I adore food, I love to travel, and it is my dream to write for a living.
As you might imagine, writer, chef, Travel Channel star and bon vivant Anthony Bourdain is an idol of mine.
When I saw the erstwhile chef of Les Halles Brasserie and current host of "No Reservations" would be making an appearance at the Memorial Auditorium in September, I called up my liaison at The Sacramento Press and begged her to let me cover the event.
A couple days later I got a note in my inbox:
"Lindol, they’re happy to have you cover the event on the condition that you don’t mind doing a preview, and interviewing Mr. Bourdain."
I’ve never said "yes" with more enthusiasm.
A few days after that, I got a note from his assistant, Laurie, with a phone number and time to call.
Two p.m. Monday the 16th arrived in a hurry.
I took a deep breath and clumsily dialed the number I had been given. The phone rang twice before being picked up by the man himself.
And thus began my interview with Tony Bourdain.
I introduced myself and told him what a thrill it was for me to talk to him before getting down to business.
I started by asking him what his fans can expect at the show.
"Anything can happen,” he said. “It really depends on what’s been bugging me that week."
It’s unscripted. Although he recently released a new book, "Medium Raw," he probably won’t be reading excerpts from it. ("This isn’t a book tour.")
The only thing he could guarantee is that a significant portion of the show will be dedicated to questions from the audience.
So on Sept. 17, you’ll have the chance to ask Tony whatever you’d like. Here’s what happened when I was given that opportunity:
Have you been to Sacramento? Have you spent much time here?
I haven’t spent much time, unfortunately. I’ve been through for one night, and didn’t get a chance to see anything.
Well, we’re glad to have you. I have a question about your writing. Have you always written? Did you write even in the bad old days? Is it something you were always driven to do?
No, not really, no. I’ve been given a chance to write, and I did. I wasn’t working on unpublished manuscripts while I was cooking, I had a full-time job.
What country do you think has the best street food? That’s a passion of mine.
Street food. . . . It’ll probably be Vietnam or Singapore.
Since you brought up Vietnam, I read somewhere that you’re gonna go to Vietnam and live there for a year?
Well, I hope so, if they ever cancel the damn show. I love it there. I just think it’s a really special place, I’d love to really get to know it well, wake up there every day and go to sleep there every night, see what that’s like.
Andrew Zimmern is known as the "Bizarre Food Guy," but you often eat a lot of crazy things. I’m always intrigued by the alcoholic beverages you end up drinking. I seem to recall one that looked like Pepto-Bismol from, I think it was Peru. What’s the gnarliest alcoholic concoction you’ve imbibed?
Ah man, there are some really strong versions, wherever they ferment stuff and then distill it. Once you get pure alcohol, theres not that much variation. . . does it have a rice aftertaste or a corn aftertaste, or whatever. It’s actually the low-alcohol drinks that are actually kind of problematic, the ones that they ferment with saliva in Peru or palm wine in Africa or India. You know you gotta drink a real lot of that stuff to get any kind of a buzz, and it’s not very appetizing.
I recently watched the Rust Belt episode you did, and I loved it. I like the gritty American city ones that you do probably even more than the wild tropical locales. What was it like eating lunch with Snoop? (actress Felicia "Snoop" Pearson, who played hit-woman and all around badass Snoop on "The Wire").
Oh, it was so awesome, she was really really really good to us. She was just a real joy to work with. She was really nice, funny as hell, her friends were great. I’m a huge fan of hers, I’m a huge fan of “The Wire.” She was just a delight from beginning to end: funny, warm, busted my balls in the best of possible ways. I’m a big fan of her work. (She’s) easily the most terrifying female villain in the history of television. It’s one of the things that makes having my job a really good one is I get to say, hey, wouldn’t it be cool if we could work with Snoop from "The Wire"? Lets see if we can do that.
For my money, no offense to “No Reservations,” “The Wire” is the best show on television, probably ever.
I would agree with you.
Another one of those, in that same ilk, which I liked was the Cleveland Episode. I wanted to say that that was a brilliant and touching eulogy that you wrote to Harvey Pekar.
I was wondering what you thought of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
I despise the whole idea. I hate it. Im waiting for somebody to be inducted into the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame and say fuck you, take your trophy and shove it up your ass. That would be Rock and Roll.
I read recently that you love In-N-Out burger. Have you had a chance to try "The East Coast In-N-Out" Five guys Burgers and Fries?
I have had a Five Guys. . . actually. . . pretty decent. . .
But no In-N-Out?
I’m all about In-N-Out.
What was the last meal that you cooked?
Let’s see. . . I think I made Venetian style calf liver for my wife a couple nights ago.
I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but I have a friend who hypothesizes that sometime in the mid ‘90s you must have sold your soul to the devil ala Robert Johnson at the crossroads. You’re an incredible writer, you get to travel all over the world, wherever you like, you eat anything and everything, and you never seem to gain weight. . . Is there any credence to this theory?
I’d just say it’s proof there is no God.
This is one of your favorite questions. If you were going to die tomorrow, what would you have for your last meal? I don’t know, lately. . . one piece of sushi, a really really good piece of toro tuna or sea urchin. Good San Diego sea urchin roe with top-quality sushi rice and really high-test seaweed.
I know you’re a big Yankees fan. Have you had a chance to go to the new Yankee Stadium?
I haven’t. . . I hate the whole idea of it. . . I’m still getting used to the fact that it even exists. I’m not a good sports fan because I’m never around long enough to go to a game or even stay abreast of the games.
I was wondering if you have plans for the night after your show?
I’m probably gonna crawl into bed, ’cause I believe I’m shipping out the next morning. If it’s anything like all the other gigs that month, I’m up at like four in the morning and move to the next town.
Alright, well if you change your mind there’s a Trombone Shorty show right up the street. He’ll be playing his brand of Super Funk and you have a standing invite, you’re on the guest list if you’d like to check it out.
Thanks man, I appreciate it.
Somehow, Bourdain was even cooler on the phone than he is on the show. It’s a wonderful thing when your idols live up to your lofty expectations. It’s even better when they exceed them.
Anthony Bourdain, author of "Kitchen Confidential" and host of Travel Channel’s "No Reservations," will be appearing at the Memorial Auditorium at 8 p.m. Sept. 17. A limited number of VIP tickets will be available for $85.00, which includes a post-show meet-and-greet and book signing with him. Reserved seating is available at $46.50 and $36.50 at tickets.com.