Before Anthony Bourdain Visits Dallas, He Chats with City of Ate About Bad Food Critics and Evil Truffle Oil

Categories: Chewing the Fat

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Anthony Bourdain comes to Dallas this Thursday, visiting the Majestic Theater to share what will no doubt be candid and curse-filled insights into his life's work, travels and food. Since City of Ate is sponsoring the event, I spoke to Bourdain recently, asking about his new show, the food scene in Dallas, his thoughts on food critics and more.

City of Ate: Didn't you hear that Dallas is a dining nowhereville? Why are you coming to Dallas?
I have no opinion about the Dallas food culture because I'm just completely pig ignorant on the subject. I just don't know one way or the other to say anything even remotely intelligent about the Dallas dining scene because I don't know. I'm coming to do a show.

Have you been here before?
I've been through on these tiny dysfunctional book tours or speaking events. I've never been in town long enough to learn anything.

What are you going to eat while you're here?
I'll be eating the Pringles out of the mini-bar.

What would make you consider coming to Dallas to tape one of your new shows?
If I can find an angle like a person or a story or a perspective that drew me in above and beyond just good food. Is there some unique aspect about Dallas' cuisine that sets it apart, that is unique to Dallas as opposed to Houston or Austin or Kansas City or Paris and New York. Or do I have a really good friend in Dallas that would show me some really fucked up honky-tonks and dive bars and just sort of low impact casual joints that would be strange and wonderful.

We've got some honky-tonks.
I do like a good bar.

Katharine Shilcutt, the food critic at the Houston Press, recently published a review lamenting her fellow diners who sent back dishes that were cooked properly but not to their liking. Fish, for instance, cooked to a perfect translucent doneness was sent back by one diner. Another sent back a dish because their foods touched on their plate. At the end of her review she got this veal steak that was over cooked. She wanted to find fault with the restaurant, but she realized the chef was just doing what most of his diners were asking for.
That's not a problem that's unique for sure. In the perfect world the chef says listen -- are you here to eat my food?

If I show up and I want my scallops cooked this way and I don't want them touching my vegetables that's fine. That's called the Cheesecake Factory. But if I'm coming into a Dean Fearing restaurant, I'm here to eat Dean Fearing's food. OK? I'm not telling him where I want my scallops or how I want them cooked. I want them the way Dean thinks I should try them because I've heard he's good. A lot of people have said he's good over the years -- therefore, I'm going to put my faith in him. Good or bad, I'm going to put my faith in the chef. That's what it's about.

I'm saying that as a customer, not just a chef. That's the way I eat. You know, I go into a restaurant with a reputation and they ask, what do you want to eat? And I say, what are you good at? They know better than me.

But you're on TV and have an opportunity to educate and influence diners ...
Something like this ... is an act of slow seduction. It's tough to get people out of old attitudes. It was a really important moment when people started eating sushi. It was a big deal. I was raised thinking raw fish -- are you out of your mind? But at some point in my life, somehow, it seemed like a good idea. So there was then and then there's now.

I'm not going to sneer at people or mock them or make them feel bad about themselves for their attitudes toward food. But I sympathize with a chef that has to deal with that -- who's trying to raise their game and trying to do things as well as they can and their customers haven't caught up with them yet or learned to trust them.

Let's face it. In a lot of cases the chef doesn't deserve their trust. Certainly, in my life, I've bullied my customers into eating something that they probably would have been better off not eating. So, we're all growing up together you know? Chefs and customers alike.

In your first book you mention eating your first oysters in France. Oysters: North or South?
North. I've learned to appreciate oysters from the South and I've had them all over, but I mean come on. If the first woman you ever slept with you was a brunette and it was fantastic, well then it kind of makes an impression on you.

Ever think you'll go back there and re-create that experience with the cigarettes and the paper bag?
I did on a cooks tour with my brother, in 2001 and I might do it again in a year or two.

I love when a food experience takes you back in time and ...
That's what's so transformative and so great about food. You might forget your first girlfriend's face, but you remember what was playing on the radio and you remember the smell.

