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Anthony Bourdain Talks 'No Reservations,' 'Hunger Games' And The Death Of Angry Bobby Flay

Posted: Updated: 05/15/2012 3:18 pm

Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain talks "No Reservations"

Are you ready for Bourdain Mania? Foul-mouthed foodie Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" is back for its eighth season (premieres Mon., Apr., 9, 9 p.m. ET on Travel Channel), but the week of Bourdain doesn't stop there -- he's also interviewed for an episode of "Inside MMA," all about his wife's mixed martial arts training (Mon., Apr. , 8 p.m. ET on HDNet) and he's showing off his classic movie knowledge as guest programmer on Turner Classic Movies with Robert Osborne (Tues., Apr. 10 on TCM).

So yeah, he's been a little busy. "It's like, way too much me," Bourdain told HuffPost TV via phone with a laugh.

In fact, when we caught up to chat last week, he had just landed from a trip that sounded pretty fantastic. "I just got back from Burgundy with Ludo Lefebvre," Bourdain said. "We did a sort of a 'Ludo goes home to his roots, much Burgundy consumed' theme show. It was a lot of fun."

Jealous yet? It's been said before, but it's worth repeating: Anthony Bourdain has the greatest job ever. But whose food "really surprised him" this season, what did he wait in line an hour and a half to eat and what does he devour on camera that shocked him? ("It violates everything I believe in," Bourdain said.) Keep reading for more ...

You're doing something this season that I never thought you'd ever do: The fact that you're eating a pre-made egg salad sandwich from a convenience store is freaking me out.
I know. I know! It violates everything I believe in. But Dave Chang ... you know, I really look up to Dave Chang, and I have a lot of faith in his taste in food. And he's like a stone junkie with this stuff. His eyes practically rolled up into his head when he caught wind of those stores. And they are, in fact, really frighteningly delicious and addictive.

So you didn't eat it and think, "That was the worst mistake of my life?"
No, I came away looking for more. In fact, the last meal I had in Japan this last trip was at an airport convenient store, the same chain.

What other adventures can we expect this season?
All of us, and most importantly my camera guys, are really happy with the work on Mozambique and Penang. I'm always secretly the most pleased when a show just really, really looks good and when my camera guys are really happy with the images they got. Those are just two really technically accomplished shows that I'm really proud of this season.

In Penang, I knew the food was going to be great. I've eaten a lot in Malaysia and in that part of southeast Asia, but I'd never been to Penang, which is where just about everybody says the best food is, so I had a pretty good idea that that was going to be great. But I was really surprised by how great the food in Mozambique was. Even people who are really poor, who are eating rice and beans, they're damn good rice and beans. You know, people take a lot of pride in their food, and they have some really interesting food traditions that they've held onto.

I feel like you go to most places and everyone knows you now, but did they know who you were in Mozambique?
Yeah, the show is seen there, particularly in the southern part of Africa. But once you get out to the rural level where there's no electrical power and no satellite TV, obviously I'm gonna be a stranger -- the appearance of a television crew is always going to be a strange and freakish event there. But we're pretty good at negotiating that sort of stuff, and in fact, it's a lot easier to shoot in a situation like that than some place where you're a known quantity or where they're media savvy. That's often the death of television. That's not what we're looking for -- we're not putting on a show. We only like people to relax and be normal ... we don't want people dressed up in indigenous garb just for us, doing the dog and pony show.

To that end, I feel like social media has probably hurt you a bit. When people start finding out where you'll be and restaurants start bragging that you're coming ...
Well, we're really careful about that. We monitor Twitter before we shoot each scene, and if it's out, if somebody's blabbed or the restaurant has put it up on Facebook and there's a whole bunch of people sitting there waiting with cameras, we're not going. We will cancel the shoot and find something else to do. It's unfortunate ... it's hurtful. If a business is looking to help themselves, as has happened, like, "Hey everybody, if you want to be on 'No Reservations,' come on by at noon!" We call and say, "Gee, we're really sorry, but that's not what we do." We don't want a bunch of gaping people in the background holding cameras, and we will and we have many times canceled the scene as a result.

I saw you mention brisket somewhere, and that you went to Franklin Barbecue in Austin while you were there for SXSW ... and?
It is the best. It is the finest brisket I've ever had. I can't imagine anyone could surpass this. It's unearthly in its moistness, in its perfect balance. Listen -- I waited in line an hour and a half to get in there. [Laughs.] I stood on line. That's part of the experience, to stand in line. It's a whole social thing. But let me tell you, by the time I was, oh, 10 feet away from that brisket, looking at it, I understood why'd I'd waited on line with everybody else. I could tell just from the way it hit the cutting board that this was going to be just earth-shatteringly good. And it was indeed.

