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Bourdain weighs in on East-vs.-West debate

Tim Parsons
Lake Tahoe Action

Bourdain: It’s a one-man thing. There are no bands. No audio visual aides. No props. I just walk out onstage and start talking and at some point I’ll open it up for questions or comments from the crowd, and hopefully they’ll be provocative or even crazed questions. Anything can happen.

Bourdain: No. An enthusiast maybe. I don’t make any claim to impartiality or fairness. I wear my prejudices on my sleeve. I’m hopelessly compromised by my associations and my memberships in various subculture of chefs so I don’t think I could ever be a journalist in the truest sense of the word.

Bourdain: True enough, but I won’t.

Bourdain: I know the people in the restaurant business responded because it was one of the first books in a long time to talk about the real job, what’s unglamorous, hard, competitive work, and I don’t think anybody had really talked about that side of the business.

Bourdain: Oh yeah. It’s the best. I only go where I want to go. I decide where we’re going and how we’re going to make the show. I’m making new friends. I have about as much creative freedom as anyone’s ever had in television. I have the best job in the world. It’s a lot of fun.

Bourdain: That’s exactly right. We would like things to be as close to normal as possible. We do not want a dog and pony or ethnic dancers dressed up in traditional, indigenous garb. While of course we do change things just by showing up, we want to make as little influence as possible. Often, we spend a lot of time and do a lot of drinking to make that happen or allow that to happen. We let people get used to us. We work really hard to not look like the other guys but also to try to look different from what we did the week before.

Bourdain: If we’re shooting a scene for a show that will end up being five to seven minutes long. A meal at a rice farmer’s home, I might say. That represents somewhere between five and eight hours of hanging around, drinking, petting the family dog, playing with the kids, hanging out with grandma in the kitchen. You know, my whole crew of four people. After you’ve spent the day like that, and you’re eating and drinking with the family, hopefully they get kind of used to you. You’re more like annoying relatives than an army of reigning interlopers.

Bourdain: I love Spain. I love Italy, Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam. I’m obviously crazy about Southeast Asia. But Spain and Italy are always a joy for me too. It’s just endlessly fascinating and joyous.

Bourdain: Innovative, cutting-edge chefs as well as just great everyday food, Spain’s got it all.

Bourdain: I don’t have any problem with it. If they tell me it’s OK, I’m going to believe them. They’re going to great lengths to test the seafood. Obviously, and for very good reasons, they were terrified and very, very concerned. I’m sure that the impact has been horrendous but I think if independent testing has said that certain stuff is fine, I will eat it. I will do whatever I can to help get things back to normal.

Bourdain: Sure. I don’t like licorice at all. I don’t like rose and floral-scented desserts. I’m not big on scallops. I’ll eat them, but it’s not something I like very much. Other than that, I’d like to think I have a pretty open mind.

Bourdain: When you’re talking about New York, it’s the big leagues in the sense that just the fact that we have enough rich people in a relatively small area sufficient to support a very large number of high-end restaurants, that of course attracts cooks. … There are 20-30 cooks at each. Those are basically training academies. So just the fact that we have so much business and so much money kicking around has led to a high concentration of high-end restaurants. I think mid-range restaurants in San Francisco, I think a good argument can be made, that they are stronger. Certainly low-end restaurants in L.A. with the strip mall Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese culture might be stronger than we’ve got in New York. I think it’s a sweeping general statement to say who is better. There are certainly more celebrated, world-renowned, high-end chefs in New York than there are in San Francisco or Los Angeles. That’s just the facts.

Bourdain: Yes. I’m writing a novel.

Bourdain: Misplaced New Yorkers doing terrible things to each other in the Caribbean.

We just aired our 101st episode.

Bourdain: Tahoe, never. I’m looking forward to it.


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