Tell me about your new show.
Unlike No Reservations it will be useful. Like No Reservations it will be snarky, dark, evil and personal.

Useful how?
You'll actually be able to go and do everything you see in the show. In No Reservations, chances are you're probably not going up the Amazon, or bungee jumping or having dinner with Bill Murray.

How long is each layover?
I'm there in real time for 48 hours, so we shot my portions in 48 hours.

Do you think a viewer would really be able to recreate that experience in two days?
No, but I think the viewer could pick out a few things from the show that appeal. And I think they would go home spectacularly happy, saying, "Thank God I did what that asshole Bourdain suggested, because otherwise I really would have had a crappy time in Rome."

Did you shoot in Rome?
We shot in a lot of hub cities. Hong Kong Singapore Miami, Amsterdam, London, Rome.


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36 comments
Kate Andria Martin
Kate Andria Martin

I'll show you The Libertine and Meridian and many more places. We are all about the brunch!

Lisa C
Lisa C

Let me start off by saying I do not label myself as a food critic. That being said, this comment thread is mostly depressing and a poor reflection of Dallas' culinary integrity and spirit. I believe Dallas is a wonderful, ever expanding culinary community.  Our restaurants have the ability to stand out amongst these chain establishments, because yes, unfortunately we do have lots of Cheesecake Factory-esque restaurants tarnishing our good name.  Those places may hold a special place in many Dallasite's hearts, but that does not refute the fact that there are countless amazing restaurants in the DFW area.  If you choose to live in the trenches that are those chain restaurants that is your choice.  If you care about what you eat, how it was prepared and how it tastes then you venture elsewhere. "Plain and simple."

The Grape, Charlie Palmer, The French Room, Bolsa, Local, The Mansion on Turtle Creek, Lockhart Smokehouse, Il Cane Rosso Pizza, El Si Hay Taqueria, Fuel City Tacos... are all great establishments in Dallas!

Oh, and The Goat, Ships, Dallasite and Texas Star are some of the best (authentically) dive bars in Dallas.

Sthornton
Sthornton

He needs to pay a visit to Jimmy's Food Store and Tom Spicer's FM 1410 on Fitzhugh.

Abdal Malik
Abdal Malik

Alright. I must let it all out. There are a tons of great or interesting places to eat in the Dallas metroplex. I haven't eaten at all of them. But they all have great reputations. Here is a short list: Abacus Restaurant, Stephan Pyles, Mi Piaci Restaurant, Off The Bone, Kalachandji's Palace and Restaurant, The Libertine Bar (a great bar with terrific food), Meddlesome Moth, Absinthe Lounge (yes, the real green stuff), The Old Monk (Pub), Blackfriar Pub, The Amsterdam Bar, Arcodoro Pomodoro, the Meridian Room (great old bar with terrific food), Murray Street Coffee Shop (cafe), the Pearl Cup (cafe), It's a Grind (cafe). There are five times this many, at least. 

Abdal Malik
Abdal Malik

I am glad you are coming to Dallas. First because yours is ABSOLUTELY the only TV show I watch. No kidding. (I don't have  a TV and only watch at my daughter's house. Of course, she is a huge fan.) To our business,  I believe you will be surprised at how much variety there is with regard to choices of cuisine. On top of that, despite likely perceptions of Dallas outside of our fair city, Dallas is surprisingly cosmopolitan showing the Texas friendly spirit to everyone. 

On the north side of Dallas we have the suburb of Richardson. And a truly great mix of interesting restaurants. My favorites are the South Asian and Arab restaurants. Of particular note is a small place on Main Street called Afrah. Great kabobs, shwarma. One of the special things about Afrah is the Arab sweet dishes and gelato made right there on the premises. Several Lebanese brothers run this place. Oh yes. They have great hookah too. 

Another terrific place is Silver Spoon restaurant just down the street from Afrah. Silver Spoon is just a hole-in-the-wall place, a sort of daba. But the food is authentically Pakistani... they make the best biriyani, korma, nihari, plus they have great hot-wings in our neighborhood! This is a family affair with Kazi, his wife and his son dishing out great food everyday for we locals.

