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My Dinner with Anthony Bourdain

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Anthony Bourdain has a certain status on this board. I wanted to share my experience of my accidental meeting and sharing dinner with him one evening. This happened in a place called the Barbecue Joint, here in my relatively little town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It was a Saturday evening about 6 p.m. There might have been only one or two other people in the restaurant – which could be described as a small “dive” with good food. It only has about 8 booths. You order at counter and food is delivered. My husband and I had finished our meal and were just chatting. I was facing opposite direction of counter area where you order. My husband was looking toward counter and said "isn't that the guy from FoodTV?" I looked around and said "no way" because it just didn’t make sense for Tony B. to be there at the counter. I looked again and thought, gee whiz! That is Tony Bourdain! I decided to chat with him and here’s what I did: I went up to him at the counter (he just looking at menu which is posted on a board behind counter) and I said "weren't you in Vietnam last night?" and he looked at me like I was nuts! Then I said, "you know, on TV you were in Vietnam!" He laughed and started talking about how he didn't know when his shows were on TV. I didn't figure he kept up when programs aired, I just used that line as an ice-breaker. It's hard to approach someone of this status! I mentioned something specific about the Vietnam show and we talked a bit about that. I then turned to the guys behind the counter and asked them if they knew they were serving a "big New York City chef guy". They looked lost at my comment, because I don't think they knew who he was or believed me. These were not the two guys who own the BBQ Joint, but the staff who work the counter. I then asked him to join us. He was waiting for friends to meet him, so he ended up spending about 20 minutes with us at our table, while waiting for his friends. He gossiped, but maybe no more than he’s done on TV and in his books. He absolutely trashed Bobby Flay and made a few remarks about Emeril and Rachel. He was funny. It was quite an evening. It probably helped that I'd seen him on TV so much, because I kind of felt like I knew him. Our conversation was not deep, but sort of bantering (like I asked him how he was surviving in Chapel Hill with all these strict anti-smoking rules). For some reason, he must have misunderstood what I said, because he pulled out his cigarettes, offered me one, and started talking about the pleasures of Lark cigarettes. He told us he was in town checking out barbecue places for a future show. His friends came in and ordered, and he moved over to their table. I had him autograph a menu for me (one of BBQ Joint’s take out menus). Autograph was a sizeable chef’s knife, with drops of blood falling down the page. He took a long time to carefully draw the knife and blood. Then, a big “T” at the bottom. (Another celebrity chef encounter here in town – ran into Sara Moulton and Jean Anderson in a butcher shop about 3 years ago).

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  1. How fun! I just watched his show in Cleveland for the first time last night and really enjoyed it. Used to think he was a bit of a jerk, but am enjoying watching No Reservations.

    1. Great story. I've met him too and he is truly a nice guy with a great wit. I saw the NC No Reservations episode a few weeks ago, did you catch it?

      1. Cool story! Maybe I will see him in KC if he's on the BBQ prowl.

        1. Good for you for approaching him (that's something I would have done, after seeing that he wasn't otherwise occupied), and good for Tony for giving you time with him. I suspect, after having watched his programs, that he would be easy to talk to.

          1. I'm a little surprised/impressed he does his own research. Obviously he has producers and research staff and he could have just been hanging out...still seems like hands on research does add to his show.

            1. I'm interested in what he said about Bobby Flay. In his Vegas show, he visited Bobby's restaurant and IIRC, thought the food was pretty good overall. I wasn't aware of any aversion towards Bobby.