February 13, 2017

"She’s an interesting woman. I admire her choices. But I married Sophia Loren. She turned into Jean-Claude Van Damme."

Said Anthony Bourdain, quoted in this long New Yorker article, "Anthony Bourdain's Moveable Feast/Guided by a lusty appetite for indigenous culture and cuisine, the swaggering chef has become a travelling statesman."

The turning into Jean-Claude Van Damme has to do with jujitsu. And the couple broke up.

Bourdain had an earlier wife. He broke up with her because of television:
“She identified television early on as an existential threat to the marriage,” Bourdain said. “I felt like the whole world was opening up to me. I’d seen things. I’d smelled things. I desperately wanted more. And she saw the whole thing as a cancer.” If you watch episodes of “A Cook’s Tour,” you can sometimes spot [the first wife, Nancy] Putkoski hovering at the edge of the frame. She had no desire to be on camera. She told me recently that her ideal degree of fame would be that of a Supreme Court Justice: “Almost nobody knows what you look like, but you always get the reservation you want.”
There are easier ways to get a reservation, but if you do use the become-a-Supreme-Court-Justice method, make sure to be one of the liberal ones. 

And, also on the subject of television, I was interested in this:
“Parts Unknown” films two seasons a year. Even first-class travel can be punishing after a while, and Bourdain acknowledges that although he may still behave like a young man, he isn’t one. “I think you’re officially old at sixty, right?” he told me, soon after his birthday. “The car starts falling apart.” However, TV stars forge bonds with their audience through habitual exposure, and it can feel risky to take a break. “It’s a bit like ‘Poltergeist,’ ” Nigella Lawson, who was Bourdain’s co-host on “The Taste,” told me. “You get sucked into the TV and you can never get out.”
By the way, I love Bourdain's book "Kitchen Confidential," and I was fascinated to learn that it was inspired by one of my favorite books,  “Down and Out in Paris and London” (by George Orwell). The New Yorker quotes Orwell's statement that cooks are “the most workmanlike class, and the least servile.” Here's the whole passage from Orwell:
Undoubtedly the most workmanlike class, and the least servile, are the cook. They do not earn quite so much as waiters, but their prestige is higher and their employment steadier. The cook does not look upon himself as a servant, but as a skilled workman; he is generally called 'un ouvrier' which a waiter never is. He knows his power--knows that he alone makes or mars a restaurant, and that if he is five minutes late everything is out ofgear. He despises the whole non-cooking staff, and makes it a point of honour to insult everyone below the head waiter. And he takes a genuine artistic pride in his work, which demands very great skill. It is not the cooking that is so difficult, but the doing everything to time. Between breakfast and luncheon the head cook at the Hôtel X would receive orders for several hundred dishes, all to be served at different times; he cooked few of them himself, but he gave instructions about all of them and inspected them before they were sent up. His memory was wonderful. The vouchers were pinned on a board, but the head cook seldom looked at them; everything was stored in his mind, and exactly to the minute, as each dish fell due, he would call out, 'Faites marcher une côtelette de veau' (or whatever it was) unfailingly. He was an insufferable bully, but he was also an artist. It is for their punctuality, and not for any superiority in technique, that men cooks are preferred to women.

The waiter's outlook is quite different. He too is proud in a way of his skill, but his skill is chiefly in being servile. His work gives him the mentality, not of a workman, but of a snob. He lives perpetually in sight of rich people, stands at their tables, listens to their conversation, sucks up to them with smiles and discreet little jokes. He has the pleasure of spending money by proxy. Moreover, there is always the chance that he may become rich himself, for, though most waiters die poor, they have long runs of luck occasionally. At some cafés on the Grand Boulevard there is so much money to be made that the waiters actually pay the patron for their employment. The result is that between constantly seeing money, and hoping to get it, the waiter comes to identify himself to some extent with his employers. He will take pains to serve a meal in style, because he feels that he is participating in the meal himself.

I remember Valenti telling me of some banquet at Nice at which he had once served, and of how it cost two hundred thousand francs and was talked of for months afterwards. 'It was splendid, mon p'tit, mais magnifique! Jesus Christ! The champagne, the silver, the orchids--I have never seen anything like them, and I have seen some things. Ah, it was glorious!'

