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Anthony Bourdain on "Medium Raw"

A decade after “Kitchen Confidential” lifted the lid on the drug-fuelled kitchens of NYC, Anthony Bourdain is dishing again.

Anthony Bourdain in his show "No Reservations" cutting steak. (Credit: TravelChannel.com)

Ten years ago, professional chef and sharp-edged raconteur Anthony Bourdain took out his literary boning knife and went to work on the hidden world of the professional kitchen.

His bestselling “Kitchen Confidential” told wild stories – way out of school – of sex, drugs and scary hygiene in the realm of the tony restaurant and haute cuisine.

Then Bourdain went big. Book after book, and a big TV show – “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations” — that took his wicked wit and eye all over the world.

Now he’s looking back. Still tough.

This Hour, On Point: Anthony Bourdain.

Guest:

Anthony Bourdain, chef, television host and best-selling author. He’s author of the megaseller “Kitchen Confidential” and host of the Travel Channel show Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. His new book is “Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook.” You can read an excerpt.

More:

Here’s Bourdain in a New York restaurant (Credit: AP):

Here he is in Provence, France, trying the local cuisine (Credit: TravelChannel.com):

And here’s some video from Bourdain’s Travel Channel show “No Reservations”:

**Check out more of On Point’s food coverage:

Mark Bittman on Intelligent Eating; Michael Pollan’s ‘Food Rules’; Gourmet’s Ruth Reichl: “Not Becoming My Mother”; Food Critic Frank Bruni Talks “Born Round”; Sweet Lightning: Extreme Chocolate.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Jason Myers

    Sir Tony,

    How is it that you can crush drink after drink of the local moonshine or fermented yaks blood and somehow manage to get up the next morning and start all over again while chasing the booze with the town’s spiciest fare? After such a feat most people, myself included, would consider boozing the next morning, combined with spicy food, as an interrogation technique recently banned at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

    Fatback needs luv’n too,

    Jason

  • Sam Wilson

    I love his shows, love the way he inspired me to taste all different kinds of food, especially local and authentic food.

    The best episode imho was Saudi Arabia :-)

    Great Job sir, keep doing more and more No Reservations please!!

  • jeffe

    I love chef Bourdain’ approach and take no prisoners attitude. My favorite episode was the one when he went to Quebec and in particular that restaurant in Montreal, Au Pied de Cochon with chef Martin Picard.

    I have never seen such food and it seemed he really was trying to kill him…

    The episode where he eats raw seal is pretty off the charts as well.

    I have chef Bourdain’ cook book and the 7 hour lamb is to die for.

    Thank you chef!

  • Jonathan

    I’m a big fan of No Reservations and just recently finished Kitchen Confidential. The one thing I’ve never quite understood about Anthony is the disconnect between his adoration of meat (in all of it’s glory), and his general lack of respect for the animal itself. Take the Pig, which is an animal whose meat Tony reveres (and so do I)! What I don’t understand though is how a chef, ambassador, and true lover of food could absolutely cherish Pig products while not caring a wit about how the animal was raised… I’d love it if you would convey my question to him. Thank you!

  • Sarah

    Best episode of “No Reservations”: Bourdain in Maine! Fresh seafood, camp food, and he got to shoot a snowman with a gun.

  • Aaron from Montpelier, VT

    “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations”, is the best travel/food show. Beyond the wit (which is sharp), and the filming (which is both beautiful and intimate.); The show encourages a respect and curiosity for the world and it inhabitants, that other shows seem to miss.
    Although we have never met Anthony Bourdain has become my personal culinary philosopher. When I’m looking for a place to eat I think WWABD (What Would Anthony Bourdain DO.) Finding authentic ethnic cuisine is one of the aspects of the show I have tried to reproduce this in my own life. But how do we know if we are getting the real thing when many ethnic restaurants in America warp the flavors of their flavors to suit the American palate.

  • jbooth

    In your second book (I think) you commented that exciting cuisine would take priority over not eating endangered species for you. I put your book down and haven’t read you since.

    Do you still believe this?

