Anthony Bourdain talks Food, The Food Network and San Diego's Sea Urchin's
Our new dining critic Candice Woo talks to chef/author Anthony Bourdain in her first San Diego Magazine interview.
by Candice Woo
Photo by Courtesy Californa Center for the Arts
I’m so excited, and honored, to be San Diego Magazine’s newest eater and looking forward to sharing my food adventures with you. I celebrate all worthy food, from food trucks to fine dining restaurants, pho shops to farm-to-table eateries.
Check this space for the latest in local food news, the scoop on restaurant openings and reports on all the food-related fun I have between meals, like this recent interview with Anthony Bourdain, a personal food hero.
I’m normally a pretty cool customer, but I have to cop to taking a sip of whiskey before dialing Anthony Bourdain’s cell phone, though I figure that’s most likely what we’d have been drinking had we been face-to-face. You know how they say that you should never meet (or talk with) your heroes? Throughout our twenty-minute phone conversation, Bourdain proved the adage false by being generous, engaging, authentic and sharply funny; the man isn’t some contrived Food Network personality, he’s the real deal. (Bourdain brings his one-man stage show to Escondido’s Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, September 18 at 8 p.m. Tickets are still available and can be purchased here
Candice Woo: You’re coming to the San Diego area for a stage show in September. What will the format be?
Anthony Bourdain: I’ll be walking on stage, alone, and talking for an hour without any prepared remarks and then taking questions and having an open-ended discussion with the audience. That’s about it; there will be no t-shirt cannons, entourage or musical accompaniment or anything like that.
CW: Have you been to San Diego before?
AB: Quite a while ago and I doubt that I’m going to be able to get out much; I’m in and out of town really quickly this time.
CW: What was your last impression of the food in San Diego?
AB: I know that original chef of Les Halles , Jean-Michel (Diot), which was the restaurant in New York that I worked at for many years, has a restaurant in La Jolla called Tapenade that I ate at last time I was there. It was excellent; I was really happy to find it.
CW: Have you ever thought of San Diego as a destination for your Travel Channel show, No Reservations?
AB: I don’t think I know enough of it; we’ve only done one southern California show so far, in Los Angeles, and our challenge was to show a side of LA that no one’s ever seen before. It’s entirely possible if we can think of a way to make it different than other shows shot in the area and if we can find destinations that are off the beaten track. But it’s something that I haven’t looked into yet.
CW: Well, I know you’re a fan of sea urchin and our local sea urchins are amazing.
AB: Yes, they’re very, very good – some of the best, if not the best, in the country.
CW: We’ve got pretty great beer too.
CW: I know that you’re not a big fan of the Food Network. What do you think of their new network, the Cooking Channel, which used to be Fine Living?
AB: It holds out that promise - when they acquired the network they said that they’d reserve that channel for the stand-and-stir, sort of old school Jacques Pepin-style tutorials which I think there’s a real need for...ways to actually teach people about cooking. I don’t know whether that’s happening yet, what’s happening now seems to be a grab bag of leftovers. I’ve been led to believe that they’ll have a distinct style on Cooking Channel that’s different from the Food Network; that would be nice. Do I expect to turn on Cooking Channel and see twenty-four hours of creative, insightful, inspiring, informative and educational programming? No.
CW: Now that the Food Network’s parent company owns the Travel Channel, do you expect any influence, negative or otherwise, on your show?
AB: If there was, I wouldn’t be there. I’ve been operating there very happily for almost six years – we just finished shooting six seasons and over one hundred episodes. They’ve given me as much creative freedom as anyone has had in the history of television, in terms of where we go and how me and my crew make the show.
CW: In your new book, Medium Raw, you wish that America had more Asian-style food courts, a hope I also share. Do you think these one-dish, one-chef places will ever be able to co-exist with or challenge the popularity of typical mall food court chains?
AB: Maybe I’m being naïve but I think a combination of demonizing what American fast food has done to us, and is doing to us, combined with increased foodie-ism and interest in food trucks and small, authentic ethnic places could make it a possibility. We’re fortunate to have a lot of people from someplace else living in this country, looking for places to eat that taste like home, so I think there’s hope for all of us. People are hungry for something different.
CW: So I love the Lust chapter of your book, a collection of your hottest food porn prose. Since you’ve been able to travel and eat so extensively, do you ever worry that you’ll someday run out of new revelatory meals, and are they always as good as the first time?
AB: I am jaded to an extent; I think like a lot of chefs, I have a tendency to appreciate the simple, good things more and more. You know, like real Italian food in Italy, a little place that makes a decent bowl of pasta, with a glass of wine, good bread and local cheese - I don’t think that’s ever going to get old for me. And plus, it’s a big world. I’ve been a lot of places but I certainly haven’t been everywhere.
CW: Now, it’s a few hours to dinnertime where you are, do you know what and where you’ll be eating tonight?
AB: Yes! I’m very excited because Danny Meyer just opened a Shake Shack in my neighborhood. That’s a big deal here – it’s not as good as if In-N-Out Burger opened in New York, finally, and answered all of our dreams but it is pretty damn good. I’m going to head there with my wife and daughter.
See Anthony Bourdain when he brings his one-man stage show to Escondido’s Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, September 18 at 8 p.m. Tickets are still available and can be purchased here
. His new book, Medium Raw, is now in stores.
In addition to San Diego Magazine’s dining reviews, Candice Woo also writes The Main Dish monthly newsletter. Send her info on food events, restaurant and chef news or ask for a food tip at email@example.com.
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