get tonight off?”

And so began our evening with Anthony Bourdain.

The show at the Keswick Theater on Valentine’s Eve was sold out. Not really knowing what to expect, Matt and I were entertained for an hour and half while Bourdain, mostly by memory, rattled off a seemingly endless string of anecdotes.

Starting off with his predictable tirade against the Food Network and his conspiracy theory of the offing of good chefs such as Emeril, Mario, and Bobby, he then delved into his experience on Top Chef as he admitted to the vats of gin and tonics underneath the judges’ table and assured the audience that none of the eliminations are producer-driven.

He then segued into his show on the Travel Channel and gave a list of some do’s and don’ts of international travel, a segment that I’d love to use for the pre-departure orientations I run for college students studying abroad.

His “Grandma’s House” scenario says it all: treat all of your international experiences as if you were at your grandma’s house. You clean your plate, tell her it was delicious, and ask for seconds, even if it was the worst meal you’ve ever eaten. Because she’s your grandma.

Drinking, of course, entered his spiel more than once. He cautioned against drinking with Russians in Russia, the only place he is scared to drink as on average he downs two vodka shots at breakfast, five at lunch, and seventeen at dinner.

His act ended on a sensitive note with a fatherly pride as he talked about his 3 1/2 year old daughter. His new outlook on using local and organic food instead of just getting what’s good no matter how unhealthy it may be was touching, even though he admitted that it’s hard to get a healthy hot dog anywhere. He concluded with a story about his family eating with Eric Ripert in France recently, and on the table was a tower of crustaceans with lobsters on top. His daughter looked up and said, “Awww, Sebastian” (from Little Mermaid fame) before reaching up and chowing down on the delicacy.

It was surreal to see Bourdain in Glenside, Pennsylvania, in contrast to the TV screen where he is usually either in the hustle and bustle of Tokyo or the mountains of a remote village in a third world country. But hearing his outlook on food, fame, and fatherhood was refreshing and somewhat humbling, knowing that Matt and I have been able to experience a bit of what he has, and whetted our appetite for even more.

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