Monday, January 7, 2008
by Joseph Hudak
Tonight, the always-candid chef-writer Anthony Bourdain begins his fourth season of redefining and re-energizing the staid travelogue genre with his sharp and often hysterical series Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations (10 pm/ET, Travel). First up: A culinary tour of Singapore. Bourdain served up his take on the upcoming season and today's celebrity chefs.
TVGuide.com: So did you have a Singapore Sling or two?
Anthony Bourdain: No, absolutely not. Nobody in Singapore drinks Singapore Slings. It's one of the first things you find out there. What you do in Singapore is eat. It's a really food-crazy culture, where all of this great food is available in a kind of hawker-stand environment.
TVGuide.com: Where else do you travel this season?
Bourdain: New Orleans. Berlin. Romania/Transylvania. And Jamaica. The Jamaica show has easily the single scariest, most terrifying scene we've ever done. We went caving, or spelunking, at this guano-slicked cavern in the middle of the jungle. It was mind-blowingly frightening.
TVGuide.com: Your uncensored, blunt voice-overs often leave us wondering, "Did he really just say that?" How much grief do you get from the suits at Travel about your narration?
Bourdain: I have to say they've been really good. They've let stuff sail through that I was frankly surprised by. I'm on TV on the strength of a fairly obnoxious, overtestosteroned, salty book [2000's Kitchen Confidential]. So nobody expected me to morph into Tyler Florence overnight. They had a pretty good idea what was coming.
TVGuide.com: The last time we interviewed you, you said the three things you don't travel without are Imodium, your iPod and your cigarettes. Has that changed?
Bourdain: Yeah, I quit smoking about four and a half months ago. I'm a daddy now. I have an 8-month-old daughter and I can't smoke around her in my apartment. I live on a high floor and I had to go 11 floors down every time I wanted a cigarette. It just became harder to smoke than to quit.
TVGuide.com: Do you worry about your cholesterol?
Bourdain: Funny you mention that, because I was just together with a whole lot of chefs. And one of them joked that back in the day, we'd all get together and talk about the job or girls or cars or whatever. Now all we talk about is, "How's your cholesterol level?" [Laughs] Every chef I know, their cholesterol is through the roof. And mine's not so great.
TVGuide.com: You've been at odds with the idea of the celebrity chef — lately Rachael Ray.
Bourdain: I'm exhausted by the certain knowledge that no matter what I do or say, she's just going to get bigger and more popular and more influential. It's railing against the tide — or the surf at this point! [Laughs] I can only hope that when she rules the world, she allows me to live.
Bourdain: Since the very beginning, Emeril's had a sense of humor about me calling him names and poking fun at him. Unlike Rachael and unlike a lot of these guys, Emeril's a professional who came up in the business the hard way. You don't make it in the restaurant business to the degree he's made it by having a thin skin. He's been very gracious and funny to me since the beginning.
TVGuide.com: His Emeril Live was recently canceled....
Bourdain: I think he deserves a lot better. The last thing I guess you should expect from a television network is to be grateful. But it seems to me that if anyone has earned that, it's him. I love Mario [Batali's] shows on the Food Network, too, but he's gone as well. I don't know who's left standing.
TVGuide.com: Guy Fieri maybe?
Bourdain: Guy Fieri... did you ever see the Simpsons episode where it's decided that Itchy and Scratchy need a sidekick? So a committee gets together and they invent one called Poochie.... Guy Fieri kind of looks like he's been designed by committee.
TVGuide.com: Would you ever want to go back and cook full-time?
Bourdain: I just did, actually. I went back to Les Halles for the first time in six and a half years to work [for an upcoming No Reservations]. I worked a double shift, which was my old Tuesday double shift. I came in at 8 am and worked the line straight through lunch and dinner. And, oh man, I got my ass kicked. It was not easy.