Anthony Bourdain, Food and Chris Wilson
By Chris Wilson
I first met Tony Bourdain in the old Siberia, a wonderfully disgusting dive bar which at the time was buried near the entrance to the 1 and 9 subway station at the 50th and Broadway. It was sometime in late 2000, and I had just been hired as a reporter for the New York Post\’s Page Six gossip column, primarily because I was the kind of guy who happily drank up everything that New York nightlife had to offer, from bending elbows with my fellow degenerates at foul-smelling dive bars to awkwardly hitting on Eastern European models at all those overpriced bottle service swilleries that were popping up all over town. Tony was already a semi-famous author, thanks to Kitchen Confidential, but he shared my boozy bloodlust for Siberia\’s nocturnal allure, as well as an appreciation for a decent jukebox that played the Dead Boys. Now that he\’s a full-on TV star who spends most of the year traveling to exotic locales, I rarely run into him anymore (the fact that Siberia closed has cut down on our hang time considerably) so I was pleasantly surprised when one of his producers emailed me to ask if I wanted to be on No Reservations to talk about, you know, food and travel and stuff.
Sure, why not? I hadn\’t seen Bourdain in eons and a free, 14-course meal at a fancy place like WD-50 was a no-brainer. No Reservations was even good enough to loan me a video camera to take on my already-scheduled trip to New Orleans, which I somehow managed not to lose during epic eating and drinking binges around the French Quarter. By the way, cooks in New Orleans idolize Bourdain. Whenever I was filming in a restaurant and explained that I was shooting for his show, I was ushered into the kitchen, where the cook would invariably stuff some morsel of fried food in my mouth. At Guy\’s Po Boys on Magazine street, I choked down a foot and a half of delicious sandwich, so insistent was the guy making them that I try every kind of po boy he had. I felt like a human woodchipper being fed log after log until the machine fell apart. Or a foie gras goose whose stomach was being pumped until it burst. But hey, I\’m a man of large appetites, and they all tasted pretty damn good.
So it was with clogged colon and wounded liver that I returned to NYC after four days in NoLa. I was the first to arrive for the dinner at WD-50 the afternoon after I got back. Tony immediately offered me a beer, which definitely helped matters. Then my old friend Amy Sacco turned up. Next it was former Queer Eye guy Ted Allen (who, incidentally, was wearing the exact same black leather Converse Jack Purcells that I was), and finally came the New Yorker\’s Bill Buford, whose books Heat and Among the Thugs are both amazing. At first I was pretty quiet, but by about the fifth wine course I was giving shout-outs to the comfort food of my Pennsylvania youth, namely my mom\’s Shake and Bake pork chops drenched in A1 sauce and her famous brussel sprouts, bacon bits and mayonnaise mash-up. Yes, the good old days. While I was intrigued and sometimes even thrilled by chef Wylie Dufrene\’s experimental cuisine (I distinctly remember enjoying what appeared to be Corn Pops filled with Eggs Benedict), I\’m basically a comfort food freak. Give me some ribs, barbecued chicken, a good steak, some fresh soft shell crabs, and I\’m a happy dude. Still it was great to raise a glass (or eleven) with Bourdain and co., and the driver of the Town Car hired by the Travel Channel was kind enough to drop me off at my next destination (a ventriloquists convention in Atlantic City, if you must know.)
So Tony, if you need a wingman the next time you eat your way through Spain, gimme a holler and I\’m on a plane. I mean it. No, seriously, call me. Are you calling yet?