'But,' I said, 'you were only there to wait?'

'Oh, of course. But still, it was splendid.'

The moral is, never be sorry for a waiter. Sometimes when you sit in a restaurant, still stuffing yourself half an hour after closing time, you feel that the tired waiter at your side must surely be despising you. But he is not. He is not thinking as he looks at you, 'What an overfed lout'; he is thinking, 'One day, when I have saved enough money, I shall be able to imitate that man.' He is ministering to a kind of pleasure he thoroughly understands and admires. And that is why waiters are seldom Socialists, have no effective trade union, and will work twelve hours a day--they work fifteen hours, seven days a week, in many cafés. They are snobs, and they find the servile nature of their work rather congenial.


Basil Duke said...

I used to enjoy him, but his leftwing world view increasingly tainted his brand. Din din with Obama ended it for me. Just a couple of smarter-than-YOU fellas, kicking back and keeping their manicured nails well clear of the flyover mudsills.

Z said...

Good point about being a liberal judge to get ANYTHING. I loved KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL, too. I'm with Basil Duke; I used to like him but the ideology shines through and that, mixed with food, doesn't make an easy stomach for me!

rehajm said...

Great passage with much truth. I have trouble watching Bourdain on TV. He seems to have an affinity and deference for crappy food.

I'd rather watch this take. It's way more Thomas Keller than Disney...

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

The spelling vendor is the standard spelling. The New Yorker, as part of its bizarre house style, uses the spelling vender. No one else does, besides those trying to emulate The New Yorker’s style.

Things I had to stop reading to Google

rhhardin said...

I haven't eaten out for 20 years, except coffee once to use a restaurant's wifi.

I left a huge tip for that, since I took up a counter stool for a while.

I've never heard of Bourdain. He sounds rich.

Christopher said...

Down and Out in Paris and London is my favorite Orwell book by far. I can't find it right now but there's an epic passage about the stages of going out with a gang drinking--probably his workmates. Starts out a little tentative if hopeful, then after enough alcohol and time they're the best friends they ever had, sheer heaven of camaraderie, then inevitably bitter, dissolute, stumbling and did I say bitter. It's brilliant.

readering said...

I blame the move to CNN for Bourdain becoming more political. Still enjoy his inebriated take on places I've visited and would like to visit. And I'm his age, race, sex and home state, so I have that in common. Don't have his capacity for drinking but wish I did.

I don't think you have to be a liberal justice to get treated like an icon. I listened to a conservative justice the other day at a gathering of probably mostly liberal lawyers. I never saw so much standing ovating, applauding for lines of a speech and laughing at mild drollery. Don't they ever get sick of the fawning?

Known Unknown said...

Bourdain is at least self-aware.

The Elder said...

readering said, "Don't they ever get sick of the fawning?"

Of course not. We're lawyers!

Lyle Smith said...

Anthony Bourdain has become more right wing in time and not more left wing. He probably wouldn't like to be described so politically or simply as that, but he's not the typical city slicker progressive. He strikes me as free thinking contrarian. He's just a mensch who loves everyone. He's one of the few sane people on CNN these days. He has a lot in common with Donald Trump, I think. Watch his show, it's great!

Etienne said...

I'm a meat and potatoes kind of guy, so my cookbooks are usually Raymond Blanc. He cooks for people who eat, not people who want an art dish. The other is Madeleine Kamman, but her recipes are more complex, so you have to plan to have all the ingredients. Blanc is happy with parsley and butter :-)

I read a story once where two people got food poisoning at Blanc's restaurants from liver. He is a 30 seconds a side kind of liver cook. Well, they required him to cook it to temperature, so he just quit serving it.

I mean hundreds of people eat it, and two get sick. It might be they were sick already. My mother cooked liver 30 seconds a side all her life, and I never got sick. Actually, if you cook it any longer, you might as well just buy a bag of jerkey.

The way I cook liver though, is I soak it in milk overnight, so maybe the enzymes kill everything. I throw the milk away. My mother called it making calves liver from stock liver. A poor mans substitute.

