- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2002

NEW YORK Anthony Bourdain, who prefers a leather bomber jacket to a traditional toque blanche, shuns the glitzy label "celebrity chef."
Still, the executive chef at the two Les Halles restaurants in Manhattan is a celebrity, thanks to the best-selling book, "Kitchen Confidential," and the follow-up, "A Cook's Tour," which has a companion series debuting Tuesday on the Food Network.
Brad Pitt might even play Mr. Bourdain in a film adaptation of "Kitchen Confidential."
"It's supposed to be Brad Pitt, but who knows? I only know what I read in the papers. I'd like Gary Oldman, someone a little beat up."
The book, subtitled, "Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly," is full of well-known "secrets" about the restaurant industry including the don't-order-fish-on-Monday-because-it's-not-fresh rule.
Mr. Bourdain, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and the author of two novels, intended the book to celebrate the hard life, camaraderie and commitment of kitchen workers. "Kitchen Confidential's" critics (mostly uptight food writers, according to Mr. Bourdain) thought the book didn't give proper respect to chefs.
"A Cook's Tour," a travelogue of exotic places such as Vietnam, Cambodia and rural Mexico, offers a firsthand look at local cuisine and likely will have a new set of critics, says Mr. Bourdain. He picks the episode filmed in Portugal, featuring a medieval pig slaughter, as a likely target.
Mr. Bourdain, 45, grew up in Bergen County, N.J., and has lived and cooked in New York for most of his career.
How did you map out your destinations for "A Cook's Tour"?
A: I was looking for kicks. I avoided France Paris and Lyon which would be obvious stops for any sort of food-travel show. (He did make a stop in rural France, however.) Italy, I avoided. India. China. These are 'mother cuisines' that require a certain level of expertise and all the subjects have been covered well by others. I was looking for off-the-road, and for places that when I was reading Tintin comics as a kid sounded like cool places to go.

Do you speak any languages other than English?
A: I speak Spanglish. Nueva Yorkeno Mexican prison slang. I'd fail at Berlitz, but I could make myself understood in any kitchen in America.
What was your favorite place?
A: Vietnam was the one place that exceeded my hope and I had very high expectations for Vietnam. In every way, it was better than my wildest dreams. Everything I wanted to find, I found, times 10. It's the best food per square foot of anywhere I've ever been.
The worst?
A: Given the choice between returning to Berkeley (Calif.) for a vegan potluck dinner and eating with the Khmer Rouge (in Cambodia), I think I'd choose the Khmer Rouge again.
When did chefs become TV stars?
A: The rise of interest in food and the rise of interest in the glamorous chef, or TV-friendly chef, happened around the same time in the early '80s when the idea of indiscriminate sex was revealed to be not such a great idea.
That's one theory it's the new porn.


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