  • M

    Try working in a kitchen with people overly influenced by Tony Bourdain. We had to fire some guy at our small-town restaurant because, invoking Kitchen Confidential, he pulled practical jokes, threw tantrums, cooked recipes the way he wanted (not to order), and made graphic sexual jokes in front of women coworkers and customers. We didn’t think he was funny and cool, we thought he was a liability to our business–especially in this economy. The Early Bird Special may not be cool, but it brings in business. If you’re too good for us and think you should be in NYC, go there!

  • ThresherK

    I’m only a hit/miss viewer, but anyone who says “We have the right to ground beef which doesn’t have to be washed with chemicals to make it safe” gets my admiration. (Quote not verbatim.)

  • Tatiana

    Hi Tony!

    I’m writing from São Paulo, Brazil where you filmed a segment a while back. I’m just curious about one thing… What do you do when you find something you absolutely hate in a foreign country? Andrew Zimmerman has been known to make faces and spit things out, which I think is appalling in my view. What about you?

    Thanks!

  • Sunil

    Mr. Bourdain, You are a poseur. Rachel Ray cooks, you don’t. Why do you bother traveling the world to eat, but all you do once there is complain about the local weather/people/food etc? I’m referring to your visits to Vietnam and Thailand, to mention just 2.

  • Bill Allen

    Chef:

    Loved the book, have passed it on to many of my formers students and friends.

    Been a Chef for over 30 years, 17 of those spent in NYC. So many of the stories in the book rang true and made us all laugh as we read aloud. My favorite though was the wedding on the Cape! Too real, too funny.

    Love the show as well….raw!

  • http://www.intelligentdb.com Erik

    1. Sunil, I beg to differ. Though ‘snarky,’ Mr. Bourdain has ‘mellowed’ on TV over the years and at least in my opinion, has woven in some poignant social commentary about the locals and their situations, not limited to food topics.

    2. Anthony, are you here in Boston to do a book signing (or other public appearance)? I’d love to get a copy or two of your latest book. Thanks.

  • http://petesgreens.com Bill Allen

    Chef:

    Loved the book, have passed it on to many of my formers students and friends.

    Been a Chef for over 30 years, 17 of those spent in NYC. So many of the stories in the book rang true and made us all laugh as we read aloud. My favorite though was the wedding on the Cape! Too real, too funny.

    Love the show as well….raw! And one of the few honest shows on.

  • Dean

    Tony, I love your show! Your curiosity and courage are admirable. Your observant wit is so acerbically refreshing, I have to ask whether you have a staff of jaded writers from New Jersey, or do you come up with all of the snark by yourself?

  • Fred Lavenberg

    Tony
    Love your show but it seems like this season there were not many new shows. When will a new season start

    Fred

  • Dean

    Sunil, you are completely wrong!
    Rachel Ray reheats, Anthony Bourdain can cook, and sometimes does, but that isn’t what the show is about.
    Tony always shows great respect to the cultures he visits, but is always honest, never phony. He represents us on those trips, and expresses what all of us would feel at the time.

  • Amali from Boston

    First of all, I have to say that I am so thrilled that two of my favorite shows are on together today!
    I discovered Anthony’s show about 2 yrs, ago and was thrilled when he did an episode on Sri Lanka (my home country), and got a few Sri Lankan friends hooked on the show after that!
    I remember watching the show on Indonesia and moved by how Anthony fell in love with Bali and Java-its beauty and the food. And it seemed like he seriously considered just moving there. Is that still the case and from all the places visited, what are some of your favorite spots?

  • Carol Hiebert

    Just wanted Tony to know that my grown sons and I cook together whenever we can. One of the quotes that is used every time is, “What d’ya want white boy, a bandaid?

    Thanks for good writing and TV.

    Carol

  • Justin

    I appreciate you being a traveler that is accepting and respectful of the culture where you are.

    Question:
    Do you ever hesitate or regret showing a location that is not on the travelers circuit and especially wonderful?
    Justin

  • Ryon

    Zamir, Tony’s impish Russian friend should have his own show. I could watch him for days. Big fan of the show.

  • Kip Landry

    Anthony, on one episode you visited a chef who had retired from the main scene to a farm in (I think it was) Brazil.

    This was close to the Apocalypse Now – Deep Jungle scene where Sheen meets Brando for that epically odd meeting.

    What was the most Odd moment or scene you did for the show?

