“It’s a terrible thing when you find yourself to be the sort of person who can complain, ‘I’ve had too many truffles.’ ”
The things that come out of Anthony Bourdain’s mouth are frequently as bold as the things that go in. These days, he’s easing into old age like most silver-haired retired chefs: globetrotting and beer-swilling for his Travel Channel series No Reservations, writing feather-ruffling follow-ups to 2000’s Kitchen Confidential, and hitting a multi-city speaking circuit. On March 4, Le Bernardin chef Eric Ripert will join him on stage at Symphony Hall. After shooting an upcoming episode of his show here in Boston, he spoke to us about how he’s looking forward to your hate mail.
What should showgoers expect who come to see you?
I don’t believe we have a moderator this time out. What we’ve been doing lately is that we take turns brutally interrogating the other. Last time we did this, I put Eric on a stool under a hot light and interrogated him — a hostile interrogation — and then we swapped places and he did the same. And then just an opened ended discussion for a while. It’s a lot of fun to do these things with Eric, because unlike me, he has a reputation to lose. And his discomfort when I... There are certain questions that are uncomfortable for him to answer diplomatically. His unease is very enjoyable.
What kind of questions?
Well he can never a question like, you know, ‘What’s the worst kind of customer you’ve ever had at Le Bernadin?’ He can’t answer that. He’s defending three Michelin stars, four New York Times stars, and he’s at a level in his life — he was granted the rank of Chevalier of France for God’s sake — he’s got to be careful about these things. But at the same time, he’s a good friend with a sense of humor. It’s a tightrope he walks very elegantly, but it’s a lot of fun. I try to push him off the tightrope.
Does he get a chance to turn the tables?
Oh yeah, he’s gotten very good at that.
In what sense?
He’s turned around and asked me stuff or made observations; he’s a good counterpunch.
What’s your relationship like?
He’s probably my closest friend in the world.
Tell me a little about that friendship, what it’s like, how it started.
He read Kitchen Confidential; I was still slinging hash and the kitchen phone rang and it’s Eric Ripert inviting me to lunch. We became fast friends, though our backgrounds are as different as could be. We look at a lot of things the same way, surprisingly enough, and I think we have similarly semi-functional lives... We both travel a lot, we both have a lot to juggle both public and personal, our families are close, his wife introduced me to my wife. It’s an unlikely but solid friendship.