And amazingly off camera, he's just as charming, just as funny and even a little humbled. We had the chance to speak with Anthony and ask him a few questions about season eight of No Reservations, as well as some other delicious bites we at SheKnows are just dying to know about.
Season eight of No Reservations kicks off tonight at 9 p.m. EST on the Travel Channel and the first episode takes us to Mozambique, a country just emerging from a heartbreaking civil war and serious oppression. In the past seven seasons, Anthony's been to many countries amid serious political instability and countries torn apart by war and poverty and has seen and experienced some pretty scary stuff.
"There have been some uncomfortable moments for sure. In places like Liberia, there were some definite uncomfortable moments. When you're filming a place with extensive cameras and the people are hungry, and a few dollars is the difference between life and death for them, and there's no infrastruture to speak of, it can be pretty scary."
Despite a few uncomfortable moments in the past seasons and this one, most of the trips Anthony has taken have not only been filled with wonderful food, company and sights, but have also left him hopeful and excited.
"Mozambique, especially, is one place I left really hopeful for the world... I also just got back from Burgundy and let me tell you, that did not suck. Drank a lot of good wine, ate spectacularly well, that's still fresh."
He's been almost everywhere and seen almost everything, but there are still so many experiences he's had and places he's visited that continue to change and transform him.
"There are definitely a few places that anyone who experiences them is going to come out changed. Anytime you go to a place where they have very little and they are having an incredibly difficult time but still manage to get joy in the simple act of cooking and eating, and do that with pride. It's hard to come away from that unchanged."
For a man like Anthony Bourdain who travels, eats and drinks for a living, it's hard to imagine that anything surprises him anymore. But, this season, there are a few places that well exceeded his wildest expectations and, for lack of better words, kind of blew his mind.
"Baja was a real education to me. I had no idea, no expectation that it would be that beautiful, the food would be that good, the ingredients would be that exciting. That they are creating this Amazonian world down there. I was shocked by how delicious the food was and that they had a wine country! Of the 15 locations, so far Mozambique has been the biggest surprise, because they've overcome so much. I didn't expect the people to be so open hearted."
Making great, creative TV is important for him (and the network, clearly), but there's more to his show than the ratings, and those experiences are the best part of his job.
"The best times of my life are sitting with the people who don't care about the TV, the cameras or my celebrity. Sitting with those people who just don't get that and are confused why the camera people aren't eating and it drives them crazy because all of their instincts are to be good hosts and they don't like that the camera men aren't joining in. So, this has led to my camera men eating a lot and getting really drunk."
This man eats amazing food for a living made by some of the most talented chefs and cooks in the world, so one must know, what is the best meal he's ever had and why was it so darn good?
"You're just talking about pure, fetishistic perfectionism. You know, Japan is going to give me the best ingredients. But for sheer pleasure, it's eating just a little with a plastic spoon in Vietnam, mopping sauce with a crusty bread in Italy or enjoying just a simple thin slice of ham in Spain. You know, so much depends on who you're eating with, what's on the radio, what's happening around you. I can't separate out the context of what's on the plate anymore."
Primarily due to his success (and multiple Emmy awards) with No Reservations and his multitude of best-sellers, Anthony is known as a cultural anthropologist first, then an author and then a chef. Coming from a guy who views himself as "just an ex-cook with the best job in the world," these are some wild, albeit flattering, terms to self-identify with.
"Honestly, I don't know what the hell I'm doing. I know I was a chef, that's something I know for sure. And um, I know I've written books so that makes me a writer but when I look into the mirror, I don't fully identify with that term. Cultural anthropologist? Gee, I'm flattered somebody called me that! It's not what I set out to do and it's not how I see myself. I see myself as a lucky ex-cook with the best job in the world."
Going off that, as just a guy who looks in the mirror and sees "a lucky ex-cook" it's got to be, well, weird dealing with people fawning all over him, women proposing and throwing their numbers at him. As someone who doesn't wear his celebrity status on his sleeve, you'd think it would be a hard lifestyle to get accustomed to.
"Listen, there's no doubt about, it's a very strange, weird place to be. But look, I work for a living and spent 30 years of my life standing next to a deep fryer, so if my life is a little weird, strange and people say really silly things to me, now and again, I can handle that because I'm paying my rent on time, which is something I couldn't do the first 30 years of my working life. If there's any regret, it's that I can't go to my old man bar, drink by myself and listen to sad songs on the jukebox anymore. But really, it doesn't suck, for sure."
Hey, he makes it sound pretty easy! So what's his key to dealing with the weird stuff?
"I just never took it too seriously. It really helped that I was 44 years old when everything changed for me. You know, I think I was pretty set in my ways and I wasn't about to start talking about myself in the third person. You know, buying a Jaguar or marry a supermodel. I knew what was going to make me happy by then and the rest is just whatever."
Going back to the drinking alone in bars part, the question we cocktail, beer and wine lovers must know. Where does Tony like to get drunk and why?
"I dunno, an Irish pub is a beautiful thing. To have a pint of Guinness in Belfast is pretty hard to beat in the afternoon, yeah. The Irish, they do it right."
Don't miss the premiere of season eight of No Reservations tonight at 9 p.m. EST on the Travel Channel to see and hear about Tony's journey in Mozambique. Be sure to also catch the rest of the season so you don't miss some big events, like Tony playing with a King Cobra in Penang, getting gouged, cupped and drained of blood by a Finnish massage therapist and hanging with the Black Keys!
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