Q&A: Anthony Bourdain's Favorite Meals, Dream Destinations, and the Importance of Literacy
On April 30, Anthony Bourdain hosts the 10th Annual Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters benefit, which raises money for a New York school that focuses on reading and writing skills. On the night’s agenda: sampling food from the likes of Danny Bowien and Gabrielle Hamilton and cocktails by PDT’s Jim Meehan. (Tickets, which start at $250, can be found here.) Here, the peripatetic author-chef-TV personality talks about his new CNN show, Parts Unknown, why he loves to communicate in 140 characters or fewer, and other topics.
Why did you get involved with the Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters?
An institution that emphasizes the ability to express oneself proficiently gets at the very heart of what I believe in. Without the ability to articulate what you want in life, you’re lost. If I could not use the English language in a precise way, I would still be dropping French fries into hot grease. The event itself is always really eclectic, with great chefs and restaurant people. You can always be sure that you will be inspired, impressed, and well fed.
What has been your most memorable meal of 2013 so far?
It’s always an adventure eating. We just did a show in Granada, and it was one great meal after another. That’s what’s so great about Spain. It’s the little every day things—the jamón ibérico, the shellfish, and the fact that you eat so well in an ordinary, casual way.
Your show on CNN, Parts Unknown, is two episodes into its first season. What has the response been like so far?
The reaction has been spectacular, especially since both episodes have been on subjects that conventional wisdom would tell you would not be of mainstream appeal. Part of the last episode focused on Koreatown in Los Angeles, and the question of Asian identity and assimilation. The first episode was about Myanmar, which few people even know anything about.
You are known for being very active on Twitter, even making TIME's list of best Twitter feeds of 2013.
I’ve seen a lot of growing pains among chefs, authors, and others in traditional media grappling with this platform to communicate with fans. I took over my account because the idea that the network or somebody else would speak as me was repellent. Because of the restrictions, you’re forced to shape and define your thoughts in short form, which I find exciting and fun. It’s a whole different language, and I can use it as a means to get immediate feedback from fans or to vent outrage.
Describe what you love about your career in 140 characters or fewer.
I get to live my dream. Who wouldn’t want my job? It’s that simple. I’m living the little boy’s fantasy, having adventures. [Ed. Note: That’s 128 characters]
What’s on your bucket list?
Congo was No. 1, but I recently scratched that off. We just completed an episode there, which was maybe the greatest adventure of my life. Now Iran is on the top of my list. We know so little about it. I’ve heard that the people are very different than one would believe. The government is repulsive, yet it’s a county with a fantastic culinary heritage. And I’ve heard it’s a young country, with aspirations that are very different than those of their government.
You have 24 hours to live. Where and what are you eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
If I had 24 hours to live, I’d have one meal. I’d go to Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo.
What about some of your favorite New York spots?
I love Marea, Le Bernadin, Prune—and a good burger at Shake Shack is the default family meal. Any of the Momofuku spots are always good. If I’m away for a long time, the first American food I crave is good deli; I’ll get it from Russ & Daughters or Barney Greengrass.
Are you working on any projects?
I’m writing another crime novel. It’s about misplaced New Yorkers doing terrible things to each other in the Caribbean.
See: Chefs' Night Out.
Brooke Porter is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter at @brookeporter1.