As an example of the cosmopolitan nature of Dallas, we are one of the centers the government sends refugee to. And there have been many waves over the years. We even have a sort of Mother Theresa of Dallas, Cindy Amira Weber-Taha. She has for more than a decade looked after new an influx of people such as Kurds, Afghanis, Somalis, Burmese, Iraqi, and Bosnian refuges, helping them to settle, find work, and just generally helping them to make a new life for themselves after the terrible ordeals they have faced in their home countries. 

There is a whole strip of interesting restaurants on Beltline in Addison. Then there is Nate's seafood place, really a classic joint (I didn't say classy joint) in Addison with all kinds of Cajun seafood. Dallas favorite for decades. 

We are looking forward to entertaining you. I would love to be your host here.  I think your and your crew will greatly enjoy our town. 

Best, AMR

CheeryBitch
CheeryBitch

Dallas' food scene is lackluster because it's cookie-cutter. If anyone were to step out of line and try something new they would immediately be questioned and diners would hate it. All the food trends make it to Dallas about two years late, but people think it's "NEW!". (One minor example, quinoa. Quinoa for God's sake! *sigh*) And, that's the problem, Dallas follows trends. Rarely does it set or start one.

P rezeski
P rezeski

A visit to any city would not be compolete without a visit to some sort of tubular meat estableshment. I believe there is a hot dog stand on the Richadson Dallas bourder between Hillcrest, and Arapaho,and Coit.

P rezeski
P rezeski

I cancelled my surgery to see Mr. Bourdain, and it would be an honor to host him in my home or at any Dallas eating estableshment. His famous phrase "so ya wanna be a chef?", was a comfort through my intership during chef school, as well as many a numerous night "in the weeds in restaurants around the Dallas Metroplex.

Borborygmus
Borborygmus

I may be one of the few who has read Leslie Brenners book "American Appetite" to see if maybe I've been a little harsh on the lady. It. Sucked.

It’s not hard to lose weight when you’re busy feeding your ego.

FEED THE EGO"How lucky for me, the big time’s been made,Avner has recognized my powerful bladeOf a pen which decides "Av" and "Av-not"Bonus stars for you, I now like what you’ve got."(The rest of the industry, slaps foreheads, with groanAnother Avner restaurant? C’mon. They all moan.)A few nights of Noshing, results are recognizedLeslie’s opinion of great dining, unparallelized.

Yet a Dean, or a Chris, or a Jeff, she’s disdainfulAs not up to snuff, her judgement just painful,Writing of Dallas’ favored food made for pleasure.Except for a steak or two we question her measureOf what is a two, or a three, or a four,Maybe her point is really to re-score.King-maker, Queen-bee, there’s really no differenceIn her efforts to exert her growing influence.

But the problem lies further, as I’m sure we’ve all knownTo the top of the News, where her hiring was sownBy editors searching for solutions. They’re biddingTo bring back former readers, c’mon are you kidding?I’d consider this, except for ill-written skinny bitchWhose effort to change us seems to have hit a hitch.So listen to the "Boo’s", readers comments resound,A diet suggestion, DMN, please lose a LB?

twinwillow
twinwillow

Maybe he'll get to sit in the same school chair that Rachel Ray sat in at at Sonny Bryans.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Ask the chef, ahhhh, tv host, if thinks that Demarco should be the starting running back?  Or does he thinks Feldman will make the starting rotation next year?  Does he think the Stars need another big scorer on the bench?  What does he think of the neutral zone trap?  Who is his favorite all time forechecker?   Who will win the Lady Bing this year?  The Calder?  Will Tim Tebow win another game this year?  

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

The Dallas restaurant is, at best, pedestrian. When you have resturants who are stuck in the molds of Tex Mex/Southwestern, BBQ and/or steak, you dont have as much experimentation as you would in other major cities. Austin and Houston have better scenes than us at the present time that are about consistant experimentation..Dallas is stuck in a rut, plain and simple

Josh's broken records
Josh's broken records

If he needs to find the best dives, taquarias and bbq joints in the affordable side of the Westoplex..I am available.  We'll do some mescal shots and go pee on Tim Love's boots, good times for sure.

Dallas Foodie
Dallas Foodie

Hilarious article, but seriously, the Dallas food scene is far from dismal. Dallas has/had more restaurants per capita than any other city—that inherently means we have a lot of good and bad food here. My head is spinning with all of the unique people, stories, and aspects I've come to learn about Dallas' cuisine. I'm offended he is planning to eat the minibar Pringles. HELLOOOO!

Gas Station Tacos
Gas Station Tacos

If he is looking for an angle for his show, I'll gladly take him on a tour of gas station taquerias. 

quahog_convo
quahog_convo

Always an amusing read. Can't wait to see him on Thursday.

Lauren
Lauren

I'll be your really good friend in Dallas who shows you around at the dive bars, Anthony Bourdain.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

Did smoke and dude sweet sponsor the observer this week. GD its annoying,

P rezeski
P rezeski

Anthony Bourdain's shows often show humanitarian efforts. The Refugee Center would be a perfect choice for that aspect of the show.

borborygmus
borborygmus

Mayhap you are dining at the wrong places? Or you need to visit Tampa to see a real food wasteland.

Krego 1 Rocketmonster Car
Krego 1 Rocketmonster Car

Dear Kergo,   Look at him.  Do you think he likes sports?  I mean, just look at him!  He looks like the kind of guy that eats croissants and butter with tea-and enjoys a nice Capri ciggy when he's done.  Maybe you should ask him if he likes Speedo's? 

Borborygmus
Borborygmus

Specifically, what do Austin and Houston have that is so much better? Specifically. I'm not being snarky, I just haven't socialized in those cities in a few years.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Very true, I award 6 points to Chris Danger.......Dallas is mired in tired, sunken eyed food blandness.  The wagon has "bin" stuck in the rut for quite a while.  

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

Dallas is THE home of the chain restaurant duh! So where as NY has tons of restaurants, they are solo spots.  In Dallas, you have 1 restaurant brand with 10 stores.  This does not maketh a food city.  Now where is that allsups burrito that fell between the door and the seat of my car

Kergonation Claus
Kergonation Claus

You are banned from this blog; your statements are both useless, and pedantic........you are awarded "zero" points, and may god have mercy on your soul.  Folks, the above comment makes us seem like a bunch of dumb rednecks; lets fight against crappy posts such as these!

Kergo,Provisional Governor/Northern District of TexasCaddo Indian Rep./Tejas Indian Guide

Guest
Guest

You knew the Oak Cliff drumbeaters would weigh in, right?

P rezeski
P rezeski

Dallas has Chef Stephen Pyles, and Dean Ferring, Plus lots of places that have ranked in the top 20 restraunts in the country like Star Canyon, and the Mansion.

todd
todd

i'll be snarky.  I was in houston and austin recently.  plenty of pho, food trucks, local sustainable, and all matter of foodie buzzwords that force them to carry a spare pair of underroos.  but no "Tex Mex/Southwestern, BBQ and/or steak to be found.  

Dallas Foodie
Dallas Foodie

Well technically, most of the franchises are in the suburbs. The proportion of solo restaurants is much higher in Dallas city proper, and there are lots of great food spots there. If you are looking to branch out of the franchises, check out my Dallas Foodie micro-reviews on Facebook and Twitter.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Just keepin' this blog real......never let the yuppies git an upper hand.

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

Oh brother.............blah blah blah; who wants to see my micro blog on boston sports. It's wwwww.bostonrocks.com.net.org.  I detect bored house frau who thinks she's a chef fella's.  NEWS:  Just cause you eat at restaurants, and have cook books, doesn't make you a chef/critic, etc. 

ps-I thought you were banned from this blog?

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin

Nope, not interested Sugar T$ts.......now get in the kitchen and make me some vittles. Micro foodie reviews?  Fucking gay.

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