Anthony Bourdain greeted a packed house at the Pantages last night. The Los Angeles installment of Bourdain's "Guts and Glory" tour took place in the opulent 1930 theatre with a crowd that was more academic than hip, and fiercely local as demonstrated by any reference to L.A. -- and especially during the introduction of Bourdain's co-host, Roy Choi.
The chefs opened with questions for each other, standing for a verbal tennis match, then sat and cracked beers for a more fluid dialogue, finally ending with questions from the audience. Bourdain was ruthless as ever, even mocking the audience for spending hard earned money on the tickets. But his charisma and tendency toward self-deprecation won the crowd over -- and made it clear why he's such a compelling player on the food world stage.
Bourdain made clear his abhorrence of the fois gras ban as "an embarrassment to California," and he noted that the birds aren't being asked to do "anything an adult film star doesn't do twice a day." More impromptu editorializing came when the audience asked questions, particularly one about Red Medicine's recent twitter tantrums. Bourdain said that the restaurant had gone too far in calling out patrons who never showed for their reservations; Choi that they hadn't gone far enough.
6. Bourdain is the first to admit his own hypocrisy:
Bourdain maintains the fun of tearing down snobbish green lifestylers, but admits that he wants his daughter to eat organic. On the topic of his role on The Taste, he says taking the gig was not only hypocritical but "a bit douchey," though after spending a month at Chateau Marmont hanging out with people he liked and ensuring that his daughter "would not be going to community college" meant he'd had fun and would do it again.
5. No one can agree on serving the homeless:
Here the chefs were divided, Bourdain assuring us that he'd refuse service to a homeless person who was prepared to pay at his restaurant, and that the "harsh, honest reality" is that most other restaurants would deny them as well. Choi was passionate on this point, saying that he proudly serves anyone "whose money is green."
Choi went on to propose that large food festivals could bypass difficult health regulations, which often prevent restaurants from donating food, by providing a booth at events where leftover food could be given to homeless shelters. This way, the food would "end up in hungry stomachs, not the trash."
4. Rachael Ray has a great sense of humor:
Bourdain has always given Rachael Ray and her show 30 Minute Meals a hard time, but he has warmed to her after learning what a great sense of humor she has. Not only did Ray send him a fruit basket after he publicly chastened her, but at a roast she joked about Mario Batali lending someone a scrunchy when getting a blow job. That Ray is a fan of the New York Dolls, one of Bourdain's most beloved bands, also helped.
3. Bourdain loves In-N-Out and Jonathan Gold:
An audience member asked about Bourdain's feelings about Jonathon Gold and his effect on food culture in L.A. The chef contended that not only is Gold a brilliant food writer but that Gold was the first one to point out "the tectonic shift in food: that eating is a counter-culture move."
When asked by an audience member about restaurants he liked in L.A., Bourdain cited Son of a Gun, Mozza (which he thinks is the best of Batali's restaurants), and Trois Mec. But Bourdain said that he loves In-N-Out so much he'd likely be ending his evening with internet porn and a double-double in his hotel room.
2. Paula Deen led to a lonely place:
The initial Paula Deen controversy began with a mishandled quote from Bourdain, who thought he was being asked about the worst Food Network chef for America. Interpretations quickly had Bourdain describing Deen as the "worst chef in America" -- and then "the worst person in America." Soon Bourdain was getting negative feedback from both Fox News and The New York Times. Bourdain then called Deen out for the five-year delay in admitting her condition of Type 2 diabetes, waiting until she had made a deal with drugmaker Novo Nordisk, which Bourdain characterized as like "giving someone heroin and then trying to sell them Methadone."
1. There's nothing simple about "authentic" food:
Bourdain asked Choi about authenticity, hinting at problems with "fusion"-style food and white chefs serving Asian dishes. Choi responded with a postmodern approach to heritage, saying that you can only be authentic to yourself and the place you are in -- thus justifying Choi's own Korean BBQ tacos -- and that the only thing that matters is if the food is good. Bourdain wondered why Choi didn't want to retaliate against the kids at recess who would mock and isolate Korean-American kids because of their lunches. To which Choi replied, "I'm a grown adult, not a kid on a playground."
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