Bourdain dishes, audience eats it up

Food and travel TV personality gets plenty of shout-outs at his Landmark Theatre appearance.

Anthony Bourdain took the stage of the Landmark Theatre to a 45-second standing ovation simply for having his name announced. The moments that followed were mostly silent as the sound crew battled some microphone issues that would occasionally resurface.

However, the crowd was raucous and responsive throughout the night, and they started early. “I blame PETA!” and, “Can you cook for us while we’re waiting?” were just a few of the shouts heard during the technical deldday. After few pops of the microphone, the crowd got their first taste of the Bourdain uncensored snark they’d been waiting for.

Photo: Matthew Ziegler
Anthony Bourdain points to a member of the audience during a question and answer session immediately following his performance Thursday night at the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse.

“I just want to say right up front, there will be no Rachael Ray jokes tonight. That’s low-hanging fruit, plus she bought me a fruit basket.”

Bourdain’s first words set the tone. The famous traveling chef dished on topics ranging from culinary TV personalities and travel tips to how it feels to burn six tons of cocaine and his afternoon at the Blue Tusk. He spoke unscripted for nearly an hour before taking questions from the crowd for another 45 minutes (with even a handful of questioners still standing, hoping he would go past curfew).

Bourdain’s strongest theme of the evening was his passion for travel that shuns traditional tourism. His current fame is largely the result of his travel routine on the Travel Channel show No Reservations, in which he connects with the locals of an area to get an intimate, personal look at a culture through the eyes (and kitchens) of natives. He reminisced fondly about many locations from the show – Vietnam, India, Tokyo, etc. – and even thoroughly described some of his desired future destinations (among them: Myanmar, the Congo and Cuba). 

Bourdain developed four simple rules for travel through those experiences, and he shared them with the audience:

  • Be polite
  • Dress appropriately
  • Make an effort, and
  • Don’t eat in the hotel.

In general, he referred to these as his “Grandma Rules” of travel. “She’s going to overcook the turkey and the stuffing will be dry. I’m going to smile, thank her and say ‘yes, please’ when offered seconds.”

He added that when looking to eat abroad in any restaurant, “If there are other any Americans there, you’re in the wrong place.”

After all, Bourdain said, “If you’re lucky enough to go to Tokyo and you’re wasting 10 minutes of your life in front of a Starbucks, what’s wrong with you?”

When he wasn’t talking travel, Bourdain didn’t shy away from his candid thoughts on fellow food TV personalities. Bourdain had respectful things to say about nearly every name brought up (Adam Richman, Andrew Zimmern, Ina Garten, Alton Brown, Ted Allen, Jamie Oliver), with Sandra Lee and her Kwanzaa cake as one notable exception. His main issue with the genre seemed to be how it marginalized some really talented, hard-working chefs.

Regarding Iron Chef America, Bourdain lamented, “You have guys like Mario (Batali) and Wylie (Dufresne) on each side cooking their hearts out, then the camera pans to the judges table and it's  Chris Angel – Minddouche.”

About Throwdown with Bobby Flay, he said, “Give me a break. I’m pretty sure he can cook better chili than Cletus.”

The crowd certainly received the Bourdain insight they desired all night. Before leaving the stage to The Ramones’ “I Wanna Be Sedated,” he touched on few more Bourdain topics with the loveable curmudgeon perspective his fans adore. His new parent company Scripps Howard (owner of Food Network) prompted the observation, “I guess this means if Guy Fieri wants a midnight bikini wax, I gotta’ show up.” The first mention of vegetarians led to, “I understand their alternative lifestyle, not really… To me, it’s indefensible. I don’t care how clean your colon is.”  

Inevitably, the audience members asked Bourdain to join them after the show, or to come back and stay in Syracuse for awhile. While he may not return with his camera crews anytime soon, Bourdain’s no-frills opinionated commentary was more than enough to keep local fans satisfied on this night.                 


Bourdain is so lucky to travel, eat, drink and get paid for it. I've seen him drink snake blood in India and dodge bullets in Lebanon. What a food and travel addict.

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