  • Sunil

    Dean, Rachel does cook, even though it is basic stuff. When did you last see Bourdain be a ‘chef’? As for his “respect” for his hosts? How about him cowering in his seat whining about the heat & humidity, thus totally insulting his hosts. What a fake.

  • Josh

    As we talk about the changing world of food, we can’t ignore equity issues. And Anthony Bourdain has been quite involved in this front, such as his support of the Food Bank For New York City and its efforts to combat hunger, provide financial empowerment and provide nutrition empowerment.

    What needs to happen to make sure these two movements–gourmet cuisine and poverty and health crises–become linked in the public consciousness to address the most unjust aspects of our food system?

  • http://challenginglachesis.blogspot.com Dave Eger

    I haven’t watched a lot of episodes, but I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve seen. As for his comments on the problems with battery chickens and the other atrocities of industrialized meat, the movie Fresh shows that there are ways of raising animals that are better for the farmer, better for the animal, and economically sustainable. Check out Freshthemovie.com

  • LEWIS GORDON

    Dear Anthony,

    I LOVE your show. Please re-broadcast the episode where you, with fellow chefs in tow, visit your favorite chef in the Napa Valley. My favorite scene? The nicotine ice cream!

    Bravo!

    Well done!

    I also appreciate the nuance in your visits to so many communities. The episode on abandoned inner cities was poignant.

    All the best to you,
    Lewis Gordon

  • Erin

    I don’t agree that Tony is always honest. He saves his honesty for the editing process and his cable audience. He is always an appreciative diner. The importance of being a good guest is under played but vital to this program. We are asking people to share their delicacies and spend lots of money and energy on some strange man that they might not even know. Yes, you will eat what you are served. People are not taught to be good guests any more. I am coming from 20 years in the front of the house. People have lost the art of dining.

  • Rob From Nashville TN

    Anthony! Big fan here.
    Question: How long did it take you to recover from your theraputic massage with that Kazak messure? Your naration was absolutely one of the funniest thing I have ever heard.

  • Dean

    Sunil, it is obvious you don’t watch the show.
    Enjoy your TV dinner.

  • Eric Cooper

    I, too, am a globe-trotting chef… I have had to pay my own way – on chef’s wages – so I haven’t had quite the range of countries that you have, but I’ve lived and traveled and cooked and eaten on seven continents and maybe twenty countries and a few places that are not countries at all.

    Really, all I want to know is how I can get into this whole television thing… I’m getting on in years and have all kinds of problems with my back, knees and liver and being a worldly, intellectually-curious acerbic television host seems like a great alternative to these crazy hours I’ve been working these last several years.

  • Jessica

    Mr. Bourdain,

    I am a big fan of your show and work in general – but feel as though I must comment on your statement on Vegetarians. While I enjoy a steak as must as the next omnivore my husband has been a vegetarian for the past 15 years. His is not a “save the animals” mind set and he grills the best steak I have ever had and his shrimp bisque is awesome. However, his system can not break down meat protein anymore. Even chicken broth will violently exit his system of its own free will. I think excepting someones hospitality to just redeposit it into their bushes is much more distasteful than politely refusing the dish in the first place.

    Just thought you should know that for most vegetarians it is not as simple as you may think.

  • Christopher Denise

    Your show about NY that featured Prune was a game changer. A few weeks after I caught the show my wife and I were celebrating our tenth anniversary in the city. That same weekend the restaurant was celebrating their anniversary. They were offering their greatest hits menu and we ordered everything that you recommended. It was one of the best meals we ever had. The restaurant was just as you said it was. Many thanks!

  • http://www.earthlab.net Brandon

    So as far as vegetarianism goes, Anthony Bourdain believes that one’s moral beliefs and ethical judgements ought to be suspended while traveling. I wonder how far he takes that? If I visit the home of someone who beats their child slaves, do I just smile? Because that’s the case he’s making.

  • Suzanne

    Hey Tony,
    What do you feed your 3 year old?
    I’m running out of ideas for my toddler…

    Sorry I missed you!

    -Suzanne

  • Sunil

    Good grief, you people must be in a different universe than myself. Bourdain is consistently snarky, there
    s always the undercurrent of “I’m only doing this for the money”. Give me Bobby Flay, now there’s a REAL chef.

