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Food for Thought: An Evening with Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations is currently one of my favorite shows (which means it’s a permanent staple on my DVR), so it was no surprise that when I found out he was doing a speaking engagement in LA, I jumped on the chance to get tickets to the event.

Anthony Bourdain picture via TravelChannel.com

Having read Bourdain’s books Kitchen Confidential and Medium Raw, as well as watching him on No Reservations and Top Chef, I felt like I had a pretty clear idea of what he was going to be like in person.  If you don’t have a sense of humor or tolerance for f-bombs here and there Bourdain is not your guy.  I however, find the guy hilarious.

During his talk Bourdain touched upon many topics such as the mysterious disappearance of Emeril Lagasse from the Food Network and instead featuring chefs such as Paula Deen (aka the butter queen) and Rachael Ray (3o minute meals that you COULD make, but never will).  He also called out the high and low points of Top Chef.  High point – the chefs are crazy talented and the show is legit; low point – the extreme overuse of product placement in one single episode.  But what stood out to me most was when he started talking about his experiences filming No Reservations.

Let’s be honest, Bourdain is a pretty lucky guy.  He goes from working 15+ hour days in a kitchen to writing a best seller to his own tv show where he gets to travel the world and basically do whatever he wants.  And he’s quite humble about it too.  He knows that he has a gig that everyone dreams about (well at least me anyway).  But as much drinking/swearing/food indulgences there are on any episode, he also takes a look into the respective locations culture.

One of the things Bourdain emphasized is that when you travel, immerse yourself in your surroundings.  Step out of your comfort zone.  Embrace another culture even if it means trying a mystery meat dish or maybe staying in a hotel with less than stellar plumbing.  So many of us are used to our creature comforts of home that when we do travel we expect it all to be the same, and if it isn’t the same we go seeking the familiar (Exhibit A: Starbucks).  In every episode I’ve seen of No Reservations, Bourdain NEVER eats at his hotel, and will only dine at a hole in the wall type place recommended by locals.  Many times you can find him sitting at a dinner table surrounded by a family and their friends, and enjoying an authentic, home cooked meal.  If that isn’t immersing yourself in a country’s culture, then nothing is.

By the end of the evening I was ready to hop on a plane to an exotic locale and enjoy the sights, sounds, and the food.  But since I can’t hop on a plane right this second, why not take advantage of my own surroundings?  Maybe I can’t travel to Greece in the next month, but I can try an authentic Greek restaurant.  Or if I have a hankering for Pad Thai I can make my own since Thailand isn’t in the cards anytime soon.  It’s time to embrace what my own city has to offer, even if it isn’t as exciting as many of the places seen on No Reservations.

Thanks Anthony Bourdain for a delightful evening.  And I promise that the next time I travel abroad I will not wear a fanny pack, visit all the tourist traps or go to a Starbucks.  You have my word.