Last night, Anthony Bourdain, star of "No Reservations" and "The Layover," gave a talk at Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center and did a book signing to help raise money for the College of the Canyons culinary program. Throngs of people from all over Los Angeles attended the event, some for entertainment and others for a bit of career advice.
It’s no secret that Bourdain has what most people would consider to be a dream job -- he travels around the world eating and drinking with his friends while making “self-indulgent” television. Even he says, “You’ve got to be kidding me -- I have the best job in the world.” Bourdain says he is planning to “milk this celebrity chef thing” for as long as he can because “he doesn’t want to go back.” With that in mind, Bourdain prepared a lecture that outlines the qualities a person must possess to have his job or to work with him and his crew.
1. Find an emotion that fuels you: From his early television-making days, Bourdain inherited a sense of anger and rage about food. According to him, “I already believed food was important…I had an ingrained sense of right and wrong from 28 years in the kitchen…and it offends me when [Olive Garden] ruins a simple thing like a bowl of ... pasta.” Bourdain uses his passionate opinions about food as a motivator to make good television.
2. Be willing to endure public humiliation: As an early disclaimer, every crew member on "No Reservations" must understand that if anything funny, violent, embarrassing, or tragic happens to you while shooting, the camera will automatically focus on you. Bourdain explains that he is not immune to this rule as he shares a clip of himself in Uzbekistan receiving a massage from another man that is excruciatingly painful.
3. A fair amount of physical risk is involved: When traveling to different countries and participating in cultural activities, one should note that these can be dangerous and potentially fatal for the crew and guests. Bourdain cringes as he relives a scene when he tumbles down a sand dune while riding an ATV in New Zealand. You must take these accidents in stride and understand that they are all a part of the experience.
4. Pre-production is incredibly important: To run a travel show successfully, it is essential that all the episode details have been fully researched. In other words, Bourdain says “know what happens before it happens.” There have been a couple of instances on the show where the crew has traveled for several hours to visit a particular place of interest, such as a smoked fish factory or artisanal hammock weaver, only to find that the circumstances have changed and their time has been wasted.
5. Be prepared to take one for the team: Bourdain has been confronted with a number of foods that he didn't find appealing but happily ate anyway. He suggests following the "grandma rule," which means you "have good manners and eat what's put on your plate." And he added, "People are proud of their food and are telling you something about themselves with their food." Often the people Bourdain meets in his shows don't have a lot of resources but still offer him the best they have.
Bourdain describes himself as a “lucky cook who gets to tell stories.” He believes that after 28 grueling years in the kitchen, he got a lucky break, saying all the important decisions in his life "have come when there are no other options.” He has not fooled himself into believing that there was a formula to his success. Although he provides these guidelines sincerely, his best advice to young professionals is to "travel and eat a lot, as many places as you can, as widely as you can, it's just that simple."
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Photo: Anthony Bourdain, front. Photo credit: College of the Canyons/Jesse Muñoz