Anthony Bourdain: "There Has Never Been a Better Time to Eat in America"
Anthony Bourdain is a man who requires little introduction. The author of Kitchen Confidential -- the book published almost exactly 10 years ago, which catapulted him to fame -- and host of popular TV shows like A Cook's Tour and No Reservations, Bourdain is the prototypical bad-boy chef, Marco Pierre White meets Iggy Pop.
These days, Bourdain has become considerably tamer and has even given up smoking. But that doesn't mean his wit or his tongue are any less sharp. In advance of his one-night-only Q&A at Jones Hall on September 20, I spoke to Bourdain by phone this morning to get his feelings on "foodies," fetishes, Vietnamese food in Houston, Mexicans in the kitchen and The Godfather III.
Anthony Bourdain: Hello there!
EOW: It is completely and utterly bizarre to hear your voice on the other end of my phone.
Bourdain: ...okay? [laughs]
EOW: In a good way.
Bourdain: Oh, all right!
EOW: What I mean is that my boyfriend has been on a No Reservations kick lately. So he's been streaming every episode of No Reservations you've made on Netflix for the past couple of weeks, every single night.
Bourdain: Oh my God. So my voice has been droning away in the background full-time lately? Great. Sorry, man. I feel your pain. [laughing]
EOW: It's okay. I enjoy it. So, big question first: How long will you be in Houston?
Bourdain: A few hours, basically. We're gonna roll in in the afternoon. If I get a shower and some chips out of the hotel mini-bar, I'll be way ahead of the game. Then off to the gig. I would like to think that I'll have some time to grab some Vietnamese food but I hear my favorite Vietnamese restaurant burned down recently.
EOW: It did...
EOW: Yeah, Mai's.
Bourdain: And I don't know that I'll be out in time. I usually have to be up at 4 in the morning, too. I have sort of a distorted experience when I do these gigs.
EOW: Will it be your first time in Houston?
Bourdain: I've been through a couple of times.
EOW: I'm surprised you've been to Mai's.
Bourdain: Yeah, somebody from a local paper brought me there years ago and I just loved the place. It was some of the best Vietnamese food I've had in the country. And we shot around Houston for A Cook's Tour years ago.
EOW: Do you remember anything that stood out to you?
Bourdain: We did some barbecue and worked with a guy named Dave Klose who builds custom barbecue grills. Really crazy ones. It's been a long time, like eight years.
EOW: Then you already know that one of our biggest things here is Vietnamese food.
Bourdain: Oh yes.
EOW: That's one of the things we do best. If you have time, I'd have to recommend the Pho Binh trailer. It's just a little trailer in South Houston and it's fantastic.
Bourdain: That sounds right in my happy zone. If I have any opportunity to do that, that's exactly what I'll do.
EOW: Speak of having favorites, how do you feel about the fetishization of foods like bacon or cupcakes? Things that are everywhere and have kind of become a parody of themselves?
Bourdain: Yeah, I mean, I benefit very much from the fetishization of food. I'm guilty of it. I do it all the time myself. I see how absurd it is to do that. I think it's easy to sneer at, laugh at, make fun of it and find fault with fetishisizing food. On moral grounds and for a lot of other reasons. But basically, we're quibbling over various degrees of snobbery here. It's okay to fetishize a bowl of pho, but cupcakes are so last year, you know? Even pork belly - it's over! But, I don't know... What's worse, to fetishize food or ankles? Or rubber underwear? It's six of one, half a dozen of another. I guess I'm marginally for it rather than against it, although I'm fully aware of how ludicrous it can be.