Anthony Bourdain made his way to Waterbury, Connecticut this past Tuesday for a show at the Palace Theater. The world renowned chef and journalist spoke to a packed crowd for more than an hour and a half, starting the show with the brilliant wit and charm he is known for.
“This sounds like a crowd of drunks,” Bourdain shouted.
If only this were true. I was merely fortunate to down four small (I mean, itty-bitty) cups of wine during the pre-show wine tasting, so I was not included in his accusation.
Myself and good friend Diana were so close I could see the buttons on his well-tailored blazer. I could see his salt and pepper (mostly salt) hair as if he were next to me, I could feel his words vibrate as they came out of his mouth. Mind you, I have been a Bourdain fan since the beginning of his hit Travel Channel show No Reservations, which began airing in 2005. I have seen every episode, maybe more than once. I pride myself slightly on this. I am an oober fan. I try to learn as much as I can about those unknown little places (nevermind the major cities) in this world as I can, unfortunately without being there.
I admire him because he is the male version of me, besides the fact that he is wildly successful and I am not. He eats and loves to eat, he swears without apologizing for it, drinks because alcohol is fantastic, and loves culture and feels empathy on the same strange and small things in this world as I do.
He addressed the fact that he knows he is lucky for his job, but I found his humbleness interesting. He talked about his years of dedication at work behind the scenes in restaurant kitchens. He went over his hatred towards Food Network “chefs” and elaborated on the inside world of filming travel. He bashed vegetarians endlessly and the overeaters of processed food alike.
What stuck with me most, Tony stated that when people of other countries are able to scrounge up enough money after putting food on the table, if they are lucky and second to purchasing a motorbike, they buy satellite television. These satellites pick up just about every American television show being broadcast. What do cultures think when they see Man vs. Food? A farmer in the Shanghai region of China may struggle with an unpredictable harvest all year and can barely make ends meet to feed his family. Meanwhile, college frat boys cheer on a man who feels it is absolutely necessary to finish a six-pound cheeseburger in order to win a t-shirt. It is discouraging and shameful. He had a point, and he would know how they feel better than I do. I felt embarrassed just sitting in my seat, surrounded by Americans that most likely eat and drink like Adam Richman and I (sans five-pounds of beef).
I picked up on a lot that I never knew about him. He had such passion for Asian culture it was overwhelming. I thought back on the Vietnam episode where his enlightenment was contagious through cables and wires. He wanted to live there; to move his family across the world to a place he saw as suitable for his daughter and wife, and where copious amounts of time and interaction with the culture would be inevitable.
If you were wondering, as I always am (although deep down I know the answer already) if there are dog markets across the globe, well, there are plenty. Bourdain went on to say that dog is cuisine in most of Southeast Asia. He claimed he does not compromise his morals, and those include not eating dog. However, he did suggest that if it came down to a matter of respect of another’s hospitality, then “steamed puppy heads” it would be. I could not help but respect him greatly for this, which I would normally find oddly disturbing.
As the show came to a conclusion, the audience was then allowed to ask questions. Some were of quality, others not so much. I found that his respect for his fans was of vast proportions. I saw this not only during the Q & A, but as we were waiting in line to meet him. He was very generous, respectful and willing to talk and take pictures. He was not so hurried and distant.
When it was my turn to have my photo taken, I was so anxious and nervous I wanted to melt. He was sipping on his beer, waiting for me. Waiting for me? Okay, waiting for the next person, who looked just like the last; we are all the same to him I am sure. I walked right up to him and shook his hand, and bashfully told him how he is my true inspiration. He thanked me and signed my book, asking if I had an “H” in my name. Yes, I would remember that! I also told him I tweet him all the time and that he never responds. Oh, Sarah! Maybe the wine kicked in by this point, two hours too late? He smiled and said that he was sorry (just busy!) Besides, he travels 260 days a year. Lucky? You be the judge.
Before myself and Diana walked away, he thanked us again for coming out to see him.
He was off to Charlotte and I was off to bed. Give me some time, world! I will be out there soon enough. If there is anything I have really learned from Mr. Bourdain, it would be that perserverance and hard work pay off. It is hard to be a journalist and even harder to keep those aspirations to travel the world. I am entitled to my dreams, though. We all are.