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Steady Diet of Everything: Anthony Bourdain's "The Hunger"

Anthony Bourdain: The Hunger
Palace Theatre
October 29, 2016

The book that put chef/author/media personality Anthony Bourdain on the map
Whatever one may think of "Kitchen Confidential", chef/author/major media personality Anthony Bourdain's exposé on the culinary world published in 2000, there were two notions that the reader would've wondered back then when it came to the author himself.  One notion would lie in the author's self-obsession, in that there was nothing in the world that would've crossed Bourdain's path to change his primary focus to someone other than himself.

Never doubt the power of a child, however. At the age of fifty, Bourdain was blessed with the birth of his one and only child Ariane, an event he acknowledges came at the right time for him in his newest literary release "Appetites: A Cookbook." As he noted in the introduction, "I was no longer the star of my own movie - or any movie. Like most people who write books or appear on television...I am a monster of self-regard. Fatherhood has been an enormous relief, as I am now genetically, instinctually compelled to care more about someone other than myself."

Bourdain touts his latest cookbook "Appetites" as "the dishes that
I like to eat and that I like to feed my family and friends."
The second notion, based on the author's plainly laid out struggles with drugs and penchant for living on the edge, lay in the author's ability to actually see the next decade and beyond. However, the now sixty-year-old Bourdain dissuaded any such notions as he took to the stage at The Palace Theatre this Saturday. Nattily and simply decked out in T-shirt and slim slacks, Bourdain looked wiry-strong and spry (perhaps most attributable to his undertaking of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, something his wife Ottavia had for years been encouraging him to try) and more than ready to continue his world-wide culinary explorations (started in 2005 with the Travel Channel's "No Reservations") for many more years to come.

Bourdain's sixth stop of his "The Hunger" North American speaking tour, in support of his latest cookbook release, saw an enthusiastic crowd greet the globe-trotting chef in Columbus. After starting the night relating a nightmare he had the night prior involving a prison stay with a heavily tattooed, massively-sized Guy Fieri (Fieri is a handful of chefs with whom Bourdain has had a public beef,) he quickly acknowledged, as he has numerous times in recent years, that he is fortunate to be where he is (when asked during the closing audience Q&A session what he missed the most from his past, Bourdain said there really wasn't anything that qualified, adding "I have the best job in the world" in slow and emphatic fashion.

In many ways, Bourdain's time on stage resembled an R-rated, adult-oriented stand-up comedy routine, but there was a layer of serious, frank belief behind the topics covered. After paying some respects to and sharing some fairly humorous experiences related with celebrity chefs he currently or has come to admire (speficially, Alton Brown, Andrew Zimmern and Ina Garten,) he went on to bemoan how the media handles food programming, noting how the Food Network is mirroring MTV in sliding away from traditional food programming, and how some outlets believe "fat people eating barbecue" is the be-all and end-all for ultimate food programming.

Bourdain had no problem reaching all the gathered this night at the
Palace Theatre, even folks perched up in the catbird seats like us
Bourdain continued in fairly rapid-fire fashion expounding on a gamut of culinary topics, including but not restricted to his thoughts on broad categories of foods (fast food, GMOs, and organics); the stupidity of people who either do not want him to delve into politics in his food shows, or do not watch him because his show is now broadcast by the "Clinton News Network (CNN);" or his general disdain for vegetarianism (Bourdain claims the choice not only automatically excludes you from experiencing the best of other cultures, but also simply reeks of bad manners.)

But even Bourdain himself admitted that as brusquely opinionated as he can be, his beliefs are not necessarily as simple as most people or he himself might prefer (as noted in an October 2016 Vogue Magazine article, Bourdain noted that the only thing he truly believed in was doubt, adding that "the root cause of all of life's problems is looking for a simple f***ing answer.") He admitted to being a something of a hypocrite in that he has spent extra time avoiding situations where either dogs or cats (animals he thinks of as pets, not food) are part of the dishes he's served. However, he followed up by adding that if he were surprised in someone's home by such a dish, he hoped he would be able to show good manners and accept the host's offering.

While there was serious and firm belief behind the topics brought up, Bourdain's now familiar narrative style, currently found in CNN's "Parts Unknown" series (debuting in 2013, the show is by far and away CNN's highest-rated program) along with stories of levity, kept the laughs and general audience attention a constant throughout his roughly one-and-a-half talk/audience Q&A session. For every more serious venture Bourdain delved into (such as the Egyptian government's refusal for Bourdain's crew to film the making of their national dish, the fava-bean-oriented ful medames, for fear that it would compare badly to elegant dishes from other countries), Bourdain put out a more light-hearted account or two, such as detailing the worst meal he'd ever eaten (an airport-located Johnny Rockets as it turns out, where Bourdain detailed the most "nobody gives a f**k/nobody wants to be here" moment in his life.)

The folks from German Village's The Book Loft had plenty of
Bourdain's literary works available for purchase at the show
If nothing else, Bourdain perked up even more during the audience Q&A portion of the show. Noting that questioners seemed to be even more up on his ventures than others, the chef enthusiastically answered a diverse array of queries, including the status on his New York-based Bourdain Market (approximately two years out from opening), the surprisingly (unsurprisingly?) uncomplicated process behind where Bourdain and his crew is going next (a blend of where they would like to go, a dash of what might make CNN uncomfortable, plus a good supply of gin and tonics), and the details behind his appearance on the FX Network's animated espionage comedy Archer (Bourdain admitted to trolling show cast member Aisha Tyler constantly to try to get on the show.)

He also offered updates on show regulars Chef Eric Ripert (after Ripert good-naturedly endured the spicy and numbing cuisine of China's Sichuan Province, Ripert may get the better of him in a possible future skiing the French Alps episode, Bourdain said) and Zamir Gotta (he noted that while another collaboration wasn't imminent, Gotta was currently busy launching his Zamir Vodka through Buffalo, NY based distillery Honeoye Falls.)

A subsequent question about his first Waffle House experience with Chef Sean Brock led to his musing that plenty of top New York chefs would secretly love to do a shift in the kitchen of this Southeastern U.S. staple.  Suddenly, like the last wisp of smoke from an extinguished cigarette, he waved to the crowd and bounded offstage, proclaiming that he'd meet us all at Waffle House. The chef, with no reservations, had left the theater, but this time to parts well-known (as he explained to some disappointment during the Q&A session, Bourdain would have to take off immediately after the show up to Detroit, and as he had arrived in Columbus that day, there would be no explorations of the the local food scene on this trip in.)

The fans file out of the show, some I'm sure with Waffle House on their minds

Anthony Bourdain's "The Hunger" Tour
For future tour dates, please consult AnthonyBourdainOnTour.com

Anthony Bourdain "Appetites: A Cookbook"
Amazon     The Book Loft (German Village)    Publisher's Page

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