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Food - Anthony Bourdain unscripted

The food media mogul on his upcoming Atlanta show, the afterlife, and more

Monday July 6, 2015 04:00 am EDT

Anthony Bourdain doesn’t really need an introduction. It would be hard to find another person in this country with more culinary street cred than the tough-talking former chef, best-selling author, and Emmy award-winning TV personality. Between filming for his latest travel and food show, CNN’s “Parts Unknown,” and working on his hotly anticipated New York City food hall, Bourdain has been traveling the country with his Close to the Bone tour. The live show, which features Bourdain on stage sharing insights and stories about his life’s work, stops in Atlanta on Sat., July 11, at the Fox Theatre. We recently got on the phone with Bourdain and chatted about his tour, food, and the afterlife.


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How will your live show differ from your TV shows?

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It will probably be filthier and less family-friendly. I can promise that.

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Is there a question that you hate being asked?

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Not really. I’m glad that anyone cares enough about me to ask me any question. Having spent much of my life as an anonymous chef and line cook, I’m grateful that anyone pays any attention at all or asks any question. But I could probably live a long life without ever being asked: “What’s the most disgusting thing you ever ate?” But I’ll be asked again. So, I don’t mind.

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Cool. So what did you eat for breakfast this morning?

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I just had coffee and one of those horrible little health bars. I don’t really eat breakfast. I’m a cup of coffee in the morning guy.

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What scares you (aside from people like Donald Trump running for office)?

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Let’s see. Clowns, mimes, and nurse’s shoes scare me.

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Was there a time when you felt particularly burned-out, and if so, how did you get out of it?

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I’ve been burned-out at various points, I guess cooking. Doing “The Layover” was a really tough experience for me. I’d done 16 episodes of “No Reservations” in a year, and then I went out and shot 10 episodes of “The Layover” pretty much back-to-back in the space of a month. That was really, really, really tough on me and not an experience I care to repeat. People loved that show, but it was an absolute misery to make.

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How is “Parts Unknown” different from your other shows? Is it less intense for you?

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I’m a lot freer to tell the stories I want to tell any way I want to tell them. I’m a lot freer to widen the focus or narrow the focus, the filmmaking, editing, and creative choices that we’re able to make. With the support of CNN, we’re free to go to really difficult places that are tough to get into like Libya, Congo, and Iran. I’m having a lot of fun and a lot more freedom and working for frankly smarter people. It makes me very happy.

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You work with CNN, and CNN is based in Atlanta. I have to imagine you come here for work occasionally. What do you think of Atlanta as a food town?

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CNN has headquarters in New York, as well. So, no, I don’t come to Atlanta for business. But I do love Atlanta as a food town. It’s a place I’ve done a lot of book tours and some speaking gigs and one episode of “The Layover.” Actually, probably the happiest episode I’ve ever done. It was really a high-water mark of my career bringing Alton Brown to the Clermont Lounge ... It’s perhaps my finest accomplishment.

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Is there anything in the world that stokes you with a child-like curiosity?

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Many, many, many, many things, yes. Everything Japanese. Much of the East is fascinating to me. I’m a history buff. I’m constantly intrigued by things. I like reading. I’m passionate about film. I have a childlike fascination with watching my daughter grow up.

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Has becoming a dad changed you or your career path in any way?

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The cliché that everyone says that when you become a parent is that it changes everything. Of course, they’re absolutely right. Everything changes. I’m no longer the star of my own film. That ended the second I watched her born ... This movie’s not about me anymore, it’s all about her ... So, yeah, I think about these things and my responsibilities to at least try to live long enough to reach the eye-rolling stage before I check out ... There are probably some really stupid things that I’ve done in the past that I wouldn’t do again. I’m not smoking. I don’t have any illusions of ever being cool again. I very much know who I am. I’m a dad. My first and most important responsibility is to be a good dad and to be as close to a good person as I can be ... the sort of person that my daughter will hopefully not be embarrassed to know when she’s older and her friends are teasing her in school.

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Is there anything going on in American food right now that excites you?

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I think there’s a real realignment where we’re redefining what America’s food is. America’s food is now made by the young Korean guys who grew up in a Mexican neighborhood. It’s Koreans who grew up in the American South or in Kansas City. More than ever, American food has always been food made by whoever happens to be living in America. But there is a particularly interesting bunch of people who are really redefining what America’s food is, and a lot of them happen to be Asian-American.

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Final question. Do you believe in an afterlife?

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I do not. I believe that after we die, we are diet for worms. That is all.