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Travel: "No Reservations"

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Anthony Bourdain
Travel Channel Host, Food Celebrity, Culinary Expert
Thursday, March 30, 2006; 11:00 AM

Travel Channel host, best-selling author, food celebrity and culinary expert Anthony Bourdain was online Thursday, March 30, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss his latest travel experiences to Osaka, Japan and Beijing, China.

The gourmet adventurer introduces viewers to people and places and experiences the good, the bad and the ugly.

A transcript follows.

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Anthony Bourdain: Hello. Glad to be here and looking forward to your questions.

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Anthony Bourdain: I just got in from three weeks of doing shows in Korea, Java and Bali. Happy to be home and happy to taking part in this.

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Charlottesville, Va.: Which is more exhausting: running a kitchen or hosting a travel show?

Anthony Bourdain: No contest. Cooking professionally is work. Making a travel show, however undignified at times, is relatively easy and privilege.

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Alexandria, Va.: In your experience, where is the hottest or most impressive culinary destination? Where do you think is the next big place?

Anthony Bourdain: I think for the greatest, most exciting and diverse mix all in one place, I'd have to go for Sinapore or Malaysia because of the mixed cultures of Chinese, Indian and Malay, a vibrant street food culture and a fiercely, fiercely foody population. They like their food and take it very seriously. You can always find a good argument on where to get the best food in Sinapore and Malaysia and those kinds of strong opinions are always a good sign. Where people are opinionated about food, they tend to cook well.

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Maryland: In almost every episode you try to drink your hosts under the table. That plus spicy food. How do you do it and produce a show?

Anthony Bourdain: LAUGHS. I try to be a good guest. As an honored guest I tend to be offered the local beverage, lots and lots of the local beverage. I do my best to show good manners, to be properly grateful and keep up. So though I do tend to enjoy my drink, it's simply good manners in this case. As far as spicy food, I love spicy food. That's not difficult for me.

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Washington, D.C.: How much did that sushi dinner cost at the end of Monday's Osaka episode? It looked great, but must have cost a fortune.

Anthony Bourdain: I believe it cost around $200 and worth every penny. No price is too high for quality toro tuna.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Tony -- Love the show! Is there anything you WON'T eat?

Anthony Bourdain: Yes. No monkey brain. As a New Yorker who has had many unpleasant expriences with rats, I'm too grossed out by them to every contemplate eating one. The tail freaks me out. Also, I'm very grateful that I have never been offered cat or dog. Given the choice between showing bad manners to my host and violating my own deeply held principles about what is a pet and what is food, I don't know what I'd do.

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Washington, D.C.: Tony, I love the current show and was a big fan of your previous show on Food Network. I've enjoyed your non-fiction books, but was wondering if you plan on any more fictional works. "Bone in the Throat" was a great read....any more to come?

Anthony Bourdain: I'm currently writing my fourth novel, a crime novel set in the Caribbean. Should be out next year.

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Arlington, Va.: Where do you recommend eating in Jakarta? Were you ever concerned for your personal safety traveling in Indonesia? What about avian flu concerns?

Anthony Bourdain: I wasn't concerned about my personal security. Avian flu also ... You take chances every time you walk out the door. I'm pretty much ready to spin the wheel, especially since the great majority of my experiences on the road have been so rewarding. Great things don't happen to you if you're afraid to take chances to get away from the hotel, to get off the tourist trail.

The street food in Indonesia is fantastic.

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Washington, D.C.: I still get nightmares from that beating cobra heart that you swallowed in Saigon. Do you throw it up in this Sunday's outtakes show?

Anthony Bourdain: No. Actually eating the cobra heart was a lot like eating a very small, very angry and rather athletic oyster. The fermented shark in Iceland was much, much more difficult.

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Orlando, Fla.: I read in an interview that you where going to live in Vietnam for an extended period of time (a year if I remember correctly). Did that happen?

Anthony Bourdain: Not yet. I still hope to at some point in the future. And you'll notice from the program that I like to spend as much time as possible in Asia. I'm so busy making the shows that I don't live anywhere anymore. I'm traveling about 24 days out of every month for one reason or another. But I hope that an extended stay in Vietnam is in my future.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I love your show. You seem to have a dream job. If you ever need an "Ed McMahon" as a second banana give me a call. Seriously, I was very touched by your graciousness to the rural Chinese family that hosted you in their home. You certainly exemplify what it means to be a good guest.

Anthony Bourdain: Thanks so much for saying that. I felt genuinely privileged to have seen and experienced that meal. It's one of the real joys of my life to exprience the kindness of strangers, often poor strangers with very little, on such a regular basis. What you saw on the show was genuine gratitude and real happiness on my part. And you'll notice on the show that I'm usually at my happiest in similar situations and I'm snarkiest and sarcastic on the show when I in fine dining situations.

