Chef, world traveler, bestselling author, public speaker, and star TV host on The Travel Channel, Anthony Bourdain is a man of many talents (and endeavors). He graduated from the renowned Culinary Institute of America and spent years helming kitchens in New York City. He’s written articles on food and cooking for publications including The New York Times, Food Arts and The New Yorker. In fact, The New Yorker piece led to Bourdain’s hugely successful book, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly in 2000. The Travel Channel soon came courting, and Bourdain launched his popular TV series Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations in which he traveled the world eating local and often outrageous foods and discovering how people in different cultures live. After its successful run of nine seasons, No Reservations ended in fall 2012. In November 2011, the seasoned traveler added another series to his repertoire, The Layover. And in April 2013, he kicked off his new show Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown on CNN.
What are your favorite cities to visit?
Hanoi fits in with my romantic notions of the East, my little boy fantasies of the way travel should be. Tokyo, I just love. I feel about Tokyo the way all chefs seem to — that it’s really the mountaintop for pure food perfectionism and fetishism, as well as just being so wonderfully impenetrable. There will always be more to learn about Japan in general and Tokyo in particular. And I love Barcelona and Rome, for obvious reasons.
What are your favorite restaurants?
There’s a place in Rome called Il Timoniere. We shot there in our Rome episode. It’s a really casual place and it’s jokingly referred to as “the angry cousin’s.” They just do wonderful, very typical Roman pastas and braised dishes — it’s very simple, but my whole crew’s in love with the place. We eat there even if we’re not shooting there.
Where else do I love? Asador Etxebarri near San Sebastián is the place that most chefs I know want to have their last meal. It’s Basque but very deceptively simple. The best ingredients grilled with a fetishistic attention to detail. And we covered that place in one of the Spain shows as well. But, wow, that is an awesome, awesome restaurant.
What do you always travel with?
My iPad has become quickly essential. It’s just loaded with books and videos of film. I need to stay in touch, but I also need to be prepared for long, unexpected stays in airports or waiting rooms and the iPad’s really invaluable for that.
What do you love most in a hotel?
I don’t like an intimidating level of formality. You really feel at the Chateau [Marmont] that if you forgot to put pants on, and you went to breakfast nobody would begrudge you. They don’t say, “Welcome back, Mr. Bourdain.” It’s “Hey, Tony, how ya doing?” I like that. And I don’t like oppressively over-designed or stylized places, with that sort of loungey-modern feel. I like old, classic, dark, homey. I think the Chateau does that just right.
What is your favorite thing to bring home from your travels?
I’ve been to so many places and brought back so many like figurines and examples of indigenous artwork. My apartment was starting to look like Colonel Blimp’s clubroom. So I don’t really bring things home anymore. I get snow globes from airports for my daughter. If something really, really speaks to me I’ll get it — little objects of art, or an interesting old poster, particularly the ones trumpeting dream vacations for Europeans in colonies that no longer exist.
I stopped with the T-shirts. I stopped with the opium pipes, the masks — all of that. I stopped taking pictures, as well. I travel with a camera crew, so I’m reasonably sure we got the image.
What is your favorite store to visit when traveling?
I’m a collector of really only one thing: I like old Persol sunglasses. So if I see those for sale anywhere in Italy — if I see a shop seller with a good line of Persols — I’ll go in and see if there’s one I don’t have that looks pretty cool. Other than that, I’m just not a shopper. If I need something in New York, I tend to buy it in less than 10 minutes.
What do you wear when you travel?
I’ve gotten really, really good at things I’d never though I’d get good at, or have to get good at. I’ve learned a lot of airport skills. Everything is designed for security — I’m always wearing Clarks Desert Boots when I go to the airport because they’re easy to kick off and they’re quick to put back on. Generally, I wear comfortable jeans and a very comfortable shirt, maybe a button-down. And I’ll keep a lightweight down Patagonia jacket balled up inside my carry-on, just in case it gets cold somewhere, or I need to use it as a pillow. But everything is designed for security — I’m not going to be holding you up on the security line.
What are your favorite things to visit in your hometown New York?
The restaurants in general — a good New York deli is a must and so is a great New York bar. I love the Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle, I think that’s sort of a must-see and such a New York thing to do. Central Park is still awesome. I like the Whitney [Museum of American Art].
The West Village is great. I have mixed emotions about all the neighborhoods of New York now because they’ve changed in front of my eyes. I love the extreme Upper West Side around Riverside Drive. I find it quite beautiful with its European facades, and the monuments and the park — that’s a good place to live. The Lower East Side, that’s a love-hate relationship now. I live in “strollerville” over on the Upper East, but I don’t have any particular deep love for the neighborhood.
Photo Courtesy of CNN Parts Unknown