FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Anthony Bourdain relaxed Monday at the Kahala Hotel & Resort after a day of surfing on the North Shore for his Travel Channel series "No Reservations."
Bad-boy chef Anthony Bourdain brings his singular sense of adventure to local shores
STORY SUMMARY »
Anthony Bourdain is a guy I've long wanted to meet, but never wanted to interview. He has an unkind view of those of us who write for a living, expressed in his latest book, "The Nasty Bits":
"Don't like writers much. Given a choice between being trapped on a desert island with a group of writers or a family of howler monkeys, I think I'd pick the monkeys. At least I could eat them."
But when a guy like this comes to town, cowardice must be surmounted, and a person has to at least try. He is, after all, sort of fabulous.
An experienced and respected chef (Brasserie Les Halles in New York City), Bourdain found fame when he wrote his culinary memoirs-slash-ruminations, "Kitchen Confidential," with its sometimes horrifying tales of cooking for a living.
"Chickens are dirty. They eat their own feces, are kept packed close together like in a rush-hour subway and when handled in a restaurant situation are most likely to infect other foods or cross-contaminate them. And chicken is boring. Chefs see it as a menu item for people who don't know what they want to eat."
It's one of the most entertaining books ever written about food and restaurants. Anywhere. By anyone.
Yeah, so he is a writer, despite his disdain. He's also a "television personality," another breed he dislikes. All of which he admits in frequent apologies for no longer sweating it out in kitchens full-time.
Not that he'd go back. His day job now is host of the Travel Channel series "No Reservations," in which he samples culture and food all around the world. The show has gained him a cult following among lovers of the irreverent, the profane, the brave and gnarly.
As he has also written: "I want it all. I want to try everything once. ... What's that feathered game bird hanging on the porch, getting riper by the day, the body nearly ready to drop off? I want some."
Oh, so back to what I was talking about before: Bourdain's been here, filming a Hawaii episode of "No Reservations," which wraps today. And you know, he's not that scary up close.
» A conversation (sort of) with Anthony Bourdain. D2
Anthony Bourdain's irreverent holiday special airs at 9 tonight on the Travel Channel (Oceanic 58). "No Reservations" airs at 8 and 9 p.m. tomorrow. Both shows repeat frequently.
Books by Bourdain:
» "Kitchen Confidential" (2000)
» "Typhoid Mary: An Urban Historical" (2001)
» "A Cook's Tour," based on his Food Network series (2002)
» "The Les Halles Cookbook" (2004)
» "The Nasty Bits" (2006)
» "Bone in the Throat" (1995)
» "Gone Bamboo" (1997)
» " The Bobby Gold Story" (2004)
FULL STORY »
BETTY SHIMABUKURO / BETTY@STARBULLETIN.COM
The "No Reservations" film crew recorded the drinking, dining and chatting at Side Stree Inn Thursday as Anthony Bourdain, second from left, met with chef Fred D'Angelo, master sommelier Chuck Furuya and Side Street owner Colin Nishida.
Anthony Bourdain is in Hawaii to make a TV show -- "No Reservations," his Travel Channel series -- but also to right a deep wrong in his psyche.
"I was very traumatized by 'Hawaii 5-0.' Here's this (guy), he's in a suit and tie in dress shoes, walking on the beach. That was just really, really wrong. It really upset me in a deep way. It was like watching your parents having sex. It really upset me for a lot of years."
A note on the parenthetical noun in the preceding quote. Those who have watched or read Bourdain know he did not refer to Steve McGarrett as a "guy." He actually used a compound word that cannot be printed in a family newspaper. On his own show, Bourdain gets bleeped a lot.
Chefs, of course, can curse with the best of sailors, and at the time Bourdain was eating and drinking with a tableful of local chefs, assembled at Side Street Inn to talk about Hawaii and food. It was also being filmed, though, for broadcast sometime next year.
