In his role as a professional eater and drinker on Travel Channel's No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain's omnivorous bacchanals across the globe have become the stuff of foodie legend. So I braced myself for our meal at NYC's Takashi, a Japanese/Korean restaurant that's known for specialties like beef heart and flash-boiled Achilles' tendon. Would I be able to keep up with his infinite appetite for offal and sake? As it turned out, Bourdain is considerably more tame when he's off duty — and readily admits that these days, he'd rather get home to his wife and kid than stay out late being a bada--.
TV Guide Magazine: When Kitchen Confidential — your best-selling exposé on the culinary industry — came out in 2000, did your life change overnight?
Bourdain: Overnight. One day I was a broke 44-year-old chef with no future; the next I was paying my rent on time for the first time, with the power and ability to go anywhere.
TV Guide Magazine: On No Reservations, now in Season 7, you manage to talk about food without sounding like a windbag. What's the trick?
Bourdain: I don't describe the food. You'll notice again and again I'll take a bite and I'll be like, "Whoa, that's really good." It doesn't do anybody any favors if I describe something as slightly metallic with hints of oak.
TV Guide Magazine: When you're traveling, how homesick do you get?
Bourdain: I'm on the road 220 days a year. I miss my family [wife Ottavia and daughter Ariane] desperately. Show me any 4-year-old saying "Daddy" on TV when I'm away and I'm f---ing devastated.
TV Guide Magazine: Has being a dad mellowed you?
Bourdain: It's everything. How could you even maintain any pretense of dispassion or cynicism when you know what it's like to look at a sleeping little girl's face? Anybody who thinks I'm that [cool] guy? These are the facts: I just want to sit around in my jammies with my daughter!
TV Guide Magazine: "Dream job" seems like an understatement for what you do. Still pinch yourself?
Bourdain: Yeah. We just shot in northern Iraq and Turkey. We're sitting in a Soviet chopper, flying through a canyon — my crew and I look at each other and go, "Who gets to do this?"
TV Guide Magazine: What's the worst thing you've ever eaten?
Bourdain: We have a hard time topping the fermented shark in Iceland — that was really, really bad. Chicken McNuggets are a hell of a lot easier to get down than a rotten shark.
TV Guide Magazine: Is food poisoning an occupational hazard?
Bourdain: I've only gotten it twice in 10 years. Both were tribal, bad-hygiene situations. I just knew I was going to be sick when I saw what I had to eat. Out of respect, I ate what was offered.
TV Guide Magazine: Guests on the show love forcing drinks on you, huh?
Bourdain: It's a dangerous place to be! I'll binge drink and binge eat. But off camera, if fans come up and say, "Let's do tequila shots," they will be sadly disappointed. That would kill me. At home, I don't even keep beer in the fridge.
TV Guide Magazine: You wrote for HBO's Treme last season. How'd that happen?
Bourdain: Out of the blue they asked if I'd like to have lunch. I called up my agent and said, "Whatever [creator] David Simon proposes, just say yes. There will be no negotiating."
TV Guide Magazine: You've made no secret of your disdain for certain celeb chefs. Why so vocal?
Bourdain: I don't have a reputation to protect. I came from nowhere. Whatever success I've had is from being frank and not giving a sh--. I'm incapable of doing otherwise. It's not an integrity thing — I'm just constitutionally and emotionally and neurologically incapable of keeping my mouth shut.