Great food—preparing it and eating it—is Bourdain’s passion, and he has put that passion to good use in several of his projects. He has bowled over readers with his unapologetic, sharply funny memoir, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, about his experiences in the restaurant business. Now he is helming the new Discovery Travel & Living television series Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, which chronicles his travels and food finds as he explores the cultures of such far-flung places as Iceland, Vietnam and Uzbekistan.
What is your favorite meal?
Roasted bone marrow with sea salt and toasted baguette at St. John restaurant in London. Or maybe a bowl of pho—or a single piece of very high quality o-toro tuna.
Is there anything that you’ve refused to try?
I won’t eat live monkey brain. I’m happy I haven’t been offered dog or cat. And I will NOT eat a rat.
What do you do to relax?
I try and spend a month a year on an island in the Caribbean. Writing, drinking beer, laying on the beach, reading and basically avoiding shoes.
What is the most exotic thing you’ve eaten?
Traveling as much as I do, the word “exotic” doesn’t hold much meaning anymore. What’s exotic to someone from Texas is everyday fare to a Thai. And I’m sure there are plenty of people in this world who would be dazzled—or horrified—by a Big Mac. That said, the strangest—or weirdest—thing lately has been raw seal brain.
What food/meal could you eat every day for the rest of your life?
I could eat good quality sushi every day for the rest of my life—if accompanied by beer or sake.
What is your favorite ingredient?
Butter, or maybe sea salt.
What made you decide to try your hand at writing?
I write because I can. I kind of fell into it after writing a short magazine piece which got a lot of attention. It’s turned out to be a nice living.
What is more difficult—working in a Manhattan restaurant, or writing?
Writing is easy. Cooking in a restaurant is hard, exhausting, physical work that uses up every part of you. No contest.
Who are your favorite authors?
Graham Green, Hunter S. Thompson, Nabokov, Orwell, George V Higgins, Joan Didion, Patricia Highsmith, Nick Tosches, Don De Lillo.
In all your travels, what was your favorite destination? Why?
Vietnam. Don’t know why. Because it’s beautiful, because it smells good. Because the food is great, the people—particularly the cooks—proud, the beaches terrific. Because of all the history between my country and Vietnam—the films and books I’ve read about it. Because I have great friends there. How can you describe why you fell in love? And I love Peru and Brazil. Great food, beautiful countries, and gorgeous women.
What is one place you are dying to visit?
What are some things you’ve learned about yourself on your travels?
I’ll paraphrase my pal AA Gill: “The more I travel, the older I get, the less I know.”
What are some things you’ve learned about cooking/chefs/food on your travels?
That we’re all the same, and that in the heart of every great cook—from ANY country—lives a Chinese cook.
Is there something you look out for at every destination?
The best local “dive” bar in town—where cooks, restaurant employees, journalists, gangsters and rock and rollers are likely to behave badly.
If you weren’t a chef (or a writer), what would you want to be?
The bass player for James Brown.