The Side Dish: Bourdain Takes The Stage in Portland

Much to my glee, I was able to snag a few tickets to the recent Tony Bourdain talk here in Portland. Featured at Keller Auditorium, and sponsored by the Seattle Theatre Group, Bourdain took the stage last Friday, all by his lonesome, and it was quite the entertaining experience.

I didn’t know what to expect, other than the fast-talking, smart-ass Bourdain we’ve all come to know and love. The crowd went wild when he made his way to the podium, dressed in his usual jeans, jacket, and boots. He was noticeably nervous, glancing at his notes periodically, and hushing the crowd.

“I hope you’ve all been drinking,” he commented, to a loud, roaring theatre, “Portland has been really good to me from the beginning.”

Surprisingly, he opened by addressing the recent bruhaha with Alice Waters, continuing on a rant against organics, veganism, and vegetarianism. As one guest noted, ‘You have big cahones for coming to Portland and railing against organics.’

“I’m not sure about organic food,” Bourdain started, “Who really benefits from organic food, other than Whole Foods?”

On Alice Waters: “Mother of slow food, or Khmer Rouge?”

On organic food: “When we fetishize these ingredients, we’re moving away from the essence of cooking.”

On vegans/vegetarians: “Just f**king rude [for not eating what I’m serving]…It’s the Grandma rule – smile and just f**king eat it.”

“It’s like going to the Louvre and only looking at the color blue.”

On traveling: “I have the best job in the world…making self-indulgent television.”

On feeding his daughter: “I live in terror of when her friends introduce her to McDonald’s.”

“It all depends on what you put in front of your child.”

On celebrity chefs: “Emeril singlehandedly created this celebrity chef bullsh** – and it’s treating me pretty good.”

“The US wants to see Bobby Flay get his a** kicked by rednecks in parking lots.”

“Julia Child raised everyone [in the culinary industry] up.”

“I don’t know how [Andrew Zimmern] does it without drinking.”

On Sandra Lee’s ‘Kwanzaa Cake’: “After watching the video, there will be nothing left in your head except a smoldering stump. You’ll projectile vomit with rage.”

On food bloggers: “To complain against food bloggers is to rail against the surf and wind. I think chefs and restaurant people will just have to adapt. I like it. It’s democratic.”

On cooking 20 years ago vs. now: “Back then, the customer was always right. Chefs were losers, misfits, a despicable class. The chef had to respond to customer wants. Now, the whole balance of power has changed, especially with celeb status.”

On culinary educations: “Before you enroll in a culinary school, get yourself a kitchen job, so you can find out if you have that certain kind of ‘crazy brain’ to be a cook.”

“A chef is a cook who leads.”

On what he misses/doesn’t miss from cooking: “I miss living a life like Motley Crue at 17. It was a great adventure. I miss sitting at the bar after a busy night. There’s no feeling like it.”

“What I don’t miss is brunch.”

On chefs he’s excited about: “David Chang, David Chang, David Chang. He’s the guy doing everything I hate brilliantly.”

On recommendations for aspiring travelers: “Eat local. Whatever they’re eating, eat it.”

“I used to have a very narrow view of the US. It was seeing the rest of the world that made me think ‘Why can’t I look at the US with the same openness?'”

~Jennifer Heigl

9 replies on “The Side Dish: Bourdain Takes The Stage in Portland”
  1. says: Athonwy

    So Vegans are rude for not eating what your cooking?

    Perhaps if he weren’t cooking dead flesh we’d eat it?

    This guy has his head so far up his own ass he can probably lick his own lungs.

    If it’s not organic it’s poisoned, but you’ll never hear Anthony “Big Agra’s Ultimate Tool” Bourdain admit that.

    Not even worth paying attention to.

  2. says: BK

    But…you are still eating poor tortured plant parts aren’t you? I can hear your brocoli scream! And that tofu…created by torturing, yes torturing GMO soybeans…and it gives you man boobs.

  3. says: TH

    Would you prefer live flesh? Get a grip. Tony Bourdain is the only sane voice in food right now.

  4. says: jenniferhh

    That’s what the man said – rude for not eating what’s being served. I love my chargrilled flesh, but I’m becoming more and more vegetarian every day. Why risk the carbon footprint or the big company recall?

    Thanks for the comments, folks!

  5. says: Jonas M Luster


    “If it’s not organic it’s poisoned, but you’ll never hear Anthony “Big Agra’s Ultimate Tool” Bourdain admit that.” Organic is an insanely narrow designator. That organic tomato you had this lunch was likely brought into the U.S. from southern Mexico where it was produced by low-wage laborers in near slavery. The soil it was planted on was torn out of a patch of land that gave habitat to 100s of species, many of which are now extinct, thanks to “organic” farms in that part of the world. It was then loaded on a truck and gassed to “ripen” (which is a misnomer, tomatoes only change color, they do not ripen in that treatment), which is OK, because the gas is organic.

    The truck then moved north, through what locals call “the corridor”. Along that highway, from Pueblos to Augascalientes, road gangs press money out of the companies operating the freight lines. Often, those companies employ the thugs to buy their safe passage. Money, that is used for the thugs’ main operations, drugs and trafficking in underaged prostitutes to the U.S. and northern states.

    That “organic” label bought you some narrow knowledge about the tools and substances used to raise a tomato. It does not, for example, tell you if that tomato was raised hydroponic or soil based. It does not tell you, if it was screened for food borne illnesses. And it, by no means, certifies that the whole thing was ethically grown. Again, all it does is tell you that pesticides were not used openly. Poison? The salmonella outbreaks of recent history started in “organic” farms. There’s poison for you.

    I don’t care what you do, or don’t, eat. I really don’t. But don’t tell me that your lifestyle choice is safer or (you didn’t say that, but I am sure you contemplated it) more ethical. And it’s for sure not much less a carbon footprint on the environment. I prefer my meat from a local farmer. One of those guys that get death threats and pictures of their kids with crosshairs painted over them in the mail. And, you know what, I believe I have the ethical and food safety high ground on that one.

  6. says: jenniferhh

    Wow! Thanks for the comment Jacob.

    I agree – I think it’s vital, above all, that people understand where and how their food is being produced, regardless of whether you’re an omnivore or not.

  7. says: Olivia

    Who can really care about being called rude when the insult is being delivered by someone even ruder? He’s just doing it for the lols – clearly this guy doesn’t give a crap about being rude, and probably has no strong feelings about vegans either – who in their right mind does, unless you know one that you love or hate? He’s just a drama queen.

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