Part 1: An Evening with Anthony Bourdain

By Karen

On February 19, I was in my seat at the Durham (NC) Performing Arts Center 45 minutes before show time — and I’ve been lying about where it was.

When Anthony Bourdain kindly provided me a complimentary ticket to his show and VIP book signing a few weeks ago, I decided to keep my seating options open until I knew if his seat was better or worse than mine in the Grand Tier.

Tony’s was better. MUCH better. Fifteenth row orchestra, dead center.

The sold-out house of all ages hummed with anticipation. Tony came on stage to enthusiastic applause. He was dressed in black from head to toe, wearing a jacket over an open-necked, untucked shirt, achieving that rumpled, casual, yet somehow appropriate look he pulls off so elegantly.

He stood beside the podium, laying his left hand on it as a prop while he talked, glancing over at it occasionally. I thought perhaps he was referring to a topic outline because his transitions were so smooth and his delivery so easy and intimate before such a large crowd, I figured he had to have some notes.

Many of his tales and opinions were familiar to his fans, but he regaled us anyway. His profanity was judicious and well-placed. And he seemed totally in the moment, hearing and responding to some audience members who yelled out.

Although he said he’s watching mostly Nickelodeon with daughter Ariane these days, he hit the Food Network. First, he said he intends to lay off Rachael Ray because she’s such “low-hanging fruit.”

However, he’d relish seeing Martha Stewart square off against Rachael in a cooking competition. Naturally, Martha would win, “and then probably shank Ray in the green room afterward.”

He greatly admires Martha’s culinary prowess and technique, and said if one of his cooks ever conked out in his kitchen at Les Halles and Martha was dining out front, he’d trust her to jump in and man the empty station, saying, “You can always count on Martha to watch your back.”

He also praised his usual favorites: Ina Garten, Giada De Laurentis, and Nigella Lawson.

He called Sandra Lee’s Kwanzaa Cake a “war crime,” worries that Robin Miller’s skinny little arm will break every time she reaches for the fridge door, and feels sorry for Bobby Flay every time he gets thrown down.

Tony doesn’t know how teetotaler Andrew Zimmern eats bizarre food — especially all those balls — without benefit of alcohol, and why Adam Richman of Man vs. Food relishes piles of bad food. And all the delusional contestants on Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen remind him of the kids who used to pick their noses in school and eat the results.

As for No Reservations, when he recently filmed in Sri Lanka, he felt so jet-lagged and lousy the first three days, he almost began to question what he was doing, but the show had to go on and he got over it.

His favorite NR episodes, stylistically, have been Cleveland and Venice.

Bourdain revealed that he loathes Lou Dobbs, I gathered, for his stance on immigration, since Tony said in the same breath that he himself advocates amnesty for all Mexican kitchen workers.

He also thinks that Garrison Keillor has done to poetry “what Hitler did to Poland.”

And he has no love for author James Frey, who tried to pass off A Million Little Pieces as a memoir. Tony read the book hot off the press and said, “I didn’t need Oprah to tell me it was a fake.” Because he felt it did a disservice to people seeking help for drug addiction, he’d “cross a street to punch Frey and wish him a shitty day.”

A Q&A session followed Tony’s talk, and maybe 4 questions were asked from all those the audience submitted, and they were nothing ground-breaking. But here’s Tony’s answer to, “When will you go vegan?”

“When Sandra Lee and I have our 4th love child. When I join the road show of Mama Mia. Or when I give Billy Joel that long, lingering massage I’ve been promising him.”

It was a good night, and it was about get even better as the audience filed out, leaving behind those of us who had passes to the VIP book signing backstage. Stay tuned…


27 Responses to Part 1: An Evening with Anthony Bourdain

  1. MorganLF says:

    Tease! I saw the show live..but I did not get a personal orchestra seat, like some people! How could you keep this from us?? So it’s not the show recap we crave, get to the good stuff……PLEASE

  2. catsworking says:

    Ah Morgan, you will be glad you waited when you learn the rest of the story. I feel an obligation to do this right out of respect for the Bourdains, and especially since it will be sitting out there in cyberspace for eternity (or until this blog dies, whichever comes first).

    I am preparing the graphics now. Don’t worry. It’s coming. (Now how many MEN have said that to you before? 🙂 )

  3. Terry Moran says:

    Bourdain had better bring some chloroform if he’s serious about massaging Billy Joel. Joel would deck him if he came within 10 feet. They’ve got an old feud going on which Bourdain loves to exacerbate.

  4. MorganLF says:

    OK,no pressure. It will be hard to post though..WITH AN IV HOOKED UP TO MY ARM!! Still on a hunger strike, unless vodka and Marlboro’s count as sustenance. See what I am reduced to?
    No pressure….

