Anthony Bourdain, host of No Reservations and author of Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly and Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentineto the World of Food and the People Who Cook, serves up his thoughts on snacks, grub and rock & roll.
What do chefs and rock stars have in common?
People who cook for a living are in the pleasure business and I think it is no coincidence that just about every chef or cook you bump into or talk to also really likes music, and things that give them immediate gratification. They’re sensualists. That’s their business and their pleasure. So in that respect they have a lot in common with somebody who plays music for a living
Let’s talk starters: What’s your ultimate side one, track one, and what’s your ultimate appetizer?
Side one, track one would be The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” on Beggars Banquet. The ultimate appetizer. . . for me the angel-hair pasta with sea urchin butter and ossetra caviar at Le Bernardin is as good as it gets.
Let’s talk seduction: what’s your go-to soundtrack for getting it on, and what’s your go-to meal for getting a lady in the mood?
For music, I guess maybe Roxy Music’s “Avalon”. It’s cheeseball, but beautiful. People always respond to the classics. As for food, no one is immune to a big heaping can of beluga caviar, a bottle of vintage Krug and some fresh blinies. It’s a classic and there’s alcohol involved. Alcohol is key. Let’s face it. A pleasant derangement of the senses, there’s no question about it, it’s as good as it gets.
First times: what’s the first record you bought? First meal you cooked?
I think the first record I bought was a Monkee’s Meet The Monkees with “Last Train to Clarksville”. That was my first album. The first meal I cooked as a kid was egg in the hole. You know, a piece of toast with a fried egg. I think they taught us how to do it in second grade and I was very proud of myself.
On the road: what’s ultimate road food and what are the best driving songs?
I like a good taco or burrito, but whatever the local indigenous dive is, that’s good eating. That’s gonna trump a mediocre burger anytime. For music, I have a playlist that I put together for driving and there’s a bunch of stuff on it. Lynard Skynard’s “Tuesday is Gone", is a good road song. I like “Night Train” by James Brown when I’m feeling like I’m changing locations too often. And any ZZ Top is awesome driving music. I tend to like southern rock if I’m driving, doing long distances. Though if you’re driving really, really slow, if you’re just sort of cruising, like on a crawl, “Gin and Juice” is hard to beat. That is the best driving slow music there is.
Food and music pairings — can you pair a dish with:
The Ramones: Pizza. Absolutely. It was sort of their signature thing and I’ll always associate them with that from “Rock and Roll High School”. And I’m talking about utility pizza. No thin crust, fresh mozzarella shit.
Marvin Gaye: Some good French food there. Daube of beef provencal or something like that.
Roxy Music: There you’re talking about a tropical drink, a red stripe and maybe some grilled chicken in the Caribbean. You’re barefoot and you’re eating in the sand.
Jay Z : Probably the gnudi from the Spotted Pig in New York. He’s a part owner there and he’s clearly got good taste in food.
The Eagles: Jesus… a bad cheeseburger and a warm beer.
The Rolling Stones: Steak and kidney pie. Keith is a big meat pie man. With a good pint of Guinness.
Madonna: Caesar salad made with sterilized egg beaters.
If you could invite all your favorite artists for a dinner party, who would you invite?
Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age. In fact the whole band - they’re great guys, I know they like good food, and they’re really fun to be around. Marky Ramone, you can be sure he’ll clean his plate if nothing else. The guy’s got an appetite. He loves good food and he likes lots of it. I’ve never met Iggy Pop, but I’d love to at least once in my life, although I have this terrible suspicion he only eats vegetables. And Keith Richards above all others. That would be the ultimate for me. If we could throw Bootsy Collins in there also, that would be awesome. If I could come back as any musician and live my life over again, I would wanna come back as Bootsy Collins. If I could play bass like that, I would give up everything else. I would be happily, completely talentless in every other aspect of my life
What would you cook?
Something simple like pot-au-feu or boef bourgignon. Something not too involved but delicious that people could talk and drink a lot of good wine and mop their bowls or their plates with bread afterwards. Nothing too fancy.
What makes certain music suited for cooking?
I think "Superfly" by Curtis Mayield is perfect for cooking. It’s smooth, it’s got some funk to it, it’s energetic, but it doesn’t cause your brain cells to rub together. During clean-up you want to put on the Deadboys or Nine Inch Nails, but during the prep period I like Curtis Mayfield or Bobby Womack, those sort of guys.
What about for eating?
I’m pretty much into background music, honestly. I do appreciate being at Momofuku Ko or at Babbo and getting these outrageous playlists in the background. I appreciate it because it’s so different. I like it when you have no idea what’s coming next. It’s kind of crackpot and eccentric. In my own home I’d probably do something a little more laid back, if anything. I don’t even know that I play music during the meal. It’s all about the conversation.
What is your rock & roll fantasy?
Let’s see, who have I missed completely that I would have really liked to have seen? I’ve seen Hendrix, I’ve seen Janis Joplin. It would be something like the original Modern Lovers when they were still electric, just before their first album came out. That would have been interesting. Maybe Velvet Underground very early on or David Bowie just pre-Ziggy Stardust/Hunky Dory era. And I wouldn’t mind seeing the Yardbirds with Jeff Beck playing “Train Kept A Rollin’” on the set of Blowup. That would have been cool.
Who is the one artist out there now that you want to see live?
I’d like to see Kanye West. I don’t care how big of an asshole he is, he’s a fucking genius, and his new record is just brilliant.
And what’s the one restaurant you haven’t eaten at yet that you’re most looking forward to?
The meal that I want most badly is at Grant Achatz’s new restaurant Next, where he’s doing nothing but classical turn-of-the-century Escoffier dishes for three months and only three months. That’s the most exciting meal I can imagine. I really hope that I get a crack at that. I did not respond well to his main restaurant Alinea when I ate there, but I know his work from previously, and he is without question one of the world’s most brilliant chefs. This Escoffier thing from Grant Achatz and his crew sure as hell sounds like what I’ve been waiting for from this guy. And not just he Escoffier meal, but a lot of the other things he’s doing. It just sounds really, really exciting.
No Reservations airs on the Travel Channel on Mondays at 9 p.m. EST.
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