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Book World Live

Anthony Bourdain
Author, "No Reservations"
Monday, November 26, 2007 2:00 PM

This latest endeavor from the author of Kitchen Confidential is a companion piece to his Travel Channel television series of the same name, a country-by-country scrapbook of exploits that conjures up not just the sights Bourdain took in but the aromas and ambient noise as well. The commentary exhibits his usual slash-and-burn approach, and the book's overall vibe is macho -- bathroom humor (and photos) included. -- Review: Insatiable Appetites ( Post, Nov. 18)

Anthony Bourdain fielded questions and comments about his new book, "No Reservations."

Submit your questions and comments before or during today's discussion.

Anthony Bourdain's television series, "No Reservations" appears on the Travel Channel. He is the author of several other books, most notably "Kitchen Confidential."

Join Book World Live each Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET for a discussion based on a story or review in each Sunday's Book World section.

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Anthony Bourdain: Hi, everybody. Live from Minneapolis....I see some interesting questions!

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Claverack, N.Y.: What is the difference between a Guinness served in the U.S. and a Guinness served in Dublin?

Anthony Bourdain: The difference is...magic. Maybe it's the freshness? I dunno. I DO know that the farther you get from Dublin, the less wonderful the stuff is.

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Alexandria, Va.: At this point, you've been everywhere, twice. What are your top 2 or 3 favorite places out of all the places you've been?

Anthony Bourdain: Vietnam. Brazil. Singapore. Bali. All great places with great food.

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Boston, Mass.: Mr. Bourdain, you show and your books are really great, good to see from a fellow son of New Jersey.

I'd be interested in knowing what direction you think the food/restaurant/cooking/travel shows on cable are heading? I've noticed people lamenting the decline of the Food Channel, I agree with this, what's the next big thing? I'd really like to be able to watch cooking/travel shows from all the other countries on earth, not just the U.S.

Thanks.

Anthony Bourdain: What direction is food/travel TV taking? Where is it likely to go? Well...one need only look at Have Fork Will Travel--where Food Net apparently hired some comedian to travel the world making fun of people's accents. They will continue to blunder along, looking to find the next "hip, happening, edgy" concept--while at the same time staying the same. An impossibility. Organically, most nets (except Travel Channel, of course)can only allow themselves to do what has been done before.

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Mclean, Va.: Tony, per your recommendation during your appearance at GWU earlier this month, I went and bought "Ratatoullie." You're right, it was the best cooking movie I've seen. The only one that comes close was "Big Night." Any other film recommendations?

Anthony Bourdain: Eat Drink Man Woman, Mostly Martha, Babette's Feast, La Grande Bouffe and Tampopo are all great food movies.

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Tucson, Ariz.: Because institutionalized fast food is America's gift to the world, what is the general attitude of people around the world towards this?

Anthony Bourdain: Sadly, the face of American cuisine internationally--in fact, the face of America's cultural identity worldwide is largely defined by the Clown, The Colonel and the King--and the expanding thighs of their adherents.

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Washington, D.C.: I may be betraying my age, but whenever I see your show I think you're channeling a Richard Hell or Tom Verlaine or Stiv Bators. Were you in Manhattan during the 1975-1979 period and what was that like, catering to the foodies in amongst the "Bronx is Burning," "Son of Sam" and 1977 blackout squalor? Half the time I think Curtis Sliwa is going to burst onto your show and try to clean it up.

Anthony Bourdain: LOVED Richard Hell and the Voidoids, and Television--and the Dead Boys and the Ramones--and in many ways, my musical tastes are stuck in that time. That said, those were not particular wonderful times to be in NYC. And I was pretty messed up. It's easy to over-romanticize that era because of all the good music. But so few of those bands ever made a dime.

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Washington, D.C.: Mr. B,

I love your TV series. What do you consider to be some of the differences between instructional food TV and adventure food TV? PBS continues to air primarily cooking instruction shows (I still think Caprial Pence is underrated and her perky girl attitude was co-opted by you know who), but Discovery Networks, HGTV and Food Network mix up food adventure with food instruction. The only thing I don't like is the attempt to mix the two. Martin Yan's or Emeril's or Paula Deen's style of humor just doesn't cut it for me -- more cooking, less "personality" please. So tell me, what do you consider the critical lines that food adventurers and food instructors shouldn't cross on their shows?

