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Meet & Eat: Anthony Bourdain

By The Serious Eats Team
March 2, 2007

Today marks the debut of our Q&A feature on Serious Eats. Each Friday we'll be asking various food lovers what makes them tick. Here, we're happy to have chef and author Anthony Bourdain kick off the series.

20070302bourdain.jpgName: Anthony Bourdain
Location: Last week, Patagonia. Next week, Singapore
Occupation: Hell if I know

What's your favorite comfort food?
Roasted bone marrow with sea salt and toast. Or pho.

Guilty pleasure?
Macaroni and cheese, Lynrd Skynrd's "Simple Man" (I'm SO ashamed!), Hell's Kitchen, Hong Kong gangster films, In-N-Out Burger,

Perfect meal?
A bowl of pho in the street in Saigon.

What one food won't you eat?

Any food you haven't tried but would like to?
That Sardinian cheese with the maggots in it. I assume it must be good if people get past the maggots.

Who's your favorite food person?
Fergus Henderson. (Also: Martin Picard, Mario Batali, Eric Ripert, Jim Harrison. And dead guys: A. J. Liebling, M. F. K. Fisher, Ludwig Bemelmans.)

When did you realize you were a serious eater?
When the Chinese and Singaporeans began to take me seriously.

What does your family think about your career?
What does my family think? They're bemused—and happy I'm not in jail.

Favorite blog?
Michael Ruhlman's blog. Chez Pim. And I'm addicted to Regina Schrambling's embittered rants—they make me feel better about myself. I read Schrambling and feel, "Wow. I'm relatively HAPPY!"


Anthony, fellow fan of Vietnam here. The piece you penned in the Financial Times about your intention to move to Vietnam is one of my all time favorite 'love letters' to Vietnam.

I lived in Vietnam, both Hanoi and Saigon, on and off from 2001 until the end of 2005. I can point you to a great pork with sesame seeds at a bia hoi in Bach Khoa, Hanoi; a pho that is made out of seemingly ground meat in Saigon; a row of delicious seafood restaurants in Saigon; and Saigon's night fish market, a must visit. I was taken there by Graham at Noodlepie, a blog I'm sure you know. I also imagine you know Stickyrice.

To learn more about Saigon's night fish market, check out my blog post from there.

And for the seemingly impossible, a vegetarian pho that actually tastes good. A rare find indeed but even for meatheads, it's worth a visit, especially early in the morning, when the monks come for their bowl.
My post on it.

Oh, and if you want Saigon's best banh mi, you have to go to Nguyen Trai Street in District 1, Saigon. Go after 5pm, near the traffic circle with the statue of Nguyen Trai. Walk away from the New World Hotel, look on your left, and you will see a women selling banh mi thit nuong, or a sandwich with grilled bbq pork. Ridiculously good.

cheers and Chuc Mung Nam Moi,

Mike in Brooklyn

I know you've had balut in Vietnam, and Filipino food doesn't have the sexy reputation extended to its neighbors in Southeast Asia, but you're still missing out by not visiting the Philippines—c'mon now, my people love pork so much there's an entire neighborhood in Manila dedicated to roasting pigs year-round.

I agree about the bone marrow. It is pure unadulterated pleasure to eat.

Funny, the reason I read Bourdain or anything on Bourdain is the same reason he reads Regina. I read Regina too. She's brilliant, funny and yes, the tiniest bit bitter...somewhat like Bourdain, if you ask me.

I adore Anthony he is my favorite food snob. I think he should write more books. If I wrote a book it would along the same lines. Food snobs unite.

Regards noodlepie Mike. The funny thing is, five or more people over the years, possibly including yourself, have likened what I write on the blog to Tony Bourdain. Before I started the blog I'd never heard of the guy. A friend of mine gave me his book, Kitchen Confidential, which I'll admit I enjoyed for the first 70 pages or so before I got distracted by something else and meanwhile someone else decided they'd borrow it from my bookshelf in Saigon.... ach... Vietnam...

Also, I'd never seen any of his TV shows until a couple of weeks ago I searched around YouTube and found a couple of clips of his which I added to the Vietnamese food video round up:

I don't think his expereince of Vietnam is anything like ours, although he may have flirted with the edges of daily life there. The freak show end of things in Vietnam is not a freak show when you live it. It's just normal life.

Then, the other day I was culling my podcast subscriptions when I noticed eGullet had a couple of Bourdain interviews I hadn't heard. So, I downloaded them,

The sound quality is total crap, BUT, what Bourdain says especially re: the scarcity of quality food, quality street food in developed societies and what we've lost etc. is something I very much recognise. I live in Toulouse which is filled with quality nosh, but unlike Saigon that quality is not available to all regardless of wealth, on every street corner at all hours of the day. Although foie gras is available in every and any strain 2 minutes from my gaff :)

Tony's honesty, true delight in adventure, and self-deprecating humor are so refreshing in today's world of superstar chefs and pompous restaurateurs. He's our modern-day American Bobby Burns, and I for one like the steamin' rustic heap of haggis he's servin'.


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