Mmmph Mmmph liver...

Never marry a woman who can kick your ass in 30 seconds...

walter said...

rhhardin said...I haven't eaten out for 20 years
<I've never heard of Bourdain.

Freeman Hunt said...

For a moment, the first part was taken too literally. "Anthony Bourdain has been married to Sophia Lauren? That's really bizarre. Quite an age difference. And Sophia Lauren has taken up jujitsu? And she's become so proficient at it that her husband, who is 30 years younger, feels intimidated by her?" A wild ride for the imagination.

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

Bourdain had an earlier wife. He broke up with her because of television

They broke up because of television.
Television and the fact that the second wife was 22 years younger.
But mostly because the second wife was 22 years younger.

rhhardin said...

Sometimes I eat a small bag of M&Ms (peanut) or a Snapple Peach tea at the supermarket, depending on heat and energy requirements.

rhhardin said...

Planters Big Block peanut bar used to be my choice but like everything they discontinued it.

Ann Althouse said...

The first wife was ol.

Ann Althouse said...


Etienne said...

rhhardin said...I've never heard of Bourdain

You probably don't have cable. I don't either, but I know of him from news stories that he pays people to write.

mockturtle said...

Aside from Julia Child, the only cooking show I ever watched and enjoyed was a reality contest show called Cook Your Ass Off. It was entertaining as well as educational. Along the same line was another enjoyable show called Forged in Fire, where the contestants made swords and other weapons.

Basil Duke said...

Known, Unknown: Yeah, I'd read that earlier, but thanks for posting the link. Perhaps the interview was prompted by pushback against the rancid fawning and smothering, self-satisfied vibe to which viewers were subjected in the Obama love-in. Unlike many of his fellow celebrity lefties, Bourdain - again, perhaps - figured out that alienating millions of potential consumer dollars isn't a particularly intelligent business model.

DanTheMan said...

I married a young Marilyn Monroe. And then she became a brilliant lawyer, but still looked like Marilyn Monroe.

I have won life's lottery.

roesch/voltaire said...

This was a well written article. Ever since Kitchen Confidential I have enjoyed most things Bourdain does, from his flop coverage of Sicily to the sweat that pours off his brow when eating the hot and spicy of Singapore. He is often gutsy for example interviewing two lesbians in a St.Petersburg, Russia about Putin's view on the issue while enjoying the local vodka. And he can be honest and sensitive as he explored small town food and the heroin addiction and recovery which he himself has gone through.

mockturtle said...

Dan, I'm trying hard to visualize Marilyn Monroe prosecuting or defending a case in court. [I love M.M. and just watched her on TV last night]. But perhaps she is a contract or tax lawyer.

mockturtle said...

But, yeah, Bourdain is too politcal for my taste.

Anonymous said...

The main driver of diversity, enlightenment, and human rights in the world was never a Bernie Sanders type of socialism. It was Elvis, Jazz, The Beatles, Coca-Cola, Levi Jeans, Toyota Trucks ...... Capitalism. Wars were needed to stop people and groups who wanted to deny free passage of goods and services to all. Today the left delivers a product called people that they describe as immigrants. They DO use these people as slaves. Still. They would rather import the slave then ship them freedom making goods and services.

Bill Peschel said...

I appreciate Bourdain's take on food. He seems grateful that Kitchen Confidential helped rescue his life from the line cook, and he loves his work.

Then, I also read his recent book "Appetites" in which he waxed lyrical about his wife and kids and family. And then he left them. For his television career.

Of course, he's a man. Why should he be expected to keep his family together?

Which is a pity for the kids. They didn't deserve that. But that's Bourdain's choice. None of us are perfect.

mockturtle said...

Exactly so, jdniner!

Etienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason said...

Bourdain's Trump Derangement syndrome annoys me too. I don't pay attention to his recent stuff. I haven't met him, but Bourdain and I share a longtime friend... writer and a former partner in a Greenwich village bookstore who happened to be the person who pulled his Kitchen Confidential or maybe it was one of his earlier novels out of the publishing house slushpile and spotted a hit right away.

