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Heather McPherson Interview with Anthony Bourdain

Food and loathing with Anthony Bourdain

April 26, 2013|By Heather McPherson, ORLANDO SENTINEL FOOD EDITOR

Anthony Bourdain is country-music icon Johnny Cash making an obscene gesture to the mainstream culinary world with a succinct turn of a phrase.

He is poker-faced singer/songwriter Lou Reed ripping through the kitche with a cleaver

His larger-than-life persona has shaken the concept of food television just like grunge burst the flashy pop bubble in the 1980s.

Fittingly Bourdain, 56, has taken to stages usually occupied by musicians and comedians. On April 26 the intrepid chef, television host and writer brings his "Guts and Glory" tour to Hard Rock Live at Universal Studios Orlando.

"It will start off with an audiovisual presentation and then jump off into a larger discussion of food," says Bourdain of the uncensored, sold-out presentation. He describes the show as part stand-up mixed with a no-holds-barred question and answer with the audience.

The "Evening With Anthony Bourdain" is a fundraiser for WMFE-FM 90.7, an Orlando public radio station. The format is one that Bourdain believes is important to the media landscape.

"I was drawn to PBS at a very young age. It was a source of amazing classic films and, of course, it introduced Julia Child to America — the woman who authentically raised people's expectations of food. It's always been television that mattered."

PBS' uncluttered, stripped down culinary productions are still a far cry from programs on today's Food Network and its sister operation the Cooking Channel. Bourdain's blistering disdain for some of the headliners has been widely quoted:

•Effervescent cook Rachael Ray: "A bobblehead [who is] selling us satisfaction, the smug reassurance that mediocrity is quite enough."

•Southern cookbook author Paula Deen: "The most destructive influence on [Food Network]."

•"Semi-Homemade" cooking expert Sandra Lee: "The frightening hell spawn of Kathie Lee [Gifford] and Betty Crocker [who] seems on a mission to kill her fans, one meal at a time."

Bourdain recently came under scrutiny by critics and media watchers when he joined ABC's "The Taste," a cooking competition series that hinged on a blind taste. Had the sharp-tongued host of the Travel Channel's Emmy- winning "No Reservations" and "The Layover" sold out?

"No," he says emphatically. "I just couldn't resist. It's like somebody offering to let you fly an F-14 off the deck of an aircraft carrier and you don't know how. How can you pass up the opportunity?"

"The Taste" teamed Bourdain with longtime friends Nigella Lawson, a cookbook author and television host, and chef Ludo Lefebvre. Along with chef-restaurateur Brian Malarkey, they coached teams of pro and amateur cooks vying to create the best tasting dish in a state-of-the-art kitchen.

Bourdain, who recently left Travel for CNN, shows another side of his personality when he is asked about the transition to a network known more for its news. The doting father to 6-year-old Ariane, Bourdain quietly apologizes for a pause in the conversation as he moves out of his daughter's earshot. Her tender ears are not quite ready for Dad's full verbal fury.

Bourdain's answer, which initially comes with a liberal peppering of expletives, is concise: "CNN is letting me and my crew make smarter TV in places that Travel never would have allowed. CNN has higher expectations and that is upping our game."

"Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown" had a strong debut on CNN earlier this month. The first episode was set in Myanmar, formerly Burma, in southeast Asia. Future episodes will spotlight Libya, Colombia, the Quebecois side of Canada, Koreatown in Los Angeles, Tangier, Peru and the Congo.

"There are many places left to discover," says the fearless world traveler who lives in New York City with his wife, Ottavia, and their daughter.

And while his food fans are probably more familiar with Bourdain eating fermented shark in Iceland or wart-hog parts in Namibia, this tough culinary adventurer has a softer side in the kitchen making omelets, pizzas and pasta dishes at home with Ariane.

"I am very lucky to be paid for being myself," says Bourdain. And it's not all about being the tough guy.

Guts and Glory: An Evening With Anthony Bourdain

What: A fundraiser for WMFE-FM 90.7, an Orlando public radio station

Where: Hard Rock Live, Universal CityWalk, 6050 Universal Blvd., Orlando

When: 8 p.m. Friday, April 26

Tickets: Sold out

Book sampler

In addition to a cookbook and his celebrated essays on behind-the-scenes in restaurants, Bourdain is a novelist.

Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook: Strategies, Recipes, and Techniques of Classic Bistro Cooking: Everything you need to know to prepare French bistro fare written with Bourdain's signature bravado.

A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines: Bourdain sets out on a quest for the perfect meal.

Kitchen Confidential Updated Edition: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly: His first New Yorker essay launched this candid memoir of his years in the restaurant business.

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook: Bourdain takes aim at some of the biggest names in the food world and more.

The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Usable Trim, Scraps, and Bones: A well-seasoned broth of candid, often outrageous stories from his worldwide misadventures.

The Bobby Gold Stories — A Novel: A fast, furious, pitch-perfect story of food, sex, crime and mayhem.

Bone in the Throat: In the vein of "Prizzi's Honor," a thrilling Mafia caper laced with entertaining characters and wry humor.

Gone Bamboo: A follow-up to "Bone in the Throat," a feast of murder, hit men and the hit women they love.

TV shows

Check your cable provider for times.

No Reservations: Bourdain's Emmy-winning first venture with the Travel Channel explores the globe, ferreting out the weird, wild and downright outrageous personalities and places that help define the international cultural landscape.

The Layover: The seasoned traveler heads out from airport hubs when he has 24-48 hours to spare during his travels throughout the U.S., Asia and Europe.

Parts Unknown: His new show with CNN serves up global flavors 9 p.m. on Sunday.

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