Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Foodie Event: Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain spoke at the Cobb Performing Arts Center on Saturday night. The Southern Foodie wouldn't have missed it for the world. I spent two happy hours watching him pace slowly back and forth across the stage, sipping a bottle of beer and spinning tales of foodie heaven and hell.

Bourdain is well known for poking fun at celebrity chefs, especially those featured on The Food Network, and he began the show with a hilarious Sandra Lee story. Bourdain's acerbic comments and quick wit are his trademarks, and the audience ate it up.

Next he launched into an enjoyable diatribe about what's wrong with food television today, followed by a hilarious explanation of some of his many pet peeves. He eviscerated the Olive Garden chain. He (jokingly) claimed that watching Adam Richman on TV incites middle eastern goat herders to join Al Qaeda. He suggests telling your small child that Ronald McDonald has cooties.

Finally he gave the audience about 20 minutes worth of travel advice, garnered from recent years starring in the Travel Channel's hit show, No Reservations. First off, Bourdain encouraged us to be appreciative of any and every opportunity to travel (example: correct sushi eating etiquette). As Americans, we are greatly fortunate to be able to whip out our passport and know that our government will likely get us out of any scary situation we might get ourselves into. He also commands travelers to be respectful of other cultures, observing their customs and avoiding offense. This may sound pathetically obvious to some of you, but anyone who has travelled abroad has witnessed tourists getting an attitude about the simplest of misunderstandings.

However, Bourdain spent the most time urging travellers to be adventurous, especially when trying new and authentic foods. His only exception is Russia, where he says all bets are off, saying the last time he visited he was forced to admit that any 99 year-old Russian grandmother could drink him under the table. This is coming from a man who was drinking more than 30 shots of vodka every day of the trip.

Bourdain is unapologetically opinionated, and is rarely modest. He recently gave up his long-time heavy smoking habit and is loudly bitter about it. During the Q&A session, he was asked by an audience member why he portrayed a certain low-class area of a South American country. He answer is that he may revisit the region for a future episode of No Reservations and highlight a "better" part of the city, but it's his show, and he'll go where and do what he wants on it, period. This brought wild cheers from most of the audience (including me), but one can't help but see that Bourdain isn't seeking our approval. Another audience member asked about his bottle of beer, which turned out to be Sweetwater 420. Following the vociferous applause from the audience he sneeringly said "it's so easy to pander to the locals." And indeed it is, as it's easy for Bourdain to impress anyone who paid a minimum of $40 for a ticket to hear him talk about whatever he wanted for 2 hours. Some of us have been eagerly reading his books and watching No Reservations for years, and couldn't wait for Saturday's live show. He captivated us from the moment he set foot on stage.

Verdict: A highly entertaining show from a world-class food personality/chef. Worth every penny.

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