Later he was touring promoting his second cooking book and was already famous and wealthy from KC and other projects and was at my friend's bookstore doing a promotional appearance to sell his new book. He left abruptly, though, and disappeared, much to everyone's puzzlement. My friend found him later though.., a young cook from a nearby restaurant was struggling with addiction and was at the end of his rope and had sought Bourdain out hoping to get some advice from someone who had been down the same hellhole, personally.

Bourdain basically walked out on a Greenwich Village literary cognoscenti promo event and spent two hours alone talking this kid off a ledge.

Yeah, Tony can be an ass.. but there's a character there too that runs pretty deep.

Anonymous said...

My favorite on his old show was in Namibia where the locals he him eat
some warthog asshole.

Freeman Hunt said...

As far as dating goes, Bourdain said at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival: “When I was single, I’d take people to eat sushi on the first date … if they didn’t eat the uni [sea urchin], there was really no chance at a relationship.”

Modern dating requires owning books and eating uni.

Titus said...

I read the article a week ago and found it well written.

I actually have watched his show, and I have never watched a cooking show, or any shows. I am strictly Netflix and HBO. The Young Pope-fab. Jude Law Tour De Force.

I enjoy him interviewing the people from countries in which I will likely never see. I so want to go to Tehran and Beirut. I am doing a Harvard Phd from Beirut and he told me if you had to be a fag in the Middle East Beirut would be the best-obviously not Cambridge! But probably similar to being a fag in Jackson, Mississippi or Montgomery, Alabama-except with much better night light, think people and a Euro feel to the Place. Beirut is the Paris of the Middle East. I call my Phd trick "Beirut". I text him, "Beirut get your ass over here". We usually get together on a Friday or Saturday, later in the evening. He actually spends the night too. Doing him is kind of like me traveling to Beirut.


J. Farmer said...

Kitchen Confidential remains the single best book I've ever read on life as a professional cook. I come from a food business family. Both of my paternal grandparents were caterers and restauranters, and my maternal grandmother owned a restaurant. Bourdain captures the daily monotony and drudgery that goes into keeping a successful restaurant running day in and day out.

Bourdain's book also takes nice swipes at the celebrity chef phenomenon that was then emerging around Emeril Lagasse and his then Food Network domination. Of course, the book resulted in Bourdain himself becoming a celebrity chef. I am sure the irony is not lost on him.

Henry said...

Heat by Bill Buford is an enjoyable read about the internal organized chaos of a fine restaurant (in his case Mario Batali's). It's interesting to compare my memory of that book with the Bourdain article and Orwell's take.


It is not the cooking that is so difficult, but the doing everything to time.

Eric Ripert, on Bourdain:

He has the speed. He has the precision.

Here's something interesting. On Amazon, Heat is guest-reviewed by Anthony Bourdain. What does he have to say?

Buford not only accurately and hilariously describes the painfully acquired techniques of the professional cook (and his own humiations), but chronicles as well the mental changes--the "kitchen awareness" and peculiar world view necessary to the kitchen dweller....

Thirdly, Heat reveals a dead-on understanding--rare among non-chef writers--of the pleasures of "making" food; the real human cost, the real requirements and the real adrenelin-rush-inducing pleasures of cranking out hundreds of high quality meals. One is left with a truly unique appreciation of not only what is truly good about food--but as importantly, who cooks--and why. I can't think of another book which takes such an unsparing, uncompromising and ultimately thrilling look at the quest for culinary excellence. Heat brims with fascinating observations on cooking, incredible characters, useful discourse and argument-ending arcania. I read my copy and immediately started reading it again. It's going right in between Orwell's
Down and Out in Paris and London and Zola's The Belly of Paris on my bookshelf. --Anthony Bourdain

There's Orwell again.

Laslo Spatula said...

Recovered addicts often still require all available attention to be paid to them -- their Recovery makes them The Center of What Is Important. Attention fills the Hole the Addiction left, for the most part (there will ALWAYS be Addiction Drama -- FUCK! FUCK!).

They have learned Important Lessons Most People Do Not Understand, Lessons that Extrapolate to How The Whole World Should Be. I AM LIKE A MONK THAT JUST DID DRUGS INSTEAD OF PRAYER!

