We asked our readers what they would ask writer and television chef Anthony Bourdain if they had the chance. Here are his answers to some of their questions. This interview has been edited for length and clarity:

Q: Our culture is so engaged with food now – almost to the point of fetishizing what’s on the plate. Is there any turning back? Or is this fascination with food a good thing?

A: We are more educated about what we’re eating and where it comes from and who’s making it than ever before. I think as silly as it is and as excessive and fetishistic, it signals a real cultural shift where we actually care about what we’re eating and who’s cooking, and this is good. I imagine that at some point we will shift to a more emotional response to food without taking pictures of it. We’re sort of catching up with France and Italy. On balance, however ridiculous it is at times and lampoonable, I’m happy with it.

Q: You’re about to release a new cookbook (“Appetites: A Cookbook,” hardcover, $26.69) – your first in 10 years – that apparently contains a lot of home-friendly recipes. How has your cooking changed since you had a child? What’s your advice for parents who want to get their kid engaged with food?

A: Everything changes when you become a parent, of course. That’s a cliché, but it’s a cliché because it’s true. It’s not about me anymore. It’s about “what will my 9-year-old girl eat?” (My daughter Ariane) makes most of the major decisions as relates to food in the house.

My daughter has a very, very, very adventurous palate, but that’s because I never, ever pushed her or suggested that she try sushi or try oysters or try anything outside of her immediate comfort zone. If she wanted pasta with butter every day, I was happy to give it to her. I would continue to eat the way I ate, and the hope was that she would notice and express a curiosity, which is what happened. I think it’s lethal to suggest to a child they should try something. Who ever responded to that? When your mom said try the liver, it’s good for you, that was sort of a death knell for you ever wanting to eat liver. It might even help with reverse psychology: “Stay away from my foie gras, kid, this is grown-up stuff. This is for Daddy.” Now they’re interested.


As it turns out, she is (adventurous) but that’s because she watches a lot of food TV. She finds Alton Brown more interesting than me, and she thinks Andrew Zimmern is a living god.

Q: You’re a writer as much as a cook. Who do you like to read and why?

A: I keep going back to Graham Greene. George Orwell’s essays were a huge influence on me. I love (Vladimir) Nabokov. I love A.J. Liebling as an inspiration. I like good nonfiction writers.

For fiction writers, since I write a lot, I try to avoid people like Martin Amis, whose language is so impeccable and precise. It’s so much better than mine that I find it intimidating and dispiriting. If I get writer’s block, I’ll read Elmore Leonard. That’s just a master class in economy of writing. I’m a huge George V. Higgins fan. I think he’s the greatest crime writer who ever walked the planet and certainly a great New England writer and a great inspiration to me. Joan Didion I’m a huge fan of.

Q: Do you have a favorite world cuisine?

A: I don’t care where I am in the world, if there are 10 chefs sitting around late at night drinking, asking ourselves that same question – where would you eat, what country would you eat, if you had to eat only their food for the rest of your life? – the answer is almost always Japan. And in my case, I agree. It’s just so deep, so varied, so technically perfectionist and precise and interesting. I probably know more about Japanese food than most Americans, but that doesn’t mean I know anything at all about Japanese food. I’m still wallowing in relative ignorance, and that journey of discovery is something that makes me very, very happy.

Q: Do you foresee a time when you’ll slow down and do something closer to home?

A: Well, I have the best job in the world. I choose where we go, I decide what we do when we get there, and what the show is going to look like and what it’s going to sound like. I’ll probably stick with this for as long as they’ll let me.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.