So we’re making Coq au vin, and Martha Stewart asks me to help with the pasta. I’ve never made pasta in my life, and she asks me, ‘Have you ever worked in a restaurant’? I wanted to say, ‘Yeah bitch I have.’ But I didn’t. She’s an ex-con.”
So goes an evening with Anthony Bourdain. Now that he’s older, he prefers not to be called the bad boy of the culinary scene anymore, but he’s as opinionated as ever. We saw him last night at Jones Auditorium in the midst of his R-rated “Guts and Glory” speaking tour. We were extra lucky, though, as his weekend appearances are billed as “Good vs. Evil” with fellow celebrity chef Eric Ripert.
Ripert is an engaging speaker, but make no doubt about it, Bourdain is the main draw, as the crowd of Society of Performing Arts season ticket holders, chefs, hipsters, and hipster chefs can attest. Whether answering questions or interrogating Ripert, Bourdain is opinionated, incisive, and brash. Topics included sustainability and endangered species, the proper way to manage a kitchen, his attack on Paula Deen’s hypocrisy, the effect of different recreational drugs on cooking, and vegetarians and their “Hezbollah-like splinter faction, vegans”. He also expressed his outrage after the Travel Channel aired a Cadillac commercial during last week’s No Reservations finale, using his quotes from the show, without asking his approval.
The laughs were not all Bourdain’s, however. Grilling him on the infamous Namibia episode of No Reservations, when Bourdain ate the tribe’s prized grilled warthog rectum–a delicacy that tastes like “fur, dirt, and shit”–Ripert noted that in all of his research, he had never heard of any people or tribe that ate “the asshole of a pig.” “Do you think,” he asked in his thick French accent, “they just wanted to make fun of the gringo?”
After an hour of quizzing each other, the pair took questions from the audience. Admitting that they wouldn’t get a chance to try any Houston restaurants (“We’ll be lucky to have time for a can of Pringles in the hotel.”), Bourdain noted that he’d had great Vietnamese in past visits, and the mark of a burgeoning culinary scene is the fusion created by young chefs experiencing and borrowing from many types of cuisine on a nightly basis.
He did cop, however, to a newfound love for Texas BBQ after visiting Franklin and JMueller in Austin. “There’s nothing better than good Texas barbecue,” Bourdain declared. “That’s what he said last week in Virginia,” responded Ripert.