Doing basic relationship tasks just drives them back to drugs or alcohol, can't you see that? Don't you understand? They are WIRED DIFFERENT. They need MORE. You need to be there for them like their Favorite Drug was there for them. DON'T LEAVE!

And they need that MORE to help them White Knuckle. STOP STARING AT ME.

Wife no doubt became too Independent and developed Interests of her own that didn't involve his Recovery Penumbra. Maybe she heard one beloved Addiction Anecdote too many. YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT IS IMPORTANT UNTIL YOU HAVE WOKE UP IN A GUTTER FILLED WITH YOUR OWN PUKE AND EXCREMENT!

He'll end up with another Recovery Superstar. 1000 THREAD-COUNT SHEETS!

It will last six months.

Because her Recovery was a much Smaller Mountain than the one he climbed. I HAVE CLIMBED THE HIGHER MOUNTAIN. I HAVE SEEN FARTHER THAN YOU. RIGHT INTO THE HUMAN SOUL.


I am Laslo.

Francisco D said...

Tony Bourdain is an excellent writer, despite his NY liberal politics. He started a detective series (Bobby Gold) after "Kitchen Confidential" that was pretty good. I was disappointed when he stopped writing.

Several years ago, I could not find a copy of "Down and Out in Paris and London," except on audio CD. I was taking a fairly long driving trip, so I took the CDs with me. I usually hate long drives, but the book was absolutely hilarious and incredibly enjoyable. I was sort of sad when it ended and trip was over.

Another set of CDs to listen to when driving is "Atlas Shrugged." It had better be a long trip because there are two sets of 25 CDs. Ayn Rand was brilliant, but had her issues, one of which was verbosity.

Known Unknown said...

I married Frida Kahlo. She turned into George "The Animal" Steele.

Ann Althouse said...

"I married Frida Kahlo. She turned into George "The Animal" Steele."


Can we get more jokes in this form? The possibilities are endless...

vanderleun said...

"I married my second wife. She turned into my first wife."

Robert Cook said...

"Tony Bourdain is an excellent writer, despite his NY liberal politics."


Why would any writer's political views or perspective have any correlation with how well or badly they write?

Robert Cook said...

"Ayn Rand was brilliant, but had her issues, one of which was verbosity."

Now Ayn Rand, despite her kooky S&M depiction of romance and comic book politics, was a bad writer.

Martha said...

"Bourdain had an earlier wife. He broke up with her because of television...."

I met the first wife shortly after the divorce at a family wedding. They had been together since grade school. He even followed her to college at Vassar. No children. Anthony dumped her when he became famous. He loved the limelight and the groupies that came with the fame. First wife did not approve of more than just television. Since first wife was critically involved in writing KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL she lived happily ever after collecting royalty checks.

mockturtle said...

Cookie, admit it! You only think Rand was a bad writer because she was the antithesis of Communism.

buwaya said...

"Now Ayn Rand, despite her kooky S&M depiction of romance and comic book politics, was a bad writer."

She was a good bad writer.
Or a bad good writer.
Anyway, she had the narrative force thing down, she could create "flow". For the right sort of mind her stuff is a page turner.
And as an observer, she understood and could draw her enemies from life, or from hell. She was a John James Audobon, or Hieronymus Bosch, of American politics. The creatures she drew you can still see prancing about.

mockturtle said...

Laslo, yes, the 'rock star' syndrome.

mockturtle said...

I will admit Ayn Rand included too many long monologues, especially in Atlas Shrugged. Dostoevsky, my favorite author next to Shakespeare, did, too, especially in The Brothers Karamazov. But Dostoevsky's characters were so endearing that I would miss them terribly after I'd finished the novel. Rand's characters were singularly unappealing but interesting.

Clayton Hennesey said...

Bourdain's wives left him because he turned out to be Anthony Bourdain, a pre-destined self-parody whose foam briefly floated on the surface of popular culture.

Anyone who watches his shows now can write the snark which will emerge from his lips 30 seconds before it does.

Not that my wide and I don't enjoy the travelogues.

Francisco D said...


Tony's leftist politics don't annoy me in his writing. Sometimes they do in his TV show. Its a minor annoyance. Sorry about the confusion.

