Chef off and Die

Philly vegetarians are terrorist scum, says Bourdain.

By Joshua Valocchi
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 5 | Posted Nov. 28, 2007

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Anthony Bourdain has the best job ever. He trots the globe in search of exotic cuisine, unapologetically drinking and smoking to his heart's content while making his super-cool TV show No Reservations. Admit it--you'd swap.

From his days as a dishwasher on Cape Cod to his post as an executive chef in Manhattan, former heroin addict and cocaine enthusiast Bourdain has seen it all.

All except, it would seem, Philadelphia's cuisine.

"Honestly, I've never even bothered with Philly," says Bourdain, who reads from his new book No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach at the Free Library on Saturday. "It seems to me it's a two-horse town: Starr and Perrier."

True enough as far as big-box is concerned, but this is straight from the mouth of the same chef who claimed the best eateries are those which traffic in "minimal bullshit." And anyone who's bothered with Philly cuisine knows how minimal our tolerance is for bullshit.

Bourdain's ignorance is a shame. He's a Philly kinda guy, a straight-up bad boy among the poseurs, poodles and powder puffs that comprise the bulk of celebrity cheffery. Bourdain first found fame in 2000 with Kitchen Confidential, his definitive insiders' guide to what really goes on in restaurants. It ripped away the curtain of mystique behind which restaurateurs have been bullshitting the eating public for decades--and it had a massive impact.

Suddenly everyone knew that the folks washing your dishes are on the brink of deportation and your high-priced dish is likely teeming with bacteria.

Bourdain took a firm grasp of the brass ring. He signed on with the folks at Food Network and--for a while--jumped through their culinary hoops like a good little TV cheffy.

But after a few agonizing months doing Bobby Flay tricks, Bourdain was offered his own show on the Travel Channel. The deal was irresistible: You tell us where in the world you want to go and we'll make it happen.

Travel Channel followed Bourdain's every move and granted his every wish. It was as if he'd stumbled upon a fairy godmother.

But it's not all sunshine and beach cuisine. Bourdain's best moment came when he and his crew were all set to tape a show about foodie culture in Lebanon. They were holed up in a Beirut hotel when the Israeli bombs began to land.

"Those kookie-krazy kids from Hezbollah were popping off their weapons today," he posted on foodie forum Egullet.org. "Israel has been bombing and mobilizing a division in the South with reported land and sea strikes ... While the party continues in Beirut there's a lot of concern that the Israelis will follow up with strikes on infrastructure (like the power grid). And we were due to head to the Bekka Valley tomorrow. BTW this town is party central!" The resulting videography was deeply disturbing.

"It wasn't so much harrowing as it was heartbreaking," says Bourdain. "It was truly heartbreaking to see a great city destroyed for no good reason at all. Honestly, it was a deeply shaming and discouraging experience."

And one that won him an Emmy.

Back to the important stuff, though--like those whom Bourdain refers to as a "plague of vegetarians."

As things stand, Bourdain has a unilaterally declared truce with the veggies--in that he's promised not to physically attack them. He's particularly pissed off with those--like the Philadelphia-based group Hugs for Puppies--who claim that eating foie gras is a threat to society or the environment.

"These fucking people are not really all about us not eating duck liver," snarls Bourdain. "No, no, no. They don't want us eating any animal product whatsoever.

"When they win this tiny battle, they'll move to the next one, like freeing the lobsters.

"These people," says Bourdain, "are the worst kind of terrorists. And they must be stopped."

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1. Nick said... on Oct 24, 2009 at 04:21PM

“Despite his comments about my favorite city in America, I still adore this guy in a way. Anthony has an interesting outlook, and having been around the block a couple of times, he offers me insight that I use as a reference point. I also agree that if you want to eat animals, eat animals. However, if you don't want to eat animals, don't. But neither party should impose their beliefs on each other. Anthony is only reacting in the same fashion as the puppy huggers by saying that they should be stopped. They should promote their side, he should promote his, and all will be well. On certain occasions, I believe that there are lines which should be drawn, but I continue to remind myself that it is not always pavement to be drawing lines.”

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2. Nick said... on Oct 24, 2009 at 04:23PM

“*** not always MY pavement to be drawing lines ON. ***”

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3. Harrison_Bergeron said... on May 25, 2010 at 02:44PM

“When he says "they must be stopped", I'm pretty sure he didn't mean that they should be stopped from not eating meat or from publicly advocating for vegetarianism, but rather that they must be stopped from using force to impose their lifestyle on all of us, and he is absolutely correct. The food nazis represent the same sort of mentality as the Christian Coalition, they wish to use government- which is force- to compel all persons to live exactly like themselves. They hold no regard whatsoever for the rights of others, they genuinely believe that the righteousness of their cause justifies anything they do in its name. They are dangerous, the are the enemies of liberty, and therefore they are the enemies of the entire human species.

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4. meaty said... on Jun 24, 2010 at 11:01AM

“living here in "philly" there are some damn good restaurants like Thai Lake in Chinatown and reputable Italian restaurants. hugs for puppies is BS. i agree that "philly" is a 2 horse town. veg heads stink and will not deter me from eating roast duck, lobster or t-bone steak. my prblem with tony is about his last meal. bone marrow, parsley salad. what?!?!?!? his drop-dead gorgeous sardinian wife her her family made one of the best, if not the best meals...ever. st.john street location les halles sucks.”

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5. Joe said... on Aug 12, 2010 at 11:28PM

“I love bourdain, his show and his books. But when it comes to this philly thing, I think a few things are in play. Since we're so close to nyc, tons of aspiring chefs go up there and never look back. I think he needs to look at philly like he looks at his favorite asian cities. That is, find the hidden, delightful surprises, cause that, I think, is what philly is really all about. We have amazing indian food unassuming working-clss neighborhoods (Ekta, Tiffin), "new american" type stuff at awesome music venues (Johnny Brenda's), and dives he can't not love (bob and barbara's, rays happy birthday bar, the fire). And I think that last bit underscores either why he should come, or why he's afraid to come: Philadelphia is all the things that he misses about a New York that will never come back. Dirty, blue collar, brutally honest, a place that doesn't owe anything to anyone but its own.”

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