Anthony Bourdain's last 24 hours in Philly have been documented almost as intensely as the entire development cycle of Hop Sing Laundromat, and with three times the excitement. Our newfound pride in the local culinary scene created this hopeful belief that someday the almighty Bourdain would do a show here, and experience all the things we hold so dearly, that are so truly Philadelphian. After all, he's an underdog that pulls no punches and loves the food experience, all while carrying himself with a blue collar attitude. A persona Philly can relate to.
The unthinkable finally happened, and Bourdain showed up to shoot an episode of The Layover. Eater caught up with him at Marc Vetri's Amis, where he dined with restaurateur Peter McAndrews. Bourdain started the conversation with: "What can I say? I should have come here sooner."
Why did it take so long for you to get here?
What can I say? I should have come here sooner. For years, people told me about the greatness that's here now, and I just never made it. I was here in, hmm, I think 2001. Things have changed quite a bit since then. Doing the show really is about finding what's truly Philly, what makes you different from the rest. And, in the short time I've been here, it's been impressive.
We have a great Vietnamese scene here, and we really hoped that would have been one of your stops. Did you do the pho?
I've often heard about the Vietnamese scene here, and how great the pho is. But, having pho here isn't really any different than having pho in, say, Minneapolis. It's a learning process doing these shows, more than getting tips from people. Shit, you could do a show about Brooklyn, which is my backyard, and fill ten fucking books with all that I don't know about it. It's really more like, what is Philly, and only Philly.
How was Di Bruno Bros.?
Well, you have a cheese store where people form a line that goes out the door. That's ridiculous. I found some cheese in there you can't find anywhere else. I mean, nowhere.
What else impressed you?
This guy (pointing at Marc Vetri running around the dining room of Amis). I was told how great Italian food was here, but it's like, so what? Lots of people do great Italian. But, Marc is doing just flat out amazing Roman Italian right here in this restaurant. If you took a Roman osteria and just dropped it in Philly, this would be it. It's a focus that you can't find anywhere else. And, I've been getting the inside scoop from Peter (McAndrews) here, who has been taking me around town. That guys knows his shit. And, of course, I ate at Paesano's. Just amazing.
You have a new competitive cooking show coming out with Nigella Lawson called The Taste. How will that show differentiate itself from all of the other cooking competitions on TV?
Well, first off, I've known Nigella a very long time. When the news first broke, a lot of people didn't understand that pairing, but we've been close a long time. As for the show itself, well, you know, all the shows I've done, none of them were really groundbreaking. I mean, they're all conventional shows. But, I'm not a passenger on this trip. I'm not just a name on the show, I have a lot of input on the direction of the show itself, so it's going to be very interesting.
Every time I do a show, even when I did my very first show, A Cook's Tour, back in 2002, they said I had jumped the shark. Every show I do, people say I have jumped the shark. But, so far, so good. What I go through each time is the same. Will I end up in the arms of Pinky Tuscadero, or will I fall in the tank? I guess we'll see.
Speaking of odd pairings, what about your comic book, Get Jiro? It's doing pretty well, and that kind of came out of left field.
Yeah, I'm very happy with it. We hit number 1 on the New York Times best sellers list, beating out a couple Batman books. That's pretty awesome.
So, are you a comic fan? Is there a geek inside of Tony Bourdain?
There absolutely is. I'm a huge comic fan, and when I was a kid, the first job I ever dreamed of having was being a comic book artist. I got scholarship to go to art school, and that's what I wanted to be. Well, after a few other careers, I'm getting to live out that dream. I'm at the point with my career where I can choose projects and not have to worry about the money. If Get Jiro does great, and we end up doing two more books, I'll probably make just enough money from it to lease a brand new Prius. It's pretty exciting. Seriously though, I'm lucky to have that opportunity, and thankful it presented itself.
What else is going on in the world of Bourdain?
Well, the new season of Treme is coming up in September, and I'm writing for the show. It was mindblowing, and this season is going to be very "foodie." I can't wait for it to come out, it's going to be amazing. You're going to love it.
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