How he went from dunking breaded clams in hot grease to becoming a famous chef and television personality, Anthony Bourdain has no idea. But he says he learned everything he needed to know about life -- and gained self respect -- by working as a dishwasher. He gives his Brief but Spectacular take on vegetarians, being a bad boy and why he thinks brunch is ridiculous.
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Now to another in our Brief But Spectacular series, where we ask interesting people to share their passions.
Tonight, we hear from Anthony Bourdain, who sheds light on kitchens around the planet for his CNN series "Parts Unknown," and whose book "Appetites" was released just this week.
ANTHONY BOURDAIN, Chef:
How did I get from, you know, dunking breaded clams in hot grease to where I am today? (EXPLETIVE DELETED) if I know.
This is the kind of angry, extremely unpleasant person I was in college. I actually walked around campus with nunchucks, and I would show up at the occasional social function bearing a samurai sword.
I look back on that now with some embarrassment, but, then again, what were you wearing in the '70s? I wanted to become a heroin addict. I was very proud of myself when I first shot up. I was a vulnerable, goofy, awkward guy whose only success socially was to be the baddest guy in the room.
And, ultimately, however, you end up a whiny, pathetic, needy person. I learned every important lesson that I ever really needed in the rest of my life as a dishwasher. It was the first time in my life that I went home respecting myself.
In the good old, bad days, it was definitely a hazing period, in the European tradition anyway. And there's a part of me that kind of misses that. On the other hand, hitting people in the workplace is probably not, on balance, a good thing.
I like food where the guiding principle is, you have three or four good ingredients, and the most important thing is to just not screw them up. Treat them with a little respect.
All America who cook in their backyard insist on ruining a perfectly good hunk of meat again and again and again. Just leave the thing alone. Let it rest.
Yes, food may not be the answer to world peace, but it's a start. I think I was thinking of Ted Nugent. I find just about everything that comes out of his mouth violently offensive, but we both like barbecue. That is some kind of common ground for a discussion. And, surely, that's not a bad thing.
The grandma rule is this. if I'm going to grandma's house, I will eat what grandma puts on the plate, and I will smile and ask for seconds and say, thank you, grandma.
Here's really my problem with vegetarians. I admire, I respect your personal lifestyle choice. Actually, I don't. Screw you. But let's pretend that I do.
All of my relationships with people around the world begin when I express an interest and a willingness to respect their traditions behind what they put on my plate. So, if I were to sit there and say, I don't know, I can't — do you have a spinach salad, that would be interpreted as insulting in most cultures.
It is a — both a blessing and a curse to me that, no matter what happens in my life, I can always go back to brunch. Nobody wants to cook brunch. Society apparently needs people to cook brunch, in spite of its ridiculousness. This TV thing doesn't work out, there's always a brunch gig.
My name is Anthony Bourdain, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on my hunger.
Sorry we didn't know him in college.
He lost one vegetarian viewer right there.
And you can watch additional Brief But Spectacular episodes on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.