  • AL

    Sunil,

    You have obviously never watched the show, as Bourdain was/is considering living in Vietnam for a year because HE LOVES IT SO MUCH. He also had glowing things to say about Thailand. So he commented on the heat/humidity? So what? I’m sure it’s pretty hot there. That’s not “disrespectful”.

    AB is the only high profile travel host who is interesting and is always respectful and never condescending to the local cultures he interacts with. Sure, he may make the occassional snarky comment, but it’s not at the expense of the culture, and usually it’s just him trying to be funny. (which he usually is)

  • Sunil

    Dean, It’s clear to me that you probably watch the show with one eye. Let me remind you of his pathetic behaviour in Sri Lanka, whining about the humidity & large breakfast, and then his barbs about the Burghers. Also, please remind me of when he last cooked (sorry, acted as a chef) on TV?

  • Helen

    Brandon, I agree with your comment.

    Personal principles are not something one can “suspend” whenever upholding them is uncomfortable. Bourdain’s notion of “principle” sounds more like a preference to me. If you believe that it is wrong to kill or cause suffering to an animal unnecessarily, you should not participate in or promote either action in any way.

    Moreover, I find Bourdain’s response re: vegetarianism disingenuous. He is not eating animals on his show for his guests’ sake, he is doing it because he likes meat and does not think that killing or causing suffering to animals is wrong. Why else would he condemn Wolfgang Puck for “caving” to the “foie gras people”?

    Prominent figures in the food world too often shrug off the moral implications of their food choices, implying that such considerations are irrelevant or “wimpy”. I wish Bourdain would give these issues more thought.

  • Helen

    An addendum to my previous comment: I’ve traveled extensively in Africa as a vegetarian and have never had a problem with it. If you approach people in a friendly, non-judgemental manner about your beliefs they usually take an interest and it has often become a good conversation starter.

  • Brett

    Bobby Flay rules!

  • jeffe

    Try working in a kitchen with people overly influenced by Tony Bourdain. We had to fire some guy at our small-town restaurant because, invoking Kitchen Confidential, he pulled practical jokes, threw tantrums, cooked recipes the way he wanted (not to order), and made graphic sexual jokes in front of women coworkers and customers. We didn’t think he was funny and cool, we thought he was a liability to our business–especially in this economy. The Early Bird Special may not be cool, but it brings in business. If you’re too good for us and think you should be in NYC, go there!
    Posted by M,

    M it’s not Mr. Bourdain’s fault that you hired an idiot.
    Did you read the book? From your response it does not seem to be the case. Chef Bourdain paid his dues and worked in every kind of restaurant you can think of.
    The person you hired was not a professional. I don’t remember anything in his book about graphic sexual jokes being made towards customers. By the way in New York I doubt his behavior would go down well at all.

    Sunil are you aware that Chef Bourdain owned his own restaurant? That he is an excellent cook and a friend of Bobby Flay’s. By the way Flay can be just as big an ass as Bourdain. Here’s a little information, they are chefs. Chefs work in very hot kitchens with sharp knives and in most cases the kitchens are small. Rachael Ray is not a chef, she’s product of luck and the cooking channel. Anyone who uses canned cream of mushroom soup in a recipe is not a cook. Sorry.

    I also have Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking. Which is one of the best cook books out there.

    Rachel Ray is a joke and a media hyped marketing tool.

  • Sam Wilson

    Sunil bhai,

    I suppose you have some Indian heritage, have you ever seen No Reservations – Rajasthan?

    I bet you haven’t, if you have had, you wouldnt have changed your mind.

    Btw, I grew up in Thar (Barmer Dist) and the way Anthony Bourdain presented the place and the cuisine (Rajasthan) I feel proud of my native land.

    No Reservations has helped many to appreciate the native and authentic food, unlike many “artificial” reheated food.

  • http://wfae.org Liz Dantism

    Just wondering what Chef Bourdain’s beef is with Rachel Ray? She’s not a great chef, of course, but never claimed to be, either. And, yes, she is a bit too perky for my taste; but she makes good food and cooking seem accessible for many of us who, at our best, will never be anything more than enthusiastic home chefs.

    Thanks!

