Anthony bourdin talked about “appetite”, washing dishes and food he still wouldn’t eat.
The TV host’s new documentary is wasted! The story of food waste. In 2016, Bourdain and Fresh Air talked about his little girl’s cooking: “if she’s not happy, I’m not happy.”
DAVE DAVIES, host:
This is fresh air. I’m David Davis, for terry gross. Our guest, Anthony Bourdain, brought television viewers around the world to explore local culture and food, and to provide his own unique commentary on what we saw. His series “Anthony brendan: the unknown” is now in its 10th season. Bourdain also has a documentary, “waste,” about how much food we waste and what we can do.
Before he found himself writing and telling stories, brendan spent decades in the restaurant business as a chef in New York who described him as a working class beer hotel. He then wrote a best-selling book, “kitchen secrets,” and began producing and starring in food TV shows where he liked and visited. He is used to speaking his mind, which has led to open battles with others in the food field over the years. Last fall, when I was meeting with Anthony borden, he published a new recipe called “appetite.”
So, Anthony bourdin, welcome to the fresh air. I want to start with the reading of this book. Share with us.
ANTHONY BOURDAIN :(reading) what do ordinary people do? What makes a normal happy family? How do they behave? What do they eat at home? How do they live their lives? In most of my working life, I have no clue how to answer these questions because I have been living on the edge. I don’t know any normal people. From the age of 17, normal people are my customers. They were abstract, and in the dining room of any place where I worked, it was literally a shadow silhouette. I from the perspective of the lifelong professional cooks and chefs to look at them, this is a man without family life, only know and linked with other restaurant professionals, professional staff of the restaurant in normal people playing and playing normally while working people sleep.
This is to anticipate their immediate wishes, as far as the behavior of a normal person I know or understand. Will they order chicken or salmon? I usually only see them when they’re at their worst – hungry, drunk, horny, grumpy, celebrating luck or getting rid of bad things on their servers. What they do at home, what they might wake up on Sunday morning, make pancakes for their kids, read comics, throw balls in the backyard, and that’s what I know from the movies.
BOURDAIN: yes, yes.
Davis: you seem to be living a normal life. You grew up in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and your parents sound like ordinary people. Why don’t you get along with normal people?
BOURDAIN: I don’t know. I am an angry child. You know, as a kid from the Kennedy years, I missed the summer of love, and I didn’t have enough time to deal with what was happening in subculture. So when I was a teenager, I was disappointed, very disappointed, and very disappointed with the way the country was going. I seem to have missed the good times. For whatever reason, I am absolutely a child of anger, pain, nihilism, destructiveness and self-destructiveness.
Davis: when you were 13, you were sour. Is that true?
BOURDAIN: yes. Like most 13-year-olds, I think – especially 13-year-old boys – you know, I’m embarrassed. I lack confidence. I’m looking for a template for some personality. I imagine, like many people, I found myself in drugs. I define myself with the drugs I take, and I agree with those who have done similar drugs. Those who do LSD, cannabis and other drugs, those are the people I want to hang out with.
BOURDAIN: yes. So, I started doing dishwasher work in the summer. It was a big deal for me, because I was lazy by then. This is the first discipline, the first organization, because it is a very militaristic organization, the kitchen brigade, the respect of the first person, and I want the first time in my life – I got home, feel respect. I mean, I’ll work — it’s a very hard job. You must get there on time. There are certain absolute rules. For whatever reason, I responded. It was a chaotic mess, but there was a decent order, and I think I needed it.
Davis: it is interesting to note that you describe is the subject, because when people think of the people in the restaurant is a very wild and hedonistic lifestyle, people will think of a lot of things, this time things will last forever.
BOURDAIN: basically, it’s a factory job, because the religious beliefs of any successful or busy restaurant are consistent. You have to cook the same dish in the same way. I am a happy dishwasher. I joke that I have learned every important lesson, and that the most important lesson is the dishwasher. In some ways, it’s true, but it’s a very organized thing. I mean, no one in the restaurant business is going to continue to be part of the order, which requires a lot of people, on time. You – this is – it’s not a team sport, but it’s a team event. If you let the team fail, everyone will crash.
Davies: your big break came from the huge bestseller “kitchen secrets”, starting with an article you wrote. Tell us the story.
Pording: well, I wrote an article about a free paper called New York news, and they sent it out of the little box in the corner. You know, they gave me $100. You know, I think their standards are low enough and they will accept it. My intention was to entertain other people in the restaurant business in the New York area. I think that would be really cool.
I am a fan of George Orwell’s “fall in Paris and London”. The description of the life of another dishwasher aroused my interest. I kind of want to get this reaction among the other chefs.
DAVIES: for people who don’t know…
Davies:… What is the essence of your story?
BOURDAIN: I just wanted to write about my life from the point of view of a skilled chef who didn’t have a special distinction, to be honest. Maybe – I don’t mind going to the public to scare them, but that’s not the intention. I want to write about our business, our way of life, with the kind of over-excited (high speed) hyperbolic prose that I’m familiar with in the kitchen. But the client, the intended reader, is always a colleague who can get it, and I hope they can get it and respond.
