While many might suggest that culinary tough guy Anthony Bourdain has lapsed into a sort of self-parody in recent years, I must confess to still having loads of time for his particular brand of self-mythologizing, smart-mouthed shtick. Having spent a few summers as a lowly dishwasher in the bustling kitchen of a busy Hampton eatery in my teens, I immediately warmed to Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" back in the day and have ardently followed his literary, culinary and televised antics ever since. I've read his follow-up books (including his cook book – the Tartiflette is the bomb), watched his shows on the Travel Channel, cheered him on during his cameos on "Top Chef," dined like a fanboy at Les Halles and even accosted him once on the street in Soho (he was polite, but wary). While most so-called "celebrity chefs" seem to wear out their welcome in the time it takes a quart of heavy cream to go sour, I think Bourdain has handily retained his appeal. He's smart, funny, engaging and cool.
So imagine my disappointment, then, upon hearing that he's a big fan of Daniel Boulud's DBGB. Let me rewind a little. Being somewhat of a cliché, I was aghast and incredulous upon hearing back in 2007 that the celebrated French restauranteur planned to open a high-end, fine dining establishment on the Bowery, a few steps to the south of the then-recently-disemboweled CBGB. It's not that I necessarily have anything against French cuisine, but Boulud revealed that he planned to call the place DBGB. I bristled at the smarmy, disrespectful appropriation (as if the arrival of John Varvatos' fatuous shop at 315 wasn't bad enough). I later went on to vent at Times food critic Sam Sifton's frothy piece about the place in 2009. People told me to relax, let it go, get over myself and stop living in the past, but speaking as someone who continues to firmly hold onto myriad preoccupations from my youth, that just wasn't on the menu (pardon the pun). I shook my fist and swore I'd never eat at DBGB. I believe my actual statement was that I'd "sooner eat out of a toilet bowl" than ever darken its door. Given the restaurant's pricey fare, that's not a difficult vow to keep.
Many scowling punk fans agree with me of course. Given Anthony Bourdain's oft-cited affection for late 70's punk rock and specifically of CBGB (witness this lovingly written piece in a 2007 issue of SPIN), I'd surely have imagined that he'd scoff at Boulud's venture. Not so. Witness this recent clip of Bourdain interviewing the French chef and practically fawning over him. He even exclaims that he loves DBGB! GAH! WTF?
I guess I shouldn't be too surprised. At the end of the day, Bourdain is first and foremost a chef, and his admiration and appreciation of the culinary arts probably dwarf his affinity for punk. Or maybe, unlike me, he's just been able to get over it and move on.