When the bad boy of the restaurant world holds forth on the bad boy of the Republican Party, one might expect the rhetoric to be served hot and spicy. And on Wednesday, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain brought extra pepper.
In an interview with Pete Dominick on Sirius XM, Bourdain discussed the problems presented by GOP presidential contender Donald Trump and some other conservatives’ view of immigrants. Dominick kicked off the discussion by pointing out that restaurateurs, who often depend on undocumented people for labor, may come to appreciate their struggles.
“You could be the most right-wing conservative,” Dominick said. “You really start to understand the value of these folks, and understand what our economy and what our country would be like without them, and what your business would be like without them.” His question for Bourdain: “What is your point of view of these undocumented immigrants?”
“Like a lot of other white kids, I rolled out of a prestigious culinary institute and went to work in real restaurants,” Bourdain said. “… I walked into restaurants and the person always who’d been there the longest, who took the time to show me how it was done, was always Mexican or Central American.”
Bourdain called immigrants “the backbone of the industry, meaning most of the people, in my experience, cooking.” He pointed out that, in the 20 years he was hiring, he fielded few applications from U.S. citizens for low-level positions.
“Never in any of those years,” Bourdain said, “not once, did anyone walk into my restaurant — any American-born kid walk into my restaurant — and say, ‘I’d like a job as a night porter or as a dishwasher.'” He said many were “not willing to start at the bottom like that.”
Trump was in his crosshairs.
“If Mr. Trump deports 11 million people or whatever he’s talking about right now, every restaurant in America would shut down,” Bourdain said.
Bourdain was willing to have a discussion about policies going forward — to a point.
“Serious minds can honestly disagree over what we want to do in the future as far as how tightly we want to control our borders and how many people we want to let in,” he said, calling the idea of a border wall “ridiculous.” “… But for the people who’ve been living here, and who are so much part of our lives, and who have done nothing but do their best to achieve the American dream … there should be an easy path to legality.”
Dominick asked if other restaurateurs agreed.
“Yeah, because they’d be up the creek,” Bourdain said.
Bourdain, a frequent face on “Top Chef,” then took aim at the culinary-school-to-reality-show pipeline.
“There’s a struggle right now to get cooks in New York and Washington, D.C., and other major cities,” he said. “Because all the kids coming out of culinary school, they don’t want to do the prep job. They show up out of school with their little knife roll up and the white coffee filter on their head and say, ‘When do I get to be on Top Chef? When do I get my own show? What do mean I have to clean squid for a year?'”
Dominick then put Bourdain on the defensive by asking him whether kitchen workers should have health-care insurance.
“Um,” Bourdain said. “Look, it’s tough. It’s a very difficult business for small operators. … If you’re working full time at a restaurant, you should be able to afford to live in America.”