Bourdain -- chef, food writer, television personality -- has a reputation as a bad boy -- snarky, hard-drinking, chain-smoking, with a drug-infused, hard-boiled past. The anti-Rachael Ray. Last Thursday at Side Street, though, it was clear he's a much nicer guy than all that. He's even given up smoking, a concession to becoming a father.
Another reason to come to Hawaii. His travels on behalf of "No Reservations" take him to dark corners all over the world, and keep him away from home for all but a week over every month. As a new dad, he's sought out some "family-friendly" destinations that allow him to bring his wife and child along. While he's at Side Street, the family's tucked in at the Kahala Hotel & Resort.
So the cameras roll as he chats with chef Alan Wong, Side Street owner Colin Nishida and master sommelier Chuck Furuya. Throughout the restaurant, providing ambient noise, are some 50 friends Nishida has invited from kitchens all across the island. He's feeding them all his specialties: pork chops, chicken gizzards, strips of dried cuttlefish, fresh salads, sizzling platters of local beef, oxtail soup.
Wong calls for some extras for Bourdain, stuff your typical visitor won't see -- a bowl of opihi and a plate of raw Haleiwa white crab. "That is sick good," Bourdain says as he sucks the meat from the shells.
A head taller than these mostly Asian, well-under-6-foot chefs, Bourdain could seem like the Great White Hope. That's not his attitude, though.
"There is a Chinese guy somewhere deep inside," he says, pointing to his chest. "It has nothing to do with blood or history. ... It's attitudinal."
This comes as he chopsticks his way into a platter of moi, served whole, steamed Chinese-style. Bourdain tells a story of Chinese kidnappers offering a victim a meal of fish: "If he went for the fillet, they killed him. If he went for the head, they'd say, 'Clearly this is a man of distinction. Hold him hostage. Someone will pay.' "
Americans have a resistance to this kind of food, he says. "I come from a culture where if it's crisp, it's good." Kids learn this early, with fries and nuggets. "Most Americans start to have problems with Asian food when it gets gelatinous, like jellyfish. ... Crispy good; rubbery bad," he says.
"I'm moving away from crispy."
BETTY SHIMABUKURO / BETTY@STARBULLETIN.COM
Bourdain was served all manner of local foods, including fried rice and a fist-sized musubi. In front of him are a li hing mui martini and a bowl of oxtail soup.
Bourdain's Hawaii visit leaned a bit toward the touristy, with some sites suggested by the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, others chosen by his producers and himself. He's been to the luau at Paradise Cove, gone surfing, bought a $2,500 aloha shirt from Bailey's Antiques and Aloha Shirts. But he's gone off-path as well, to New Uptown Fountain, a little place on North School Street, for a discussion on Spam. A day on the Big Island took him to Jack Thompson's B&B, the Lava-Side Inn, the last structure in the lava-demolished Royal Gardens community.
Watch his show, and you'll see a guy fearless about food and foolishness. On Monday's episode, he sucked down lamb's brains and hung upside-down from a trapeze -- in tights.
It seems Bourdain is a perpetual student of anything edgy. He nods at that suggestion. "Talk about arrested development. Until age 44, I'd been in the kitchen. That was it."
His stay here included a lesson on tropical drinks, which seems a bit frou-frou for a guy like him, but a couple of weeks ago he read an article in the New York Times, "Cracking the Code of the Zombie," a serious discourse on tiki drinks.
In Bourdain's upbringing, he said, "the mai tai wasn't a serious drink. A serious drink was a martini. Too much fruit and a silly umbrella -- to me the drink was rendered useless. But apparently I might be wrong. I'm really excited by that. I really like being wrong."
He's mellowed some since the angry days of his first book, "Kitchen Confidential" (in which he described vegetarians as "the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, and an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food"). Some of that could be age (although he still has little fondness for vegetarians).
"When you're first starting in the business, you're talking about, "How's your business, how's your girl?' Now it's, 'How's your cholesterol?' "
And how's his? Borderline. "If I don't get it under control, I gotta go on Lipitrol."
Oh, the unfairness of entering your 50s. "I quit heroin, I quit cocaine. I quit smoking. What else to do you want?"