  5. adele says:

    I couldn’t wait to get up this morning to read the first installment. I’m in Tucson, staying at a friend’s house (the weather is fabulous, btw), and I barely said, “Good Morning,” before heading to the computer. My friend finds this somewhat bizarre, and she doesn’t even know that I also correspond with the cats.

    Karen, you’re certainly good at building suspense.

  6. adele says:

    Oh yeah, Morgan, I’m dying to get to the good stuff, too, but your comments are priceless; I hope you can make it without being hospitalized.

  7. MorganLF says:

    I’m all amped up..with the waiting.

    I went over to his blog on the Travel Chanel, the posts from the Philippine episode are just SO tedious and as I’m feeling vile tempered and reckless from my hunger strike, I posted that my recollection of Philippine food is “gnarl covered in fish sauce”.

    I guess I’m about to take a beating over there.

  8. sh!tstarter says:

    We’re all anxiously waiting and hanging on your words!Did you get that hug? Apparently he at least put his arm on your shoulder since you said you weren’t washing the right shoulder of your sweater.

  9. catsworking says:

    Sh!tstarter, you will have photographic evidence of how “physical” it got with Bourdain tomorrow. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it looks like he got more of a feel of me than he ever expected, but I couldn’t help it. I’m just built that way.

    Morgan, you really do love being the turd in the punchbowl, don’t you? My kind of woman! I just checked out your comment on Tony’s blog about the Philippines. It had accumulated a mountain more comments than when I last looked. If he ever feels his confidence flagging, all he has to do is read those to get a big head. And I bet there are more than one Filipino sculptor working on life-size statues of him with a pig right now.

  10. Melissa says:

    Oh what a tease this was! But admit it, it really was true that he looks better in real life, wasn’t it?

  11. Bob says:

    Ok Karen, Bourdain gets a good grope of you in your V neck sweater, and we get hotdogs and teases….

    We want STEAK Dammit.. I am wigging out, I can’t even download the Philippines episode.. Its not up on any of my usual haunts..

    So I can guess from your teases that you got your hug, and some acknowledgment from him on the Cats Working Phenomenon..

    So Do Tell has HE ever posted hear in disguise??
    Not that he would tell you anyways.

    PLEASE PRETTY PLEASE Give us the good stuff.
    Just hook it to my veins!!!!!


    PS Can I start prepping for a Winnipeg Show???

  12. Nickole says:


    Try You Tube. The episode’s been up there for a couple of days now.

  13. Bob says:

    Thanks I have been avoiding the You Tube cause the Quality bites the big one, buzz is I am not missing much on this episode anyways.

    Looking forward to Manhattan


  14. Nancy (not THAT Nancy) says:

    I am writhing on the floor speaking in tongues. I can’t handle the suspense. I may join Morgan over on the Travel Channel blog and kick the proverbial cat before they serve it up, gnarled, with fish sauce.

  15. MorganLF says:

    Thanks for the Bourdanian turd reference, but I prefer to think of myself as the O’Henry bar in the pool..(unabashed Caddy Shack reference)!

    Nancy you made me guffaw!

    Adele, in my weakened condition do you really think its fair to brag on your FABULOUS WEATHER???

    Bob, Winnipeg got lost somewhere between the red sweater grope and what’s to come…

    Need nourishment…may not make it to tomorrow, ambulance sirens wail in the distance…

  16. Nancy (not THAT Nancy) says:

    “…I’m all right…” :::does gopher dance:::

  17. MorganLF says:

    … that you?

  18. Morgan, while I admire your hunger strike, I’ve decided to go a different route. I’ve been checking in all day and nothing….so, as any good college student would do (shut-up, I know I’m 38 years old – I’m still a college student), I’ll be binge drinking until the details are posted here. So, both of our lives are in her hands at this point. Hope you don’t die of starvation or me of alcohol poisoning (although with my tolerance that could be while).


    Off to post something obnoxious on AB’s blog just for fun…..I may be back later with a drunken rant…

  19. Nancy (not THAT Nancy) says:

    SMMTAM…ok so now we have to figure out who “Joy” is on the TC blog, a woman who apparently has the misfortune of having a little too much sand in her vagina.

  20. Told you I’d be back for a drunk comment.

    Left Joy a little nugget on AB’s blog too. I was tempted, but did not quote your “sand in her vagina” line. 🙂 Why do they get so worked up about these comments??!!

    Anyway, I’m well on my way to alcohol poisoning. I sure hope SOMEONE shares some info soon….

  21. catsworking says:

    Morgan, I can see you as the O’Henry in the pool. Definitely more stylish than my turd image.

