From the blog

Anthony Bourdain, 20 years on.


Before he was a successful author and television star, Anthony Bourdain was a chef. Everyone knows this. His most famous book Kitchen Confidential applied gonzo journalism to the world of boiler room cuisine. I liked it a lot. So did many of the writers and musicians I knew. For whatever reason, his voice resonated.I met him one morning in 2002. Bourdain – Tony to his friends – was hungover and unslept, but soldier that he was, he showed up to do me the favour of granting an interview that I wouldn’t transcribe for two decades. This week I played that tape back on headphones jacked into an old dictaphone while I was out walking the roads, and I listened to a conversation with a man who was four years gone. We spoke about our favourite writers, Lester Bangs and Nick Tosches, and about the CBGBs bands, Blondie, Television, the Ramones, musicians he fed and watered while he was a line cook in downtown New York in the 1970s.“For me, cooking was definitely a way to join a rock n’ roll band without having to play guitar,” he said. “It was that lifestyle, or very similar to it. You didn’t need money, you didn’t need musical talent, you’d free access to drugs and women, and free credit at least was readily available, and there was a certain style and panache to the life, particularly in 1973, 74, it definitely had an allure. It attracts people with a taste for melodrama and allows them plenty opportunity to act out on that… You’re very aware when you’re in that life that you may as well be an elite, even if you lead a fairly degraded life, working hard and getting very little money and sleeping very little, you feel very much like a member of a secret society, or a tribe.“I feel very much like, were there any justice in this world, I probably would have died a few years ago having had a fairly satisfying life. I made every possible mistake, but it’s not like I denied myself anything, I didn’t miss anything, it worked out OK on balance. I feel like I’m on bonus. Whatever happens now, I’m playing pinball and the machine just keeps giving me extra points. But I also get a sense that if this all goes sour, and I end up cooking again, that’s alright.”

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