You just visited Boston for your upcoming season of No Reservations — what was that like?
I was not looking for the best of Boston; I think hardcore Boston foodies are going to be really pissed off — they’re going to be angry. I’m anticipating the sniffy emails or posts on food blogs that I didn’t go to this excellent Vietnamese restaurant or that wonderful Italian restaurant. There was a particular style, early 1970s, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, I saw a way to combine — I’m also a big fan of Mike Ruffino of the Unband, the only rock and roll band that’s been banned in Boston, and a Boston band no less, I just saw a way to tell a story about eating and drinking in Boston in an interesting way. We shot around Southie and Dorchester; you won’t see a single white tablecloth in the entire show. Lot of drinking.
We try very hard to remind people again and again and again that my show does not claim to show you the fine dining tips or ten best or even a definitive or fair or comprehensive view of your city or country. That’s what I decided to do with your town for a week and I hope it meets you in a good and true and entertaining fashion.
What do you think about the people here?
I love Boston. I have history in Massachusetts, I started my career washing dishes out on the Cape, lot of Bostonians working with me, all my friends from high school went to BU, so I spent a good amount of time up there. It’s not a stretch of the imagination, I think, for anyone who knows me, to see me as enjoying drinking in Southie. I felt very much in my element, let’s put it that way.
My sense is that you’re happy with the democratization of food, you do a lot to promote street food, and the media has experienced that sort of democratization as well: you talked about blogs earlier, and Twitter... In a recent tweet, you talked about the increasing irrelevance of food-related print media — what’s happening?
That was about Leslie Brenner (Dallas Morning News) being a poster critic for the demise... She got nailed lifting all the legwork and research for her BBQ article from a blogger who had spent months and months of his life ostensibly eating at every off the road BBQ joint in the Dallas area. She got nailed for it and her excuse was, “it’s perfectly alright for newspapers, they don’t have to footnote where they did their research.” She got caught lifting the entire list, and I just think, first of all, I don’t like her personally, I don’t like her work, I don’t like her past work, but I think she’s a bad example, or a good example, one of the clearer examples, of how thorough bloggers can be. They can specialize. Just by virtue of budgets shrinking, slower turn-around time [for papers]. You know, we use multiple bloggers as principle research sources for our show because we find that chances are, there’s somebody eating their way across Hong Kong right now, eating nothing but noodles and taking pictures of every single order of noodles, and writing a thousand words on each order. That’s something that no print outlet could ever or would ever compete with. And Yelp, whatever you think about Yelp, even Yelp at its worst, is indicative of the way we’re going to be making our choices about restaurants in the future. But I think that article in particular was such a blatant and egregious example of how that world is changing.