    You guys are killing me with these comments. You all really need to get a life. I hope Part II alleviates a lot of the tension.

    In case you weren’t an early bird this morning, Part 3 was inadvertently out here for about 3 hours before I caught it and rescheduled it to appear TOMORROW morning. I don’t want to overload your circuits. However, if you read it, you already know the whole story, but please keep it to yourself and don’t spoil it for everyone who’s been suffering since Friday, OK?

    Bob, I can tell you with 99.9% certainty that Bourdain himself has never posted on Cats Working, but don’t ask me how I know that. If I told you, I’d have to come up to Winnipeg and kill you. Let’s just say I got it from an “unimpeachable source who spoke only on condition of anonymity.”

    You’ll find out his connection to Cats Working in Part 3.

  22. catsworking says:

    Now I’m curious about this Joy as well. Any idea on which beach we should start searching?

  23. catsworking says:

    Melissa, While I watched Bourdain in action, I was very much aware of how familiar I found all his facial expressions and gestures. Watching every episode of No Res multiple times seems to have definitely imprinted him on my brain.

    His hair was longer than mine all over, and he really had to scrunch down to get on my level for the picture, but he seemed used to doing that because he went right into the pose.

    And that big, goofy grin of his could melt glaciers. So, yes, I’d have to agree that he’s even better-looking in person.

  24. missedconceptions says:

    I came here looking for info on Tony’s child (who I now know has a name (!!) as does his wife (!!)) and I got caught up in all of your AB posts.

    Excellent stuff, although I lost (or enriched, depending on how you think of it) hours of my life catching up on everything. The drama! The Christmas card! The Ottavia turn-about!

    Anyways, I worked with Andrew Zimmern in Minnesota. I liked him, but everyone else thought he was a huge ass – egotistical, self-centered, and obnoxious. (He only like me because I was in a Ph.D. program and — to use his words — “not stupid,” which was what he assumed that everyone else was until proven otherwise.) It is so funny to watch his TV persona because it is so NOT the guy that I knew off camera, and I worked with him for several years. I also am friends with one of his former producers from the Travel Channel, and she always shudders when someone goes on and on about how nice Andrew is.

    So, what you see on TV is not always what you get in real life. That being said, I would still take TV Tony!

  25. catsworking says:

    Welcome, missedconceptions! Better to be late coming to the party than never. I guess I have accumulated quite a trove of Bourdainia here. I’m waiting for someone to invite me to become his official biographer. 😉

    Now that I’ve met the man, I’m waiting for him to turn up in Richmond, VA, for part deux, but I’m not holding my breath. I’ve lived here 37 years and can’t think of any particular cuisine that would draw him. Maybe he’ll throw us a bone and do a book signing some day.

    LOVED your scoop on Zimmern. He’s been accused of dissing other cultures on his show. I guess sometimes he comes across as the Ugly American, criticizing food as weird. I did once see him spit out durian, a highly smelly fruit Bourdain loves. I don’t watch Zimmern much because whatever’s eating gags me.

    If you haven’t already seen them, catch the episodes of Bizarre Foods and No Reservations, both in New York City, where Bourdain and Zimmern guest on each other’s shows. Zimmern takes a few stabs at fawning, but Bourdain doesn’t buy it.

  26. missedconceptions says:

    My husband told me they guest starred on each other’s shows, but I haven’t seen it yet. They both grew up in NYC, so that seems a logical location.

    I can’t watch Andrew’s show for the same reason — my overactive gag reflex. He makes a living on shock value not, as does AB, an interesting point-of-view and personality, so I am confident I am not missing much.

    One question: how did you ever come to know about Ottavia sending you the VIP pass and the card? Did you correspond with her or did he tell you? I must have missed something.

  27. catsworking says:

    Missed, the story of Ottavia is here, I think mainly in the 3-part series I wrote about meeting Bourdain in Durham. Check the February 2009 archive. I found out Ottavia discovered Cats Working, told Tony, and suggested he send me a Christmas card last year. I sent him a thank-you note, and they must have kept reading Cats Working because when I said I was going to Durham, I got the VIP pass.

    Andrew Zimmern is a Bourdain wannabe. He travels to the same exotic places, but the focus of his show is the food and him eating the food.

    Bourdain’s show places more emphasis on the locations and the people. The show’s slogan used to be, “Be a traveler, not a tourist.” And the writing he does for his voice-over is often brilliantly inspired. That he was once a chef and gets to know people through their food is another dimension that puts No Reservations a step above other travel shows.

    Think Samantha Brown. She’s cute, perky, loves to shop. But she’s not even in Bourdain’s league.

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