Yesterday, the man who consumed bhang in Rajasthan and later curled up in a ball on the sand to sleep it off, the man who provided this enlightening glimpse into the rules and regs of cricket, the man who once declared while eating kebabs in Bombay “No hairnet and latex gloves here“, New Jersey-born chef, world traveler, writer and TV personality Anthony Bourdain, kicked off the launch of his latest book Medium Raw with two meet-and-greets on the same day in – where else? – New York city.
He appeared at the Wall Street Borders at lunchtime for one reading & signing, and then turned up punctually for the 7pm event at the Union Square Barnes and Noble. Don’t know about the Borders scene, but the evening reading was SRO. Every seat of every row was filled (no holding for tardy friends permitted) and beyond that, the standees were corralled behind ropes of various sorts, until the Bourdain-gawkers eventually took over the whole fourth floor of the establishment, spreading out in all directions. I’d say there had to be – easily – several hundred people present.
Mr. Bourdain loped energetically to the podium and with much more of a “gee whiz – aw schucks” attitude toward the multitude assembled to see him than I might have expected. He read for about 10 minutes and then took a nice long time (25 minutes?) to answer questions from the seated and standing masses at the front and back of the room.
With the exception of one frantically shrieked question from the back – “How do you grill a steak?” – Mr. Bourdain responded to all audience questions with a minimum of snark and a maximum of frankness and humor. He didn’t take any bait on the Alan Richman question and instead directed the audience to the chapter in Medium Raw entitled Alan Richman is a Douchebag.
He touched several times on the topic of eating what some folks might consider pets, or unappetizing meals (cue mental pictures of the Namibian warthog anus), with variations on the same theme of “If someone is gracious enough to offer me the hospitality of their home, especially if they are of very limited financial means, and they have gone to the expense and the trouble to prepare me their local protein-based delicacy, in this case, let’s say a stew of puppy dog heads, then I say “˜Bring on the puppies'”. The latter example received more than a few agonized groans.
Bourdain cited lechon as his favorite form of pork, and the shout-out was hailed enthusiastically by a group of what I am guessing were Filipino fans. When pressed to name a local favorite pizza joint, at first he demurred saying “No way”¦..I know there are already several pizza snobs in this room”¦” but then he relented and named Serafina. For Paris-bound audience members, Bourdain raved about a bistro called Le Chateaubriand that serves a 40 Euro prix-fixe meal. He said the last time he was there with buddy and fellow chef Eric Ripert, he was pretty sure Ripert cried at the table, so moved was he by the meal.
And in case you’re wondering what that white design is on Tony’s t-shirt, here’s a close-up of it:
As for desis in the crowd, based on what I observed, I’d say they accounted for maybe 5% or less of the audience, but then again, I don’t think Tony’s India show on No Reservations was that great on the whole, even with the amazing cricket segment. I recall a Bollywood movie casting skit that was rather airless and even some of the Rajasthan material was kinda’ meh, considering how vibrant and interesting both Bourdain and India are.
I’d really love to see Tony and crew set off for somewhere extreme and mountainous like Ladakh or maybe over to Bhutan, especially if they will include footage of the wild and trippy approach to Paro airport.
It was an interesting, fun event and we were glad we stayed, even though we had to stand through the whole thing. I never imagined the crowd would be a large as it was. I overheard one woman comment that her roommate got there at 4pm to get a seat.
One word to the Barnes and Noble event-planning folks“¦.when 1 or 2 of your customers stop on the way out, at a display of the guest author’s various books, to decide which other of his titles they may wish to buy in addition to the one they are already carrying (and, ok, maybe to also snap a few quick photos of the guest speaker), can you please, please, please, tell the pair of snarling martinets who are stationed by the escalators to display at least a modicum of manners when dealing with the buying public, please? We are, after all, most likely to hand over several tens of dollars of our hard-earned cash and it would be ever-so-lovely to be treated like a welcome guest in your establishment, rather than a freeloading pain-in-the-derriÃ¨re who you can’t wait to show to the door.
And, to close, here is an amusing account of someone else’s Bourdanian experience yesterday.