EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with ANTHONY BOURDAIN
With Anthony Bourdain’s new series, The Layover, making its exclusive Canadian debut on T+E this Wednesday, April 11 at 10pm ET/PT, Travel+Escape Senior Editor Garine Tcholakian caught up with the man himself to get the scoop in this exclusive interview. What does Tony really think of Canada? What’s the secret to great travel experiences? And what’s it really like to be Anthony Bourdain? Really. It’s all right here.
With Anthony Bourdain’s new series, The Layover, making its exclusive Canadian debut on T+E this Wednesday, April 11 at 10pm ET/PT, TravelandEscape.ca Senior Editor Gariné Tcholakian caught up with the man himself to get the scoop. What does Tony really think of Canada? What’s the secret to great travel experiences? And what’s it really like to be Anthony Bourdain? (Really!) It’s all right here.
What would you say is the secret to creating great travel experiences for ourselves, whether on a layover or travelling long-term?
The willingness to make a mistake, the willingness to adapt to the situation on the ground, to not micromanage the experience … an openness to new experiences, a willingness to eat out of your comfort zone, a willingness to drink too much with strangers – those are all important. The greatest travel experience or the greatest travel memory, more often than not in my experience, was a result of a series of happy accidents. Leaving yourself open for that possibility is really important.
Why do you think it is that travellers today have such a growing need to experience life, not so much as a tourist, but as a local?
I think it’s something you see at home as well: People are looking for, for lack of a better word, authentic dining experiences, you know… more and more people are interested in the not particularly clean or fancy-looking noodle shop at a strip mall that serves really authentic noodles or close-to-authentic noodles.
“The greatest travel memory, more often than not in my experience, was a result of a series of happy accidents.”
People are more sophisticated now about things, and dining has become more of a counter-cultural experience. So I think you’ve got a whole new demographic of travellers that are better educated, they’re more widely read, they’re more interested in what really makes a place tick and what makes it unique, rather than going to see the usual tourist sites.
In one of the episodes of The Layover, you had some choice words about Canada. You say: “Canada is a great country because of Montreal. Without Montreal Canada would be hopeless.”
(laughs) Well I think what I was speaking to specifically was that I think the guys at Joe Beef and Martin Picard, have, without knowing it, have become de facto ambassadors for the entire nation. The profile of the joke is — and I think there’s a lot of truth to it – is that, most people in the States were, until a few years ago, particularly in the restaurant community but in general, were spectacularly ignorant to our neighbors to the North; we have no idea what’s going on up there. We have very little idea of Canadian identity or we have a very hard time picturing this vast space in our minds until recently.
For better or worse I think, particularly in the food community, people who travel and eat or people who are interested in travelling and eating, when they think of Canada they think of Fred and Dave at Joe Beef, and they think of Martin Picard. Those guys have essentially put a human face to Canada in a way — and to Canadian cuisine and identity — in a way that others have not. They’re probably the most famous – no doubt about it – they’re the most famous chefs in Canada. They have single-handedly exported an international profile. I mean, chefs all over the world know them and have eaten with them and have had way too much to drink with them.
“Most people in the States were [...] spectacularly ignorant about our neighbors to the North; we have no idea what’s going on up there.”
In one of your answers to questions from Reditters, you talk about doing, and I quote, “whatever it takes to make this a dignified business of making television fun.” I love that. Why do you think it is that it’s often the most embarrassing moments, the most outrageous situations, that make television gold?
It’s classic comedy, you know….People like to see people get hit in the head with a ladder, you like to see the fat man slip on a banana peel and fall on the ground. I think it’s a basic human instinct. I think pain, head injuries and humiliation are, unfortunately, for better or worse, people like seeing that.
“I think you’ve got a whole new demographic of travellers that are [...] more interested in what really makes a place tick, rather than going to see the usual tourist sites.”
You know, I like to make relentlessly happy, heartwarming television, enlightening television. I mean, I try, in every episode, to have a good time and make happy, informative – well, I don’t know about informative — but at least have a happy experience. But, again for better or worse it’s often my most tragic mishaps, humiliating massages and embarrassing drunken binges that seem to be the most entertaining to audiences. I guess that’s just human nature; I can hardly complain about it. But it’s not what I’m trying to do. It’s just that’s the way it ends up sometimes.
You once posted on Tumblr that many of the meals and experiences from No Reservations are “impossible to duplicate.” How possible would you say it is for viewers of The Layover, to duplicate your experiences?
Well I certainly wouldn’t do the entire itinerary. But you could certainly pick and choose from a number of options and I think there are a lot of good recommendations in there. You can construct a more reasonable itinerary than the one I follow, and in fact there’s now a companion mobile app from The Layover that will help you do that.
Did anything crazy happen on The Layover that couldn’t be aired?
Honestly, if it happened and it was fun and it was even remotely interesting, it’s in the show. […] I mean it’s something the camera crew has to be aware of: If they get too drunk, if something really embarrassing or funny happens, the cameras will turn around and shoot them, so nobody’s safe – ever.
What’s it really like to be Anthony Bourdain? You’re living the dream – what’s that really like?
It’s great. It feels good. It’s strange…I’m very aware of the fact that I have the best job in the world, you know, I was standing on my feet next to a deep fryer only 12 years ago, so I know how good I’ve got it. I’m always in motion. I am indeed living the dream. It hasn’t gotten old, let’s put it that way.
“I’m very aware of the fact that I have the best job in the world, [...] I was standing on my feet next to a deep fryer only 12 years ago, so I know how good I’ve got it.”
Do you think it’s ever possible to get tired of travelling?
As long as you’re exploring, as long as you still experience curiosity about the world, as long as I continue to learn, it will be fun. When it becomes commuting, when it becomes work, it won’t be fun, and when it becomes work, I will stop.
PHOTO GALLERY: ANTHONY BOURDAIN ON SET