Anthony Bourdain: Interesting question about lines that shouldn't be crossed. My suggestion would be to never mock a host or a culture who are giving the best they have in good faith. To never pretend you're even more stupid and ignorant than you are in real life for purposes of comedy. (Alternately, To RAISE expectations--not lower them). To never spit out food in front of your host or be knowingly or uncaringly rude. To never turn down a sincere offer of a drink. To NOT frighten children with your frozen, glassy-eyed rictus of a TV smile and piercing accent.

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Millbrae, Calif.: What do you think of this obsession that certain non-French chefs have with Michelin stars?

Anthony Bourdain: Michelin stars are the traditional route to money and prestige for chefs. It;s like asking "what's this obsession with Oscars" to an actor. And we all--all of us who cook in the Western cooking tradition, owe a debt to French techniques and classical methods. And that has an emotional grip on us.

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Foggy Bottom, Washington, D.C.: Tony, first off, your show and books are absolutely amazing. I really enjoy your witty commentary on food culture.

Now for my question! Are you planning on writing any more fictional stories?

Anthony Bourdain: Yes. I'm writing one now. Should be out next year some time.

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Malvern, Pa.: Hello. Big fan. Love "No Reservations" show.

What food experience (on your show or anywhere) has made you the most sick (you know the vomiting and diarrhea variety)? I've seen you eat some sick stuff.

It's great to watch but I'm not as brave as you are.

Anthony Bourdain: The warthog poop chute required a few weeks on antibiotics ...

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Tony.

I'm meeting my mother in mid-town NYC tomorrow for lunch. We only have a couple of hours. Anywhere near Grand Central we should try?

Anthony Bourdain: Uh...how about Les Halles?

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Anonymous: Man, you sure booked out of the Food Fight pretty fast. How was the chili halfsmoke?

Anthony Bourdain: Mmm... mystery meat! Good!

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Reston, Va.: Is there any place in the world you will not visit -- or any food you will not eat?

Anthony Bourdain: No Myanmar right now--as I'm not happy with the idea of encouraging tourism for a particularly unlovely regime.

And no live monkey brain. Ever.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Tony -- My husband idolizes you! Are there going to be more DVD sets of "No Reservations" any time soon? He's only been able to find season one.

Anthony Bourdain: I assume there will be more DVD's. In the meantime, I think you can download from iTunes.

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Reston, Va.: I notice that France doesn't make your list of favorite places. What's your take on French food? Are there any countries in Europe you particularly like -- Spain maybe? (I'm thinking Basque cooking, or Catalan.)

Anthony Bourdain: Love Spain and love the Spanish. Crazy for Basque country and have a deep love for Juan Mari Arzak and Elena Arzak's restaurant in Saint Sebastian. Also a fan of Barcelona, Ferran Adria and everyday Spanish food. Spain and Italy are the very best of Europe.

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Arlington, Va.: Is there anything worth watching in the way of cooking shows these days (in your opinion)? (I mean real shows where people actually cook, a la the great Julia Childs.)

Anthony Bourdain: I don't hate Ina Garten. She actually cooks "correctly". You actually learn how to do it right on that show.

I think Molto Mario was a great, instructional series. So, of course, the nitwits at FN cancelled it.

I love Jacques Pepin. I appreciate Nigella's taste in food--particularly pork fat, though she isn't a professional. And while frightened by Giada's large head, I think she cooks pretty well on that show. Oh..and I dig Lidia Bastianich.

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Seattle, Wash.: When's your Holiday Spectacular (Craptacular?) show airing? I can't wait to see the QOTSA in their horrific holiday sweaters.

Also, how long has it been since you've cooked a meal as a professional?

Anthony Bourdain: I think our ultra-violent Holiday Special--with foie gras propaganda, Curling explained!, musical guests, Queens of the Stone Age and blood-soaked turkey-fest is airing Dec. 10th on Travel. The QOTSA guys were absolutely amazing and fun and put up with a lot for the show.

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Washington, D.C.: What's your beef with Bobby Flay? Can't blame him for the overabundance of attention the guy gets.

Anthony Bourdain: Honestly? I have no beef with Bobby. I have a lot of respect for him as a restaurateur and as a guy who has accomplished a lot in his life. His restaurants are very decent. I just hate his shows.

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Washington, D.C.S: So, the two places I've lived outside the U.S. you have done a show on (as far as I know), Scotland (don't laugh -- there are lots of great opportunities for salmon, lamb, duck...and there's a definite French influence) and Emilia-Romagna. Any plans for these? Or where can we look forward to?

Anthony Bourdain: Scotland with Ian Rankin coming soon.