I suspect that you are not an Ayn Rand fan because she does not speak to your politics. In fact, she eviscerates the left wing "feeling" machine quite effectively. Her genius was recognizing it before others. Maybe escaping from newly Communist Russia played a role in shaping her thinking.

Joe said...

I should like Anthony Bourdain, but I don't and I'm not entirely sure why. In part, I know I would dislike, if not hate, much of the food he likes, but it goes beyond that. Out of curiosity, I just went to youtube and watched part of an episode of one of his shows. I disliked it and I'm still mystified.

Anonymous said...

I thought Bourdain was pretty cool until I watched an uncensored show he did on NYC restaurants. What turned me off was the casual and all too frequent dropping of the f-bomb. Every other word he used was f**k or f**king as in out-f**king-standing! In this show he took his mostly female staff out to dinner in a restaurant I've been to and enjoyed by the way, called Salumeria Rosie. (https://www.opentable.com/salumeria-rosie)He showed no deference to his employees and just cursed like a sailor throughout the whole show. Whether they were ladies or a bunch of female or male, most bosses know better than to use foul language in front of the people who work for them. He may think it makes him look cool and hip to talk that way but I can bet that his employees are put off by it. Or maybe not. Could just be my conservative point of view coming thru.

Joe said...

After thinking about it, another part of the answer is in the article in how he talks about his daughter. To me, he came off emotionally detached from her. He comes off emotionally detached in his show; when expressing his feelings, it strikes me as more cerebral than real, though this may be how the show is edited.

In short, I don't trust him.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Buwaya, +1000. She "beautifully, brilliantly, bitterly" identified and described the enemy. It doesn't surprise me that Robert Cook doesn't like her writing. Would be very displeasing if he accepted her insights.

Bob, I challenge you to justify your assessment of my friend. Preferably in your own words rather than a quote from Victor Gollancz or Gore Vidal.

That said, "hamburger sandwich?" Really, Aynnie?

Robert Cook said...

"Cookie, admit it! You only think Rand was a bad writer because she was the antithesis of Communism."

Actually not. It's because her characters are, at best, two-dimensional caricatures of "types," and are simply moved around and words put into their mouths to suit the didactic purposes of Rand, and not because they act as living human beings would. They don't converse so much as they declaim.

I actually liked THE FOUNTAINHEAD when I read it in college, as I was intrigued by the idea of the artist who lives only for his work and adheres to no standard for his work but his own. I thought his blowing up the building project at the end was crazy, but I enjoyed it as a fantasy of the independent artist. I did find the rapey romance between Roark and the Rand stand-in whose name I don't recall very weird.

ATLAS SHRUGGED seemed promising, and might even have worked as a stirring polemic for a particular view of the world--one that is also fantasy in its extremes of black and white, lacking (and scornful of) the nuances of character that make humans interesting--but Rand's lack of empathy for human beings and her tendency to substitute endless repetitive filibuster for convincing argument turns the book into the screed of a sociopath. Oh, and the rapey relatiosship stuff is back, in spades.

Mind you, I read each book in college, many years ago, and I can remember the books only in stark outline. I can't really recall any of the actual plot machinations of ATLAS SHRUGGED, except for an interminable peroration of John Galt toward the end of the book, but I remember thinking at the time how childish these characters were, resentful of all the people in the world who did not meet their standards of proper character and strength of will. That's like a lion being scornful of a rabbit or a mouse, or a scion of the Rockefellers or Duponts being resentful of the people who serve them.

In short, Rand is basically hateful.

Sebastian said...

Late to the dinner party, but: "eat a lot of shit, and basically do whatever the fuck I want.” Yeah, that's brilliant, quicksilver stuff.

On O in the article: O may like the otherness of others, it's the otherness of Americans he can't stand.

Kirby Olson said...

Sunday, by Philippe Soupault

The plane weaves the telegraph wires
and the spring sings the same song
At the coachmen's headquarters the apéritif is orange
but the train conductors have white eyes
the woman has lost her smile in the woods

donald said...

I quit my job and started my first business two days after I finished Atlas Shrgged. Never looked back.