  • Edward Gage

    I have seen them all and think it’s among the best television available. Knowing the competition, one might say that’s praising by faint damning, so let’s say it’s as good as it can get at any time. More than that thank you for praising Fergus Henderson. Frankly he is among the more important people in gastronomy today and into the future. From the standpoint food in a social/political context, Fergus is right at the top and Anthony gives him the lofty platform. Hoorah for both of you.

  • informed American

    This guy (Bourdain) is really full of himself and full of &#it.

  • emiliano zapata from Del Rio, tx

    bourdain is the man! I love his show, he’s right on the money when writes or speaks of the miscreants, mutants and losers that inhabit the restaurant bisness…i missed him when he came to Del Rio and hope he someday returns…his show i do not miss…his humor is spot on! Thanks for showing the “mexicanization” of all the kitchens in America…I’ve been there, I know

  • Michele

    Tony,

    I was surprised that no one asked you about your favorite food, which seems to be Japanese – your love of Sushi was not mentioned – the episode in which you visit Japan, and their beloved alcoves with three elements, and the like, didn’t come up.

    Michele Wirt
    Associate Professor of Art and Humanities
    College of Central Florida, Citrus County Campus

  • Brett

    I’ve seen the show on several occasions (my basic cable doesn’t carry the travel channel anymore :-(), and I like the angle of it. When I travel, it seems I am first interested in the regional cuisine, then music, and so on–in that order. I would like to see Bourdain do a straight-up cooking show, though; it would give me a better sense of his ways around the kitchen. I suspect he’s one-helluva chef…

  • Brett

    Maybe a cooking throw-down with Bobby Flay! Now that would be a show!!!

  • jeffe

    Brett, he is the chef owner of Les Halles a restaurant in New York. I have never eaten there myself so I can’t say but it gets pretty good reviews.

    Anyone who will go out with the local Inuit’s up above the arctic circle to hunt for seals and then join them on the floor of their kitchen and eat raw seal meat is OK in my book.

    Like I said I highly recommend his cook book.

    The issue with Rachael Ray at least how Bourdain has explained it, is she dumbs down cooking the lowest common denominator which is OK for the type of TV she is doing. He’s very opinionated and sarcastic, but he has the chops to back it up and she does not.

    Bourdain and Flay, hmmm… I think Flay would out cook him by a mile. Bourdain is a very good chef, but Flay is an excellent chef.

  • Brett

    “Bourdain and Flay, hmmm… I think Flay would out cook him by a mile. Bourdain is a very good chef, but Flay is an excellent chef.” -jeffe

    Well, you were already up there, but you just went up a couple of notches on the respect scale, jeffe! Flay is amazing! I like how he never gets flustered or hurried in the kitchen (I watch Iron Chef America when I can). I’d say the three chefs I’ve learned the most from are Julia Child, Jaques Pepin and Bobby Flay (I also had a roommate many years ago who was a chef at the Jefferson Hotel in Washington, D.C., it used to be a five star restaurant).

  • jeffe

    I watch Julia and Pepin a lot. My favorite is the show they did together.

    Jaques Pepin’s show Fast Food My Way is how a simple cooking show should be done. Every recipe he puts together is simple and designed so anyone can do it.

    Not that nonsense Rachael Ray passes for cooking.

    Another amazing chef is Charlie Trotter who had an interesting show on PBS.

  • http://ddecandia@coffeebean.com David De Candia

    I travel the world buying and tasting teas. i would like Anthony to come along for a great tea trip and culinary experience. my Name is David De Candia

  • http://dharmadeen.com ravi

    anthony wants to move to vietnam? i wonder if he’ll tell all the buddhist monks that live there and are respected by the local population that they’re like “hezbollah” terrorists for being vegetarian.

  • Thomas

    I have eaten at Les Halles. Best lambchops I ever ate. I no longer eat meat, but that is OK.

    I really liked his show in Cambodia. The grace his hosts show in light of the history with the US, and Tony’s respect for them was obvious. In spite of himself, he does do good television.

    I also can understand his antipathy to Rachel Ray. She can be grating, and I don’t watch her much anymore.

    However, she never claimed to be a chef, and is still adamant that she is not. So the professional disdain is a little misplaced, I think.

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