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23rd and N: Hi Tony,

I love "No Reservations" and am always excited to see you on Top Chef. Hope you will be back to guest judge next season. I have to know: were CJ's broccolini REALLY that bad?

Anthony Bourdain: I hated to see CJ kicked off the show. But yes, his broccolini WAS that bad. And barely mentioned in the edit was the fact that his fish and sauce that week were similarly awful. Truly truly horrible. He's a great cook and a great guy--and I gather he's cool with what I said and that he got tossed. But his food was the worst of the lot that week. And on Top Chef? That gets you voted off.

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Cleveland Park, Washington, D.C.: Speaking of live monkey brains, what did you think of Andrew Zimmern eating live lobster tail? Seems a bit much to me.

Anthony Bourdain: Been there. Done that. Yeah. The lobster is a little tough. And it's unsettling.

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Washington, D.C.: If you could only eat ONE type of cuisine the rest of your life what would it be?

Anthony Bourdain: Japanese. If I had to? I could eat sushi every day.

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Washington, D.C.: My husband and I spend many rainy Saturdays watching reruns of your show. I lived in Ghana for a while, so that episode is my absolute favorite. The Rajasthan episode inspired our next vacation!

Any hints on where you'll be headed in the next season? I'd love to see your take on South Africa, Zanzibar or Morocco.

Anthony Bourdain: Look forward to Laos, Singapore, New Orleans, Crete, Romania, Columbia, Tokyo, Vancouver, and on and on and on....

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Baltimore, Md.: Anthony, I love your Rock 'n' Roll take on life and world travel. I have seen you get tattooed a number of times so far on "No Reservations," but what, to you, is your most meaningful tattoo, or tattooing experience and why?

P.S. I went to a job training a little while ago, and we had to go around and say our career aspirations. I said "I want to BE Tony Bourdain!"

Anthony Bourdain: My wife and I each have a knife with a single drop of blood on our backs.

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Washington, D.C.: If you had to eat every meal at one restaurant for the rest of your life (other than your own) what would it be?

Anthony Bourdain: Maybe...Masa in New York? The menu changes every day--and it's Japanese and the chef is a genius.

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Washington, D.C.: Would you ever consider challenging Chef Flay or Batali on Iron Chef? Would the Travel Channel even allow this?

Anthony Bourdain: No way. I'd get my ass kicked. And with my luck, the secret ingredient would probably be Tofu.

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Annapolis, Md.: Good Afternoon --

I enjoy your show, and loved Kitchen Confidential when I read it. Do you ever have trouble with unadventurous eaters? I have many friends and relatives who are so hesitant to try new things that I have trouble when traveling with them, because we wind up eating bland, boring food in bland, boring restaurants. Do you have any tips for coaxing them away from their comfort zones?

Anthony Bourdain: Alcohol.

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Washington, D.C.: I find your commentary the most memorable thing about Top Chef, which isn't saying much. Isn't it a little like having color commentary on a little league game? But, comme chez soi in Brussels, world series.

Anthony Bourdain: I love doing Top Chef. I'm a fan. I watch every episode. It's fun. And the quality of cooking/contestants are pretty good. What I love best is that it's not bent. Best food gets you the win. Worst gets you gone. The judges spend a LOT of time considering. I think that's refreshing after the suspiciously bathos-loaded Next Food Network Star.

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Since you brought up Spain...: I'm taking my first trip to Barcelona soon so any other suggestions for places to hit up? I love cava and pork products if that helps.

Anthony Bourdain: You're going to the right place. Jamonissimo for pata negra. And Cava is everywhere.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Anthony,

Two questions:

How you can eat so much and stay thin as a rail?

And do you really eat those full plates of food brought to you or does your crew dig in too?

Anthony Bourdain: I really do eat those plates of food and often seconds. But my crew also eats (additional portions). We usually hang out with our hosts--before and after the shooting. It makes things more relaxed and natural--and fun that way and is, I think, what separates our show from those where the host just shows up, takes a bite for the camera and then everybody runs away. We try to actually connect with people and enjoy ourselves. We're lucky to do what we do--we don't want to waste it.

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Washington, D.C.: Would you win Top Chef if allowed to compete?

Anthony Bourdain: No.

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Washington, D.C.: Just got DVD of your first season TV program, as I read an article about you and you seemed like a cool guy. I have traveled the world eating as well and you looked to be better than the usual brain-dead make-fun-of-other-cultures people. I was right about that part. You have a passion and respect for this and it shows. But...what about the food, dude? I saw great things on the table in Paris on your show but the one thing that was missing was...the taste! How did it taste? All of it. That never came through on the program. I am looking for an intelligent American who can present the food of the world in a respectful way and...in a way that I can taste it. You are so close, but thus far no cigar. Black pudding? Great! But how does it TASTE to you. I need to see that you really love EATING the food.

