Total cost of bun Cha dinner with the President: $6.00 . I picked up the check . #Hanoi
As far as itinerant TV chefs go, Anthony Bourdain is a rare beast. After criss-crossing the globe filming, writing and ingesting more or less everything “250 days a year for nearly the past decade,” the rock-star-chef-turned-gonzo-food-journalist has chalked up more than enough travel cred to dwell among the mavens.
Bourdain’s got his transits down, his culinary nous, and he knows where and how to find all the best stuff . Hell, he even bought President Obama a $6 meal in Hanoi, Vietnam, this week.
Here’s a few of Big Tony’s sagest travel/food-lovin’ tips to keep us all inspired, and prepped for our next intrepid long haul jaunts.
Most of us find it a fair strain to gain more than a few scant winks when plonked for hours on end 37,000 feet in the air. Still, try your best: as tempting as it might be to go to town on the complimentary in-flight liquor, you’re better off strapping on an eye patch and trying to get some shut eye. As Bourdain attests, there’s nothing like waking fresh, revitalised and ready to roll on arrival.
“I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk.” ― Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
Behold and bless our brave forebear who shucked and ingested the world’s first oyster. Food has always favoured the bold, and while some culinary options on your travels can indeed look, smell and feel a little unusual, be courageous – there’s nothing like absorbing the character, lineage and essence of a foreign culture via the taste buds and stomach. Eat boldly, digest courageously and thrive on the fresh flavour ride.
Travel: the best education
“If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible.” – Anthony Bourdain, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook
Sleep on floors if you have to. Discover the way different people cook and live, and learn from them. Even in his salt and pepper late-50s, Bourdain thrives on gleaning crucial life lessons through the fabulously strange situations and random characters he meets at every turn – like the time he ate Namibian warthog anus.
Head for market
“You get an idea of what a city or country is good at, because they’re catering to local tastes.” – As told to Elizabeth Gunnison Dunn
As early as possible into every new trip, be sure to check out your local marketplace. In Bourdain’s words, this is where you get a real sense for what locals buy and what they like to eat: an authentic lens on regional culinary sensibilities. Whether off the plane, or days into a voyage, set your clock for sunrise, track down the nearest marketplace and relish in an authentic, local sentient experience.
“I like to read fiction set in the location I’m going to.” – As told to Elizabeth Gunnison Dunn
Guidebooks can be a fount of destination knowledge, but few prime you for the ‘feel’ of a place like fiction, especially when it happens to be set in the city or town you’re about to land in. Saigon-bound? Immerse yourself in Bourdain’s favourite, ‘The Quiet American’ by Graham Greene. Heading for the Australian desert? Robyn Davidson’s ‘Tracks’ should do the trick. In Bourdain’s words, fiction “gives you those little details, a sense of the way a place smells, an emotional sense of the place.” Load up that kindle or I-pad with the good stuff, or better yet, keep it old school with a pre-loved paperback.
“…A cold G&T in a rattan chair with a fan overhead.”
Travelling on a budget is a necessary evil, but you’re doing it wrong if you don’t spoil yourself every so often. One of Bourdain’s self-confessed travel splurges involves kicking back in old rejuvenated colonial-era hotels, like Raffles in Singapore, Grand d’Angkor in Siem Reap or the Metropole in Hanoi. Each to their own, of course, though if you do happen to share the chef’s penchant, throw in a little white linen with your travel garb, and sweat classily over cold cocktails in the luxury of restored yesteryear.
“This is the distilled wisdom of many wheels gone wrong, and many scenes gone wrong.” – As told to A.V Club
Embrace the unexpected. Relish in the lost cause. Random spills down the unchartered back road are more often than not the travel gods re-directing you to serendipity. Bourdain is the first to admit that so much of his shows’ awesome footage is the by-product of trial and error: “You know, car breaks down, you get lost, you end up at some grotty little place that ends up being magical.” Lose yourself, be cool and let the magic come to you.
Live the journey
“One doesn’t take the A-train to Mecca.”
Echoing millennia-old incantations from philosophers, thinkers and poets across the ancient/modern divide, Bourdain plays it Zen when it comes to recognising the journey really is a crucial part of the destination, if not the destination itself.
“Food, culture, people and landscape are all absolutely inseparable,” adds Bourds – so too, the roads in between: that grand cosmic highway betwixt each pit stop and port.
“As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river.”
Peel yourself from that couch groove and get your head thinking. Travel far, wide and long, and do it again and again. There’s nothing like the experience of being catapulted into a totally fresh, inspiring foreign destination. If you’re privileged enough to have the option, slip on some suede cowboys, channel the Tone and ride fearlessly through the void. Repeat as often as possible.
Because when all is said and eaten:
“Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” ― Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly