Outspoken television host and chef Anthony Bourdain, best known for his culinary travel show No Reservations, is launching a new program called The Layover in which he highlights the sights, sounds, and, of course, tastes of a city in just a day or two. Aside from food and drink recommendations, the hour-long, fast-paced episodes are crammed with practical information on public-transport systems and how not to look like a tourist (read: how not to get mugged). We briefly spoke with Bourdain during yesterday’s media blitz about it:
So how did a show like The Layover get started?
We were looking to do something fast, informative, and creatively challenging. How can you take a format like this and stand it on its head and do it a little gonzo? It’s unlike the personal-essay style of No Reservations and more informative. The hardest thing is shooting it all in 36 to 48 hours and eating all that food and drinking all that booze.
Was Toronto on the list of potential cities for the show?
Very, very likely. It’s on the list for the second season.
What’s one common mistake travellers make when it comes to food?
The number one mistake is asking the hotel concierge where they should eat, because the concierge will always tell them about the consensus-safe place where all the other tourists go. That’s the last thing you should do. The first thing they should do is research before going. Where are the places local food bloggers crazy about? What are the places you’re least likely to see anyone from your country? Where do the locals eat and what are they most proud of? What’s in season?
What’s the biggest thing that changed within the restaurant industry since your memoir Kitchen Confidential was published?
The continuation of this empowerment of chefs. People care what chefs think now and they didn’t used to. When you walk into a restaurant, you’re interested in what the chef’s good at, what they feel strongly about, and the chef’s personal style. Chefs can abandon conventional wisdom and put what they feel good about on the menu, and diners are now more willing to try those things, even though it’s out of their comfort zone. It’s a good time to be a chef.
What was the catalyst that started the chef boom?
The Food Network and, even at its most ridiculous, the celebrity-chef phenomenon have been an important part of that process. I think Marco Pierre White was a seminal figure in this regard as the first “rock star” chef. Mario Batali, with his post-television stardom menu at Babbo—that was one of the first times where a chef just said, “the hell with it, I’m famous now, I’m going to serve what I like and you’re going to eat it.” Emeril [Lagasse] was important in raising the ability to recognize chefs. So, all those guys.
Things like Twitter and Facebook also changed the way restaurants and chefs operate, right?
Yes, Twitter especially has helped this process of making dining out a counter-cultural activity.
Any other cities you’d like to have layovers in?
Next year we’re looking at Bangkok, Sau Paulo, Taipei, Paris, they will be great places to have a layover in. We’re also hoping to tape episodes of No Reservations in Myanmar. I’ve never been to Iran and Congo. Chances are, if I’ve never been, it’s on the list.
The Layover premieres April 11 on the Travel and Escape channel.