Sheep testicles. Warthog anus. The still-beating heart of a cobra.
What do these exotic animal parts have in common? They’ve been eaten by renowned chef, author and TV personality Anthony Bourdain.
Bourdain’s appeal does not end at his ability to stomach some of the most unthinkable foods around the world. He does so with an obvious passion for all kinds of food and the cultures surrounding each culinary morsel.
On his show “No Reservations,” which aired on the Travel Channel until recently, I’ve seen Bourdain battle against the grain of a society that feels that food needs to be convenient, low fat and high in condiments. Able to appreciate a variety of tastes and textures, Bourdain is a true connoisseur of everything from pate and caviar to hot dogs and street food.
As much as I hate to sound like a rabid fan-girl, I have to admit that I love watching Bourdain in action. Not only does he have a deep respect for the cultures across the globe that he visits, but he demonstrates to his viewers that food is more than just what we eat. He has been just as honored to eat with a tribal leader in an undeveloped village as he was to eat with well-respected fellow chefs like Mario Battali.
His attitude screams that he couldn’t care less about convention, to the extent that his show displays a parental advisory before the show. But this same attitude only makes him more credible because you get the feeling that he is not pretending to be someone he’s not and that he has a real passion for what he does.
I’ve also read his book “Kitchen Confidential,” which was excellent. If you want to know what could really be going on behind the scenes in your favorite restaurant, this is the book for you. I have several close friends who are chefs who confirm that Bourdain speaks the little-known truth about the seedy underbelly of the culinary arts.
Sex, drugs and alcohol are a main focus in this industry. With the long hours, rude customers and low pay, it’s easy to see why many chefs and cooks would turn to these vices to ease the stress and be able to handle the demands of the fast-paced culinary lifestyle.
Bourdain is not apologetic for his past, and it’s easy to get the impression from him that everything in the past is part of who he is today.
When traveling, Bourdain’s number one recommendation is to avoid the touristy spots and hit the places the locals want to eat. He sees the value in all the bits and pieces of the animal that are typically thrown away in the U.S. Although he occasionally has some nervousness about trying really out there things, like the aforementioned warthog anus, he really has “no reservations” about eating to the culture he is visiting. Refusing to eat something prepared for him is what he considers one of the greatest insults to a host.
In addition to speaking highly of the Spanish-speaking immigrants who make up a majority of cooks in U.S. restaurants, Bourdain is also a fan of street foods in other countries. I completely agree with Bourdain on this point, and feel that quality street food will be the next big trend in the U.S., as the success of The Monchon and C’est Cheese here in our own backyard have started to demonstrate.
The highlight of my 2012, with the possible exception of my son being born in July, is that Bourdain is bringing his “Guts and Glory” tour to the Schuster Center on Sunday, Nov. 18. If you’re at all interested in cooking, travel, writing or being a famous TV personality with a blatant disregard for the mainstream, I suggest seeing him live. This is his first-ever North American tour, so it’s kind of a big deal.
If you don’t want to shell out the cash to see him live, you can view “No Reservations” on Netflix.