We last saw Anthony Bourdain in Houston back in 2010 right after the release of his book, Medium Raw. It was a sold out show befitting of a rock star, and those that came looking for his usual offensive language and utter disdain for Food Network stars and all things celebrity chefs weren't disappointed. This past weekend Anthony was back in our fair city with fellow celebrity chef and friend Eric Ripert of the famed Le Bernardin in New York, offering more of his usual rants and raves -- and the audience ate it up.
"Good vs. Evil" -- as the show was appropriately titled -- found Bourdain once again at Jones Hall and although this show was not sold out, it was still a shock to see the mass of people that came to see someone simply speak with no tricks or frills to fill the time.
As one could guess, Ripert was the "good" to Bourdain's "evil." Bourdain himself will admit that although he has mellowed through the years and no longer smokes, during the show he disclosed that he used to smoke three packs a day and has now resigned himself to celebrity chef status and is riding that wave. Mellow or not, evil still resonates in the tone of the tales from his bad boy chef days.
The show started with an interrogation of sorts. Ripert was the first, seated in a folding chair under a spotlight as Bourdain grilled him on his disapproval of Gordon Ramsay's television shows. Ripert feels they promote the wrong idea about what it takes to be a chef and that it's okay to be a complete asshole to those that work for you. Bourdain asked Ripert about his support of sustainability and his insistence on not serving anything on the endangered species list -- but then made Ripert admit to eating ortolan, a tiny bird that's captured, force fed, drowned in brandy and eaten whole as a delicacy. I was completely captured by Ripert's charm, his love for food and his restaurant as well as how completely unwavering he is about his beliefs -- even going so far as to punch someone he encountered being rude to a server.
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Bourdain's interrogation began with a simple enough question: "Are you a chef?" It's a fair question, as Bourdain is more known for being ornery, but he did attend the Culinary Institute of America and was a professional chef for 28 years. The Anthony Bourdain we all know and love emerged once he was prodded about his view on vegetarians, or rather the "Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit." He stuck to his guns about Paula Deen and flip-flopped a little on Rachael Ray and Emeril LaGasse -- but the man still clearly hates Guy Fieri, asking what is Guy going to do as he gets older to "de-douche" himself. "Does he turn down the flame on his bicep tattoo?" Bourdain asked.
Once the interrogation ended, the two friends sat down to a beer and conversation. They spoke about the importance of organic foods but also addressed how the cost or organics makes it impossible for all households to feed their families food that isn't filled with growth hormones and chemicals. They talked about Bourdain's move to CNN next year -- which, just in case anyone was wondering, won't feature him cooking with Wolf Blitzer. It will be No Reservations unfiltered in a sense.
The show ended with a Q&A session, with the first audience member asking about Bourdain's favorite places to eat -- in not Houston, but Austin -- to which Bourdain answered: Franklin Barbecue. A question about Galveston left him stumped but he did reiterate his love for Vietnamese food in Houston. And Ripert prefers scrambled eggs for breakfast.
The show was overall entertaining and confirmed Bourdain as an icon in the food world, with Ripert playing an excellent foil. Oh, and if you're wondering -- Bourdain's porn star name would be Poochie Orchard.