I will go down on the mat with anyone who disagrees that Anthony Bourdain is not the ideal human being. Host of the Emmy-award winning show No Reservations, author of Kitchen Confidential and reluctant Crown Prince Gourmand, Bourdain is pretty much the voice of all things food and travel. He is by far the coolest anti-hero to ever exist. Here’s why:
1. “I eat. I write. I travel. And I’m hungry for more.” The tagline to Bourdain’s No Reservations is pretty much the only aspiration I have in life. If I could slaughter Bourdain, wear his carcass and gallivant around Southeast Asia as a remarkably svelte silver-haired fox, gorging myself on the artisanal offerings of quality street vendors, I would. Instead, I settle for watching him on the screen as Travel Channel’s resident bad boy. Think less Samantha Brown (host of the Travel Channel’s Passport series), and more James Dean. Bourdain’s the narrator of a compact edible odyssey.
2. Dude’s got an iron stomach. If you think Bear Grylls’ got chops, put him on steroids and combine that with Kobayashi’s eating capacity and Joseph Conrad’s lyricism. That’s Anthony Bourdain in a nutshell. Whether he’s elbow-deep in freshly slaughtered sea lion guts (sucking on the proffered eyeballs in an Inuit household), or chowing downIcelandic shark delicacies (which ferments for a year in human piss), Bourdain has nerves of steel. In Namibia, when tribesmen caught a warthog, ripped the rectum out of its still-pulsating body and offered it to Bourdain, he didn’t even flinch. Instead, he squeezed a bit of the poop out of the intestinal tract, slapped on a believable poker face and swallowed hot excrement. C’mon! Even Andrew Zimmern of Bizzare Foods can’t crack open a durian without pissing himself. If that doesn’t garner him respect, well, frat boys will be envious of his excessive drinking habits. As he downs a half-gallon of local Greek moonshine (which can only be described as “200-proof antifreeze”) Bourdain stays a tank — which is much more than I can say with my Asian glow.
3. He’s not even trying. There’s nothing fake about him; trust me, I’ve tried looking. Everywhere he goes, he just has this amazing wit and ease about him that’s so effortless. Bourdain’s gone from a ramen-everyday druggie diet (more cash to support his crackhead 20s) to Eric Ripert and Daniel Boulud and Ferran Andria’s best friend. Like, is this even real life? Is this the culinary Brat Pack? This astronomical rise to foodie paradise wasn’t even deliberate. Bourdain is always unabashedly and unapologetically himself. His acerbic tongue and brutal honesty may sometimes be read as pretentious, but few are more respectful of other cultures and more curious about other foods than Bourdain. For all critics have to say about his antagonism towards Food Network faces like Sandra Lee and Paula Deen, I mean, is it really such a bad thing that Rachael Ray’s got a villain?
4. He talks about poop. I always know a relationship is a lasting one if you can talk about your bowel movements. The blooper reel of his show often includes candid conversations between Bourdain and his producers of his “spicy diarrhea” and “massive dumps.” Multiply the length of these conversations by two if he’s in a developing country and by three if he’s consuming curry. Perhaps he includes a bit too much detail about his adventures on the porcelain throne, but nonetheless open discussion of such taboo content is refreshing on any level. Is it my fault that every time he looks into the camera and says, menacingly, “I’ve got to download the brown file,” I can’t help but be seduced?
5. Bourdainisms. #Bourdanisms were a twitter phenomenon for a reason — dude’s got the best one-liners. Kitchen Confidential, the autobiography that propelled Bourdain to stardom, contains priceless gems. “Don’t touch my dick, don’t touch my knife,” he says. On his show, he reasons out his love of spicy foods is: “I like nuclear hot. Burns going in, burns going out kind of thing.” His widely recognized pro-carnivore stance is expessed no less eloquently. He’s called vegetarians a “Hezbollah-like splinter faction” and vegans “the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit” but this old man’s still capable of reform. In his latest book, Medium Raw, he clarifies his stance: “PETA doesn’t want stressed animals to be cruelly crowded into sheds, ankle-deep in their own crap, because they don’t want any animals to die ever and basically think chickens should, in time, gain the right to vote. I don’t want animals stressed or crowded or treated cruelly or inhumanely because that makes them probably less delicious.” Hey, whatever can be said of his controversial convictions, at least Bourdain’s got a silver tongue to defend himself.