6 years ago, I lived in Belgium for over half the year. I had a chance to travel around Europe eating all sorts of interesting things. In addition, it was my first real experience cooking for myself on a consistent basis, so I learned a lot of pairing interesting flavors and taking chances. When I got back to good ol’ Pennsylvania, my sister recommended I check out this new travel show called No Reservations. She pretty much summed it up as follows: “it’s this crazy chef named Anthony Bourdain who drinks a lot, does drugs, and eats all sorts of weird shit around the world.”
As someone who appreciates authentically experiencing a culture based on what they eat, I naturally gravitated towards Bourdains’ humorously blunt and insightful take on the world around him. So when the opportunity presented itself to see him 20 minutes from my apartment, I jumped on it and brought my girlfriend along for the ride.
Prior to the show, we went to get Mediterranean food at Olea in Fort Greene. It was a superbly tasting, filling and moderately priced meal. We got the beet dip, lamb meatballs with tomato sauce and spicy whipped sheep’s feta, white anchovies with arugula, falafel-encrusted artichoke hearts with eggplant salad, and for entree we got farro pasta with veggies and manchego. More often than not, you appreciate the variety of trying a bunch of different things for Tapas, but feel as though you have to break the bank to be full. However, Olea was not the case. By the time the farro came out, we were already stuffed from the Tapas, so we took most of it to go.
Comfortably full, we made the trek of 4 blocks to BAM for An Evening with Anthony Bourdain. Both my girlfriend and I had literally no expectations or presumptions on what would happen, so when a large the screen began showing what was presumably a fake advertisement for a Anthony Bourdain doll that smoked cigarettes.
When he finally took the stage, what ensued was, at its core, a 60-minute Powerpoint presentation. However, that’s not to say that it wasn’t funny and insightful. Topics ranged from dissing Paula Deen to explaining how to get away with doing drugs on camera and how food can connect the unlikeliest people such as Ted Nugent who is obviously a hardcore Republican and an Arab who believes the Jews blew up the World Trade Center. Also, he made a point to mention that his main two reasons for making the switch to CNN were a larger budget (ie more money for him presumably as well) and access to film in more turbulent countries such as Congo and Libya. From CNN’s perspective, I can understand why they would want to access to Anthony’s hardcore audience.
Following his presentation, he opened up the floor to questions. On whole, I thought they were AWFUL questions that lacked creativity and quirkiness worthy of Anthony’s answer. There were multiple, “when are you coming to INSERT CITY/COUNTRY” questions.
When I saw him at the Philadelphia Library on his “No Reservations” Book Tour, I was thoroughly impressed with such questions as “When you go on death row for killing Rachael Ray, what would be your last meal.” Brooklyn is a such a creative place filled with passionate people, so can you get tramped over by Philly.
The WORST question by far addressed the recent debate of whether or not chefs are Rockstars. Thankfully, Anthony immediately dismissed that claim. There is no Keith Richards of food and there never will be.
The BEST question was whether or not chefs should accommodate Vegans, which I felt he handled quite excellently. Simply put if you have a large restaurant, the reality is that there should be flexibility to have Vegan dishes or dishes that can be prepared Vegan because you can’t afford to turn away potential customers. On the other hand, if you’re a smaller establishment with an equally small menu, someone who changes the menu everyday, or have a strict tasting menu, you can say fuck off to vegans and vegetarians.
Despite being promised 90-120 minutes for the show with the reality was something close 75 minutes, I’d rather it end on a high note than drag on with even more moronic questions. I laughed a lot. And I even felt inspired by everything he’s accomplished and everywhere he’s been. Money well spent.