Anthony Bourdain at Riverside Theater
For the last time—the celebrity chef does not want to drink with you
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In the world of celebrity chefs—where “rock star” is thrown around a little too loosely— Anthony Bourdain is the closest thing there is to Keith Richards. He’s been mired in heroin addiction, he drinks like a fish while traveling the world, and he exudes cool with the amount of effort the rest of us expend on yawning. So, I guess it sort of makes sense that Bourdain fans would down several bottles of wine before turning out to see the man speak Friday at Riverside Theater. If only these people weren’t given access to microphones during a trainwreck Q&A following Bourdain’s engaging hour-long talk on his show No Reservations and the lessons he’s learned from traveling and cooking. (Lesson No. 102: Don’t order the spaghetti Bolognese in Jakarta.)
The sold-out house, which appeared to be filled with a heavy contingent of restaurant industry workers ditching out of their AA meetings, started getting restless almost immediately as Bourdain struggled with technical glitches during the opening moments of the show. As he tried to find a microphone, any microphone, that would work, some in the crowd started booing loudly. Strangely for a venue that typically has good sound, Bourdain’s audio issues never seemed to be completely resolved during the course of his appearance.
For those that could hear him, Bourdain quickly turned to what he does best—talking smack about other TV food stars. Actually, he was mostly polite to the likes of Alton Brown and Andrew Zimmern, reserving most of his funniest body blows for the fattest, easiest target of them all, Guy Fieri. Though, in a way, a comment like, “If I was Guy Fieri for five hours, I’d hang myself in a shower stall,” could be construed as a compliment.
Bourdain also dished on the behind-the-scenes machinations of No Reservations and Top Chef, where he’s frequently appeared as a judge. Bourdain talked specifically about his appearance in Top Chef’s season four, when he was responsible for sending home popular contestant Dale Talde over his Butterscotch Miso scallops, which he said tasted like “filching Mrs. Butterworth.” Is this guy a wordsmith or what? Bourdain was even more eloquent—and less gross—when extolling the virtues of adventurous eating and traveling. A vocal detractor of vegetarianism, Bourdain believes in opening yourself up to as much of what the world has to offer as possible. He admitted that he now regrets writing in his book Kitchen Confidential that restaurants with dirty bathrooms don’t have good food. In the nine years that he’s been doing No Reservations, some of the best meals he’s had were in places with absolutely filthy restrooms. “You can’t have the perfect meal unless you spin the wheel and have some bad ones,” he said.
After that, it was on to questions from the audience. Actually, it seemed like the same question was being asked repeatedly, which was: “Will you come drinking with me after the show?” (For the last time, the answer is no, people!) When they weren’t slurring aimless anecdotes about their personal and deadly dull kitchen adventures, audience members also asked about whether Bourdain had hit up any local restaurants in town—which he hadn’t. But Bourdain did express admiration for the local culinary culture, which he’s experienced on previous trips. “The cooks are way ahead of the dining public,” he said. “I love it here. I don’t know it well enough.” Hopefully we didn’t scare you away.