You’ll introduce yourself and say something so witty the conversation which follows will go on for hours and sparkle like a million Swarovskis. He’ll leave reluctantly, but not without giving you his number, making you promise to call him the next time you’re in New York. He wants to mentor you. To help publish your book. Immediately. He’s got the perfect agent and you simply have to meet her.
It’s not sexual by any means, you’re happily married, but the light flirting, the bubbly banter certainly doesn’t hurt your middle-aged ego, and you leave feeling like a superstar. Like you’re already a respected, published member of the foodie elite. Like great things are about to happen. Ever dream that? Maybe it’s just starfuckers like me. Well, not a true starfucker per se, but the shoe fits when two of my food heroes come to town, as they did Sunday night.
As with everything, it NEVER turns out the way you expect. That’s why they call it a FANTASY. Because the reality of the so-called “VIP Party” is so much more mundane. Publishing is a business. No snappy patter and bubbles. More cattle call. Get ‘em in, get ‘em out. Sell the books, sign the books, snap the picture. Move it along people. It’s not a swirly twirly effervescent affair. It’s just a book signing.
Not sure what I was thinking. Of COURSE these guys weren’t there to mingle. They’d just spent 2 plus hours shooting the shit, and very well I might add, before hundreds of people. Why torture themselves further by schmoozing at some manufactured “party” answering all the same old questions about are they married, what’s Top Chef really like, and can’t I purleeze have a hugandkiss. Gross. I’d hightail it outta there too. There’s only so much humanity you can take in one night.
Which doesn’t negate the fact an evening listening to Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain converse over Diet Coke and beer (3 by my count) is entertaining as hell. Because it really is. Bourdain and Ripert. Ripert and Bourdain. Sounds like a comedy troupe, right? They bantered quickfire back and forth very Rowan and Martin-like (look it up kids). But a hip one. With lots of “fucks” and “motherfuckers” thrown about. Hysterical, hilarious, more “dishy” than I could’ve ever hoped for, and yes, dreamy as hell. Ladies, they’re better looking in person. Tony is one tall drink of water. And I had 4th row center. Nyah!
While much of the night’s material pulled heavily from Medium Raw (Tony’s latest effort, and his best imho), there were quite a few snippets of dishy food gossip. What did we learn when these two scofflaws starting jawing?
- Swims with his head out of the water so as not to muss his hair.
- His favorite comfort foods are chicken soup & coq au vin.
- He LOVES techno music and listened to it “too much” 20 years ago (Eric was a raver? Whouda thunk?).
- Tony once fed him junk foods like Capn’ Crunch (“the kind that cuts your mouth”) and said, “The look of pain on Eric’s face was exquisite.”
- He may or may not keep a large silver tequila neat under the Top Chef table when deliberations go long.
- He credits Joël Robuchon and Jean-Louis Palladin as mentors.
- He believes sous vide removes all the senses you need to cook. “Trust me, you eat fish that’s been sous vide for 72 hours? It tastes like low tide.”
- Molecular gastronomy is OVER. Ferran Adrià is the master, all the rest are copycats. It removes food from food. It is flavors created in a lab, masked as food.
- Truffle oil contains no truffles whatsoever. It’s created in a lab, and kills your palate – but according to a chef he worked for, it might be good lube :P
- When asked if smoking kills your palate, he shrugged, then challenged, “Show me one kitchen where the staff doesn’t smoke.” < - - - LOVE the man’s cojones on this one.
- His favorite comfort food is pho < - - - the woman you heard screaming and applauding was me :)
- His other favorite comfort food is pasta. Best comment of the night? He compared the moment the sauce and pasta come together in the pan with the olive oil to the moment a nipple grows erect. Yeah baby.
- His secret junk food obsession? Mac and cheese from either Popeye’s or KFC.
- Fergus Henderson is a GOD.
- His wife is studying Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu so if a female fan runs up flaunting her breasts and flicking her blonde hair extensions in Ottavia’s face, she will not hesitate to bring her down. Immediately.
- Both agreed in an “Eff, Marry, Kill” between Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, and Marcel Vigneron, they would marry Batali “for the comfort factor.”
- Both agreed by the time Top Chef judges come to a decision, sometimes after 3 to 6 hours of deliberation, most of the judges are drunk as shit. Especially Padma.
- Tom Colicchio spends an inordinate amount of time in the dressing room considering he’s BALD.
- The last full shift on the line either of them worked was for a No Reservations episode filmed at Les Halles.
- They both get mistaken for each other quite often. Eric stated it happened THAT DAY on the Downtown Mall. Tony replied when this happens, he puts on a fake accent and says, “Yes, at Le Bernadin we serve only FROZEN ‘feesh’”.
And after all that dreamscape bullshit I conjured in my head what did I do? Sat in a booth and sipped a Hendrick’s and tonic. Ate skewers and people-watched. Yep, I’m a social-anxiety scaredy cat with Walter Mitty fantasies out the ying-yang. I just KNEW I’d get up there and stammer and stutter, phumpher around, and sound like a total douchebag. So I kept my distance. Admiring from afar. Humming “The Nearness of You” in my head. Yeah, I even creep myself out.
Just being in the same room was enough. Not to get all “Anne Sexton confessional”, but Bourdain’s writing is the reason I became a food writer. I read Hemingway’s, “A Moveable Feast” in college, but Bourdain reminded me WHY I loved it. He opened my eyes to a whole genre of writing I never knew existed. I attempt (and fail) to emulate his tone, his swagger, his panache every time I put finger to keyboard. To actually talk to the guy? You might as well ask me to blow the pope.
Ah well. I still had a fantastic time. Bourdain and Ripert killed, and it’s not often I get to put on a fabulous outfit for a “dressup” evening with The Hubby. I felt like a TOTAL rockstar when we arrived home after midnight. There’s that. Still, my fantasy mind couldn’t help imagining Bourdain and Ripert being whisked away to Mas for fabulous sangria and tapas, or maybe the basement of C&O for lovely wine and snacks. Something with pork belly or beef marrow. But something tells me after all that banter and cattle call, they went straight to bed.
Thank you boys. For making me laugh, for keeping my imagination lively, for making me feel young, for your inspirational food. And most of all for your writing. The two of you are the reason why I do this shit every day. And for that I’m grateful. Cheers.
And before I forget, Tony recommended EVERYONE go see this movie. I for one, cannot wait.
*I’ve since had a chance to see the event photos. Appears their tastebuds agreed. Skewers devoured, sushi largely untouched. . . and maybe I need to take the stick outta my ass, but a couple actually brought Cheese Whiz and Spam for them to autograph. Really? Even on an ironic hipster-douche-doofus level it makes me want to slap my head right on the desk. Hard.