Former bad boy chef Bourdain admits he's mellowed
Published Wednesday, September 22, 2010 9:10PM EDT
Ten years after Anthony Bourdain published his best-selling debut memoir "Kitchen Confidential," searing his brand as a bad boy chef with his no-holds-barred look at the blood-and-guts of the restaurant industry, he admits he has mellowed.
These days, the bad boy title no longer holds true, the acclaimed chef, author and intrepid traveller, told CTV.ca in Toronto on Wednesday.
"Once you're a father, it's kind of ridiculous. Call me what you like but I know who I am at the end of the day. I am putting on Barbie shoes," the 55-year-old says, referring to his life with his three-and-a-half-year-old daughter Ariane and wife Ottavia.
In fact, he jokes that the "finest moment of his career" is when he appeared on children's show "Yo Gabba Gabba!" as a doctor.
Yes, "life is good," he admits while in Toronto on tour for his long-awaited follow-up book, "Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook."
Still, Bourdain is just as brash and blunt as he was when he burst onto the scene with a debut memoir that delved not only into his drug addictions but took a behind-the-scenes look at New York City's restaurant scene.
"I was a working line cook when I wrote (Kitchen Confidential), with a narrow view of the world," Bourdain told CTV's Canada AM.
"And since then, I've been travelling and eating everywhere in the world. I've become this sort of jaded over-privileged foodie," the outspoken television personality said.
After crisscrossing the globe for so many years, Bourdain would like to recant his assertion from "Kitchen Confidential" that one can tell how well a restaurant is run by how clean the bathroom is.
Rather, "a filthy bathroom is a sign of quality," particularly in Asian countries such as China and Vietnam, he says with a straight face.
Some of the most grimy-looking restaurants produce "absolutely the best food," he says. And he should know: Bourdain recently celebrated the 100th episode of his hit Travel Channel show "No Reservations," in which he travels the world in search of culinary adventure, chewing, biting and slurping his way through sweet bread and offal, and hooves and shanks.
So what's his brash assessment of Canadian food?
"I think the cooking is really good, the raw ingredients are really good, and the products are getting better every day. I think so few Canadian chefs have an international profile and there is no accounting for it," he says.
If Bourdain were a government minister, he would throw massive sums of money behind Martin Picard, the notoriously Rabelaisian chef and owner of Montreal's Au Pied de Cochon, to promote him as the ambassador of Canadian cuisine and advertise the country as a gastro-tourism destination.
"He has an identity, and a very unique Canada-specific cuisine. He is already the Canadian chef who is the best known and the best loved and the most respected by chefs around the world," Bourdain says.
When asked about high-profile Canadian chefs such as successful Toronto restaurateur and chef Mark McEwan or famed chef Susur Lee, Bourdain is frank.
"Mark who?" he asks, genuinely oblivious. "He doesn't have a profile outside of the country." Bourdain notes Susur Lee's efforts at opening a restaurant in Manhattan hit the New York City culinary scene with a dull thud.
In many ways, "Medium Raw" reads like an apologetic admission of guilt for selling out to the establishment he once mocked. (On Rachael Ray's endorsement of Dunkin' Donuts: "That's evil."; On "Semi-Homemade Cooking" host Sandra Lee: "She terrifies me."; On Food Network TV host Guy Fieri: "Did you ever see ‘The Simpsons' episode where it's decided that Itchy and Scratchy need a sidekick? So a committee gets together and they invent one called Poochie….?"
"After making a living making fun of celebrity chefs after the first two years of ‘Kitchen Confidential,’ I've become part of the problem," Bourdain says.
In "Medium Raw," Bourdain admits he would have given Oprah Winfrey a back rub and a bikini wax had her people called him about "Kitchen Confidential."
He does draw the line at hawking certain products, however. That's not out of integrity, he confesses, but out of vanity.
"I don't want to be the guy who endorses anti-diarrhea medicine and I don't want to go on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ because I would look like a goof," says Bourdain, who's been asked to join the lineup twice.
"It's not because I am just too good or pure to do this. I was never good or pure."