It’s Not All Fear and Loathing

Anthony Bourdain returns to Las Vegas, and this time he’s brought friends

Celebrity chef, author and all ’round professional badass Anthony Bourdain rarely minces his words. (But don’t take our word for it—follow @Bourdain on Twitter for more than enough evidence.) The chef recently took time out from being awesomely cantankerous to dish with Vegas Seven about his new TV shows, what he’s been eating—it’s not as glamorous as you might think—and what he has up his sleeve for his upcoming evening onstage with fellow chef Eric Ripert, February 9 at the Palms.

What’s the typical agenda when you come to Las Vegas?

I go for UFC [bouts] fairly regularly with my wife, who’s an enthusiast and a practitioner. Generally [we] come in, grab a bite to eat, go to a fight and bug out. I’m good for one destination meal and maybe a utility meal or two, catch the main event. I’m not a gambler.

What goes on during your road show, Good vs. Evil: An Evening With Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert?

It’s a lot of fun, because I do a lot of solo gigs, it’s easy and fun to do with Eric. We’ve been doing this for a while now, and it surprised both of us how successful the whole enterprise has been and how well it’s gone over. We are very different people with very different professional backgrounds to say the least, so I think much of the fun is taking an adversarial stance. There are so many things that he cannot say, and I try to go right to those. We generally open with, for lack of a better term, what I call alternating hostile interrogations. I sit him down in the most uncomfortable chair in the world under a naked light bulb, and subject him to a classic police or prosecutorial line of inquiry, after which he gets his chance.

How do you see Las Vegas fitting into the culinary landscape?

Any place with that much money floating around you’re going to have a top-level service industry to accommodate that. Some chefs are really, really good at it. Some chefs can open an outpost in Vegas or Macau or anywhere, and it’s going to be good. I hear Robuchon’s place is amazing, I thought Daniel [Boulud’s] was terrific. There’s a weirdness factor to eating at a restaurant as good as Carnevino in these cavernous spaces in a casino setting, but I think the food there is superb. I am rumored to not be a Bobby Flay fan, but I think he runs a pretty good restaurant. … I had a very good meal there years ago, it’s just disconcerting to look out the window and see someone on a respirator feeding the last of their disability check into a slot machine. Trying to chew your food when you see that is a little difficult.

I’ve been dying to go to this place Raku which I hear is fantastic, which is totally non-branded, but one of those great anomalies. I’d love to eat there. It’s a great bar town, too. I’m a huge fan of the Peppermill and the Double Down. There’s a lot to love about Vegas.

Your new CNN show, Parts Unknown, launches in spring. How will this be different from No Reservations?

I’m not going to be doing anything that I haven’t already been doing, except it’s on a bigger and more adventurous scale. It’s the same creative team, same producers; I’m basically moving the band over to CNN and taking full advantage of the fact that we will now be able to shoot in places that we would never have been able to with Travel [Channel], and that we can make smarter television. We don’t have to have somebody shoving food in their face every five minutes. If we see something interesting, we can take a detour. There are many places left to discover. We just shot in Burma, which was an unthinkable scenario even a year ago to go over there and shoot. I’m mixing it up; there will be shows in Los Angeles and European capitals, but also sort of more difficult shows, probably a lot more technically difficult countries to shoot in.

How did you get involved with The Taste, your new competitive cooking show on ABC with Nigella Lawson?

It’s like somebody offers you an F-14 [and says], “Would you like to fly an F-14 off the deck of an aircraft carrier?” Now, I’ve never flown an F-14 before, and I’m not saying I necessarily know how to fly one, but given the opportunity to try … at this point in my life I was pretty excited to do it. I’d do it again in a hot second. We all ended up really caring about the competitors and the process, and I became much more personally invested in this thing than I ever anticipated. It was blasting off to another planet for me, and I had a really great time.

What’s one thing your daughter doesn’t like to eat?

I could tell you she doesn’t like raw celery. She loves raw oysters. Doesn’t like mustard; it’s the heartbreak of my life that she likes ketchup on her hot dogs. It’s something I’m hoping to correct at some point down the line. She’s a remarkably adventurous eater.

She got an Easy Bake for Christmas, and she’s killing me with those fucking muffins. I’ve been eating those sugary muffins for my proud daughter, and of course I can’t say no.