Cheers. I will probably buy your book and more of the DVDs -- fingers crossed that they improve as the season goes on.

Anthony Bourdain: I think that writing about food and describing taste all the time risks sounding like writing porn. There are only so many adjectives before you cheapen the experience. I think that if we SHOW you the food and describe the ingredients well enough--and you see it cooking--and you get a sense of where we are and the surroundings and the context and the smell of the room, then that's enough. That an occasional "awesome!" is fine. You do the rest. How many times can you use the words "crunchY', "unctuous", "minerally" before they lose all meaning--or worse, become too clinical?

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Fairfax, Va.: Your show is so different from most travel programs -- both the attitude and the essay-like narration. Was it a struggle selling The Travel Channel on this approach? Did network execs have reservations about No Reservations?

Anthony Bourdain: The Travel Channel has--amazingly--been extraordinarily permissive, supportive and easy to work with. Pat Younge, the "Big Cheese" at the network, in particular. He's stepped in to "save" shows when middle management boneheads have demanded cuts. The network has given us as much "creative control" as anyone has ever enjoyed in television history. They actually LIKE innovative, new, previously untried stuff! They let us go anywhere we want. So if you hate a particular episode--it's no one's fault but mine. They've been great. Hard to believe possible of any network--particularly after my Food Net experience.

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Alexandria, Va.: What do you like so much about Japanese cuisine? (I'm totally falling for it myself, but I can't figure out why. It's weird. )

Anthony Bourdain: Fresh, clean, refined--it removes all but the necessary. And because it's the end product of centuries of thinking very seriously about food and pleasure. And because the Japanese can and will pay 300 dollars a POUND--wholesale--for the best fish.

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Arlington, Va.: Tony,

I know you have been critical of chefs with endorsement deals. Maybe it was just coincidental, but to me your segment of the Cleveland episode of "No Reservations" looked suspiciously like Skyline Chili may have provided promotional consideration. I am from Ohio, so I know the product well. The ingredients, including neon orange "cheddar" cheese and bland, industrially produced hot dogs don't seem like the typical fresh street food that is featured on your show. Add to the fact that the company logo of this chain restaurant was all over the camera shots, it just looks a little suspicious. Or is this all just a coincidence?

Anthony Bourdain: The Skyline Scene was there so that I could torture and embarrass Cleveland native, Michael Ruhlman. I have never endorsed a product. I have never taken a thing of value in return for consideration. There's been no product placement. It's been suggested that Heineken has a deal with us. Nope. I just drink a fair amount of the stuff. How could I--with a straight face--endorse chili over spaghetti?!!!

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Springfield, Va.: What music do you like to listen to while you cook?

Anthony Bourdain: Curtis Mayfield, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Chili Peppers...Stooges, Parliament/Funkadelic...Surf instrumentals, soundtracks...you name it.

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New York, N.Y.: Anthony,

Forget food, travel and restaurants for a second and let's talk Yankees baseball. As a die-hard fan, how do you feel the team is shaping up so far this off-season (Girardi replacing Torre, A-Rod's return, etc.) and do you think they have what it takes to put the Red Sox back in their place and start winning championships again?

Anthony Bourdain: I'm heartbroken Torre isn't returning.

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Food Net Experience?: Sorry, for those of us who don't know, what was your Food Network experience like? Permission to be as diplomatic as necessary...

Anthony Bourdain: I had two good and pretty indulgent years there. Then the new regime came in. You see the result every day. Peer deep into the horror of Sandra Lee's eyes!

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Bethesda, Md.: I agree with you -- too much "yummy" talk on some of (most of) the FN shows. If it wasn't good, why would you be there in the first place?

Anthony Bourdain: Things were different then--but perhaps, I naively figured that I could turn a few tricks, take a long shower and that I'd feel fine about myself in the morning. Seriously? The then VP, Eileen Opatut--and the Pres, Judy Gerard were pretty cool to me. They let me make TV I'm still pretty proud of--travelling anywhere I wanted to in the world. When that changed and they were gone ? So was I.

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Washington, D.C.: Are you finding it harder to travel now that you've got a child at home? She must grow a lot in the time that you're gone.

Anthony Bourdain: Yes.

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Anthony Bourdain: Thanks for playing! Thanks for coming. Thanks for the questions...and keep watching. best, Tony

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