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Washington, D.C.: How much time, money and effort does it take to crank out one show?

Anthony Bourdain: A lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of effort by a lot of people. The show is filmed by two camera people, a director who also carries a camera, an assistant producer much like a traveling band, yet there's a whole team back in New York of producers, editors, sound engineers, researchers and assistants for post-production. The show is a joy to make because it's a collaborative effort and because I love the people I work with, much like a band. I have the best day job in the world.

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Maryland: How often do you get to cook for your foreign hosts? What is their opinion of American cuisine?

Anthony Bourdain: I'm there to eat and learn and satisfy my curiosity. I'm not there to teach. I almost never cook on the road. If I'm lucky enough to have 10 days in China, I'm not wasting my time making a grilled cheese sandwich. Maybe that's selfish but I'm having too much fun and have too little time to waste a minute. Unfortunately, most of the world knows American cuisine as the King , the Colonel, the clown and Planet Hollywood.

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Houston, Texas: Tony, any plans for Hong Kong?

Anthony Bourdain: As soon as possible. I've been there and love it. Hope to shoot there next season.

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Washington, D.C.: Tony: How do you think the Yankees will do this year?

Anthony Bourdain: LAUGHS. The dynasty will continue. We will be back. We will grind the Red Sox to dust. Johnny Damon will get the key playoff ending hit, no doubt.

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Washington, D.C.: Mr Bourdain, you totally rock! I loved your book and the show you used to have on Food Network. My question is this: have you eaten around locally here in D.C. and, if you have, are there any places you really like? I think we have the best Ethiopian food outside of Ethiopia.

Anthony Bourdain: I've eaten Ethiopian food in D.C. Loved it. I'm a big fan of Ben's Chili Bowl. Jose Andres has a number of great restaurants. And I'm a big Kinkeads fan.

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Jackson, Miss.: Where would you most like the show to go in the future? Are other American stops planned?

Anthony Bourdain: Yes. Portland and Seattle. The Texas-Mexican border, south Florida and I'm thinking about Atlanta and Austin, Tex.

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Nashua, N.H.: Anthony, just watched your trip to St. Pete last night. The whole ice house arc cracked me up. What I truly enjoy about your travels is that you don't pull any punches. (As in your opinion of that big crusty tart thing that lady baked for you to eat all alone...) If something sucks, you don't hide it or do you? Have you ever had to use some serious acting chops?

Anthony Bourdain: If the people are really nice and yet have served me a steaming loaf of crap I will try my best to be gracious but I guess I'm just not going to morph into Rachel Ray any time soon. If the food is crap I'm gonna say so. I hate shows where the host lies to you.

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Washington, D.C.: I love love love your books! I was wondering what some of your favorite foods to eat were when you were in Cambodia and Thailand. Will you be going back anytime soon for this season's show?

Anthony Bourdain: Neither of those countries in this season but I hope to visit Bangkok next season. Cambodia was still pretty rough when I visited it last. And perhaps I'll visit it again in a few years.

Everything's good in Thailand. I regret to say I didn't find much that I loved in Cambodia. There were still hard times. People were struggling to eat anything. I am, however, a big durian fan.

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Maryland: Man, you constantly rip on Food Channel celeb chefs/cooks. Are they really that bad?

Anthony Bourdain: Mario Battali is a monster of rock 'n' roll and a personal friend. Emeril, in spite of all the terrible things I've said about him, has been very good to me, is actually a very nice guy and a restauratuer/chef worthy of a lot more respect than I've given him (I still hate the show). What wrankes me about Food Network and makes them an easy target is that they are no longer in the business of real chefs demonstrating real techniques. It's about developing brands, adorable personalities and catch phrases. Food Network was very good to me for two years.

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Hi Mr. Snarky: Does your attitude ever get you into trouble with the suits?

Anthony Bourdain: Surprisingly enough, they've pretty much given me license to kill. Like indulgent parents, they've been spoiling me terribly. They even enjoy my rude, incredibly profane e-mail when they make a suggestion I'm not happy with. Somebody high up at Travel Channel is clearing smoking a bong and I'm very grateful for it every day.

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Cambodia: What's not to like about the fried spider market in Phnom Penh? Ever eat one of those puppies?

Anthony Bourdain: LAUGHS. I'm very unhappy with the two shows I did in Cambodia. I don't think I did the country justice. I was there at a difficult time. I was uncomfortable, often afraid, heartbroken by the political situation, the poverty and appalled by the behavior of many of the ex-pats. I have little memory of the food. I'd like to try again some day.

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Cambodia: What's not to like about the fried spider market in Phnom Penh? Ever eat one of those puppies?