So I wrote this article. They said they would accept it. They’ve been bumping into it. Every week, I would run into a box in the corner and open the magazine – open the paper, I wasn’t the problem. Finally, in a moment of frustration, I think my mother said to me, well, you should send it to the New Yorker. You know, I know someone there. They read it. I think, very well, of course, the New Yorker, the possibility — the possibility — is more likely to be published than the beam.
Davis: it didn’t happen, yeah.
BOURDAIN: so I sent it. To my surprise, a few weeks later, the phone rang in the kitchen. This is David Remnick’s phone. They ran away. And, I mean – I have a book contract – I can get a written deal in a few days. When the book came out, it quickly changed my life – I mean, it changed everything.
Davies: now, this book and this article are like catching your attention, you don’t know what’s going on inside the restaurant and all sorts of things. But, I mean, this is – writing is very powerful. If you write in cooking – creative workshops, creative writing classes, right?
BOURDAIN: no, I was writing a writers workshop with Gordon Lish, a creative writing teacher who was notorious for many years ago. But I never wrote it. I think, to a large extent, the “kitchen secret” sounds like it because I just don’t have the luxury or the heavy time to sit down and think about the mysteries of the universe.
I had to get up at 5 am and write for an hour and a half, and then I had to go to work to do a real job. So I — I’m here. From what I realized, I didn’t have time to think about what I was writing. I certainly have no customers or readers, because I am sure no one will ever read it. This is a very liberal place in many ways. Since then, I’ve tried to stick to this business model.
DAVIES: Anthony Bourdain’s series “unknown accessories” is now in season 10 on CNN. Let’s have a rest for a while. This is fresh air.
(the voice of deep blue organic sambo “tell me to look good”)
Davis: it’s fresh air. We’re listening to an interview with Anthony bolden last year. His CNN series, “unknown parts,” is now in its 10th season. He also has a new documentary about food waste, called waste.
Well, you’re on your third TV show right now. You made a program called “no booking” for the food channel, right?
DAVIES: and then “The Layover”, 48 hours…
BOURDAIN: actually, before that, there was “A Cook’s Tour,” so…
Davis: ok. Yes, yes.
BOURDAIN: the third network, the fourth.
Davis: yes. Now, you’re touring the “unknown part” around the world. I think we’ll start with a clip. This is the beginning of your trip to Borneo in this series. Let’s hear how it started.
(” ANTHONY BOURDAIN: part unknown “)
BOURDAIN: when I first walked down the river, I felt sick with love, a bad kind, a fist in my heart. I ran away, but I didn’t escape it. It has been with me all the way up. That was the first episode of a previous episode ten years ago. But here I went back to the long house in the jungle.
Davies: that’s from your series of “unknown accessories”. You know, these are travelogues, some personal essays and a lot of food. It seems very personal. What do you want – why do you want to return to this small village in Borneo after 10 years?
BOURDAIN: I’m a little bit – I think I want to see how things change. Some people say — some travel writers say, you know, you — when you travel, what you really see is the heart that has always been there. The first time I went up that river, from the Skrang river in the ancient jin to the Iban house in the jungle, I was heartbroken (ph). My love didn’t come the way I wanted it to.
I think in many ways, the motivation for the show – the second – is to see if it’s still injured, you know, just to see how I feel. So it’s very personal. I thought I was going back to the same long house. Yes, let’s see how the community has changed. But, really, it’s revisiting an old wound to see if it’s okay.
Davis: there was a time in this powerful scene – I mean, in this episode, you’re standing in the pouring rain with a spear in your hand. You have been honoured by the village. Explain this.
BOURDAIN: well, I think twice, when I went to this event — when I came to the village as a distinguished guest, they killed a pig to celebrate the feast. The whole village is eating. The pig part is fair. This is a big deal. But for the first time, I don’t think I ever killed an animal. I mean, I’ve been ordering them to be cooks on the phone, so I’m responsible for the deaths of many animals. But here, I was asked to Pierce a spear into the heart of a pig.
In my opinion, the height of hypocrisy, though I may have been uncomfortable with it, put it on someone else. You know, I was responsible for the deaths of many animals. I was asked – I don’t want to let the team down. I don’t want to humiliate the village or embarrass anyone.
The first time was very, very, very difficult. My camera guy almost fainted. This is, of course, very difficult for me. Second, although I want to say it’s still hard to – I think I said in the voice, I don’t know what it says to me, may be a very bad thing, I will become a – you know, with the passage of time I have changed, I like to a great extent, considering the good. But I also became more ruthless. I have been able to Pierce the heart of a screaming pig and live more comfortably than I did for the first time. I can lie and say it always makes me miserable, because, but, you know, I think that kind of ugly feeling or lack of it, I think I should mention it.
Davis: yes. You said I didn’t hesitate or regret this time.
Davies: but when the screams stop, it’s a relief.
BOURDAIN: yes, no one – no good people like to hear or see the animal’s pain. This is terrible. I mean, I work very hard to get the job done as soon as possible. Yes, exactly.
Davies: there was an unforgettable episode in your recent trip to Vietnam. And you – I don’t remember if you said that in one episode, or if I read it somewhere else – you said the world was leaning toward you at the home of Vietnamese rice farmers.
BOURDAIN: yes. I think when I first went to Vietnam, I just — I remember thinking, I just — I had to have more of that. That’s what I want to do with the rest of my life…