As a Texan, I love hearing that. Now, as an L.A. resident, I was happy to hear there'll be a Roy Choi cookbook in your upcoming line.
Oh yeah -- I'm a huge fan of Roy's.

I feel like your show could feasibly go on forever. How long do you want to see the show go on? What's left that you still really want to show?
As long as I'm having fun, as long as it's interesting to me, as long as I see my crew ... as long as it's a fun process, meaning I'm enjoying making television with the people I work with. As long as they're interested, then I'll keep doing it. The minute it becomes a job, then there's really no point.

Because it's essentially the same story every week of a guy going somewhere, eating stuff and coming back, we're definitely making an effort to try and get into places like Libya and the Congo to tell some more difficult stories. This is not a political show, but I think that what people eat is, in itself, very political. Without having us tell people one way or the other how I feel, just by showing what people eat and don't eat in a place, and how they feel about their food, and how they behave around their food ... that gives me a lot of satisfaction, particularly when it's places that surprise people. I like being surprised. I like, at my age, being forced to learn stuff. Big stuff and little: learning how to order breakfast in a country where I don't speak the language and haven't been before -- that's really satisfying to me. I like that.

And that's what people respond to most. Now I'm happy that, in between seasons, we get to see what you're up to on Tumblr and Twitter. Who are your favorite people to follow on Twitter?
I follow a lot of people ... Drunk Hulk, of course. Dave Chang. The Joe Beef guys are awesome. Anthony De Rosa. David Carr from the Times. I love Bret Easton Ellis' late-night movie criticism. [Laughs.] He's up at three o'clock in the morning, talking about movies!

Yeah, I'm a Twitter addict. Jose Andres is a serial tweeter. It's funny to see which chefs have embraced it, and the different paths they take. I have a pretty wide group of people -- chefs, hard news people. And Angry Bobby Flay is a particular favorite of mine.

I was just about to mention that. Did you hear that Bobby Flay supposedly had the Angry Bobby Flay twitter account taken down? It's since spawned a new one, but I think you had something to do with it...
Aw, man -- really? That's heartbreaking. I thought it was really funny stuff. It sure didn't make Bobby look bad. [Laughs.] I thought it reflected well on him in a lot of ways! Oh god, I've been living with Ruth Bourdain for years -- he can't handle Angry Bobby Flay? [Laughs.] That's, like, super lame. That was well-written stuff, and only an idiot would think it's the real Bobby Flay ... so what's the problem? That's so lame. I like Bobby -- he's a decent guy -- but I'm really sorry to hear that.

There's been a lot of talk about "the death of the food blogger." Do you think food blogging is on its way down, now that just about anyone with a camera can start one, or do you think that only helps the culture?
I think that Eater and Grubstreet have certainly completely eclipsed Chowhound and eGullet -- those old message boards -- but no, I don't see the food blog being eclipsed. Certainly it's a short-form, 140-character world right now, to a great extent, but I follow links. If somebody crafts an interesting tweet that'll lead me to their blog, I'm going to their blog.

Your wife, Ottavia, is one tough broad with this MMA thing. Who's scarier now: You or your wife?
[Laughs.] Yes, she is indeed! I think you'd be better off getting into a street fight with me than with her, that's for sure. It would be a very, very bad mistake to pick a fight with my wife at a bar.

I'm excited about your picks for Turner Classic Movies, but I'm ashamed to admit that I've never seen a single one of them.
I'm one of those annoying movie nerds who's seen way more movies than you, and remembered them. [Laughs.] But most of the people on my crew are film students ... we're all film nerds on the show, and we're constantly pushing each other to rip off obscure directors or cinematographers.

So you go for the more obscure films and not big blockbuster-style? I'm guessing that means you haven't seen "The Hunger Games"?
No, I haven't, but I'm a big fan of the original "Battle Royale" by Kinji Fukasaku on which "The Hunger Games" was shamelessly cribbed. I like [Jennifer Lawrence] very much though ... I thought she was so awesome in "Winter's Bone" that I might well see it.

"No Reservations" Season 8 premieres Mon., Apr., 9, 9 p.m. ET on Travel Channel.

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