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…