Anthony Bourdain: LAUGHS. I'm very unhappy with the two shows I did in Cambodia. I don't think I did the country justice. I was there at a difficult time. I was uncomfortable, often afraid, heartbroken by the political situation, the poverty and appalled by the behavior of many of the ex-pats. I have little memory of the food. I'd like to try again some day.

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Glen Ellyn, Ill.: Mr. Bourdain, what's your favorite Chicago-area place and can I get in if I tell them you recommended it?

Anthony Bourdain: LAUGHS. Some favorites in Chicago: Blackbird, Avec, Gold Coast. I don't know if dropping my name will help but good luck.

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Washington, D.C.: I really loved your recent show on Japan. It was especially interesting and I thought spot on- I had just been there. I wanted to ask you what country you found the most difficult to travel in and which was the easiest. Your own definitions apply of course.

Anthony Bourdain: Singapore is ridiculously easy to make television and to tavel in. You can take the subway from one end of the country to the other. Japan, easy. Vietnam, fun. Uzbekistan, unbelievably difficult. And India, very difficult but well worth it.

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Washington, D.C.: While you were in Southeast Asia, did you ever sample food from the Philippines? There's an odd duck/chick swimming in amniotic fluid that people just gobble up straight from the shell. Feathers, eyes, bones and all...

Anthony Bourdain: You're talking balut. Been there, done that but in Vietnam where they also eat it. Crunchy, delicious.

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China: What else does your doctor tell you to avoid besides spicy foods? Don't cigarettes kinda ruin one's palate?

Anthony Bourdain: That's why God made salt. All chefs smoke. And most Chinese, it seems.

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Washington, D.C.: In your book, you caution against ordering fish in restaurants on Sunday. I've dutifully stayed away on your advice. Are you sure I can't order fish on Sundays? Any other definite no-nos that you've gleaned from your most recent travels?

Anthony Bourdain: Eat the fish already. Just understand that it is more likely to be fresher and better Tuesday through Friday.

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St. Paul, Minn.: I know you appreciate food and can put away large quatities in one sitting. How do you manage to keep trim? I don't get the impression that exercising with a cigarette hanging out of your mouth is the answer.

Anthony Bourdain: My diet and health regime is as follows: a healthy breakfast of coffee and cigarettes, a big lunch, sensible dinner. I don't snack. I don't eat Cheese Doodles. I don't eat Pringles and I'm not into desserts and sweats. I call it the Keith Richards exercise plan. Every day that Keith Richards sill walks this earth is a validation of my workout regimen.

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Maryland: Is this show your retirement plan? Where do old chefs go to die?

Anthony Bourdain: Where do chefs go to die? Las Vegas. I don't have a retirement plan. I'm making it up as I go along. I hope to die while making this show with a big hunk of properly cooked pork hanging out of my mouth and a cigarette still burning in my hand.

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Reston, Va.: You don't seem to spend much visiting vineyards. Why is that?

Anthony Bourdain: Is watching some idiot drinking a glass of red stuff and telling you it's good, visually interesting? You can't taste wine that you see on television. Food porn, the pleasures of food, are more easily communicated. I love a good wine. I just don't know how entertaining watching me suck down a bottle of Chateau D'Yqem would be.

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Washington, D.C.: Will there be some Eastern European destinations on the show?

Anthony Bourdain: I hope so. I'm looking hard at Prague at the moment.

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Hawaii: Will you ever travel to Hawaii and check out the spam craze?

Anthony Bourdain: Then I would have to eat a lot of Spam and I would rather have sex with a crackhead clown an ebola-infected spider monkey than eat Spam on a regular basis. Does Spam qualify as food or bulding material?

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Austin, Texas: What do you say to someone who does not enjoy food?

Anthony Bourdain: I'm guessing they're not too good in the sack either. What a terrible thing to contemplate.

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Jackson, Miss.: A response: Tex-Mex border is a great idea. Atlanta is like going to Dallas. I would recommend the rural South (Mississippi Delta maybe?)

Anthony Bourdain: Yes, but I'm a huge fan of the Clermont Lounge, one of the world's greatest dive bars in Atlanta, Fat Matt's Rib Shack and Bob and June's Kountry Kitchen. I'm familiar with Atlanta and a personal connection is really helpful when making a show.

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Washington, D.C.: Am going to Seoul and Gwangyang, Korea soon. Any culinary recommendations? Thanks...

Anthony Bourdain: I just got back from Seoul. Did a great show there. Everything is good. Be careful with the soju. Prepare to drink way too much of it and I hope you like karaoke because you will find yourself singing Anarchy in the U.K. from a table top with your shirt wrapped around your head with kimchee breath I love Korea. They know how to party.

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Anthony Bourdain: I'd like to thank everybody for the great questions and the Travel Channel for giving me the best job in the world.

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