Anthony Bourdain: A Lunch to Remember
It’s really a nice feeling when you get noticed for doing something you love. In my case, it’s writing about noodles and food, in general. Two weeks ago, I got a call from the producer of Anthony Bourdain’s show “No Reservations”. If you haven’t caught a glimpse of the show, the show follows the fearless chef/writer as he eats the unique foods of the world. In Indonesia, he ate Penis Noodle Soup. In Vietnam, he ate porcupine. In Europe, he ate the head cheese of a sheep. The list goes on. The producers came across my Noodle Whore site and read the review on a coffee shop in Thaitown that serves up some of the best Thai Boat Noodles in Los Angeles. The quirk factor: a broth made with cow’s blood. After two weeks of correspondence, they asked me to be his sidekick at the Sapp Coffee Shop. Hmm, lemme think about it.
Two weeks later, I found myself leaving work for what would be a very, long lunch break. All the information I had researched on Thai Boat Noodle soup began spinning around my head like a laundry load in a washing machine. I said forget it, I’m just gonna have to play it by ear. I got to Thai Town about 15 minutes early. I stood outside my car and smoked a cigarette and again, started to think about what I would say. I felt like I was doing a last minute run-through on a college final/midterm. I grabbed my backpack which contained my chef coat and 3 books for him to sign. I started to walk down, staring aimlessly down the street. Within a few steps, I started to notice a very familiar figure: a tall, slender, grey-haired man wearing a black leather jacket, puffing away on a cancer stick… Anthony Bourdain. All of a sudden, I wasn’t nervous anymore. I felt calm and relaxed. I walked directly to him and introduced myself and met the producers who were setting up the cameras.
We then walked into the restaurant which had about 5 occupied tables. All of them oblivious to what was going on because they were too busy inhaling their food. We picked a table and I was then mic’d up. *Note: you may not see it on the shows, but everyone is wearing a tiny mic that clips on to the underside of your shirt with the receiver tacked on to your belt like an old Motorola Bravo pager. We then decided on the dishes we would be ordering and took our seats. Mmm, Thai Boat Noodle soup and Pork Noodle soup. Anthony then stood up and said to me, “See you in a few minutes”. He stood up and walked outside of the restaurant to film the shot of him walking into Sapp Coffee Shop. I sat there and took a deep breath and all of a sudden… pure silence. I turned around and gave one last look at everyone in the restaurant. The cameraman stood next to me, anticipating Anthony’s entrance. The patrons, who really didn’t give a f*ck about what was going on, were still inhaling their food. The crew sat in the back table also waiting for the camera to roll. The restaurant staff stood behind their counters holding menus. I then looked at the window of the neighboring store for a reflection and saw Anthony approaching. Here we go.
AB: “Hello Dylan, how’s it going?”
Me: “Hey Anthony, how’s it going?”
The waitress then came up to us and handed us menus. We ended up ordering the Thai Boat Noodle soup and the pork version of it, which includes pork blood. From there, a 20-minute conversation began. What are we eating? What’s the story behind this dish? What’s in it? What’s up with the strip malls? What’s up the ‘C’ rating? What do you do for a living? What kind of noodles do you like? Blah, blah, blah. I could tell Anthony liked the noodles. Not only was he building up a sweat, he actually finished a bowl of noodles before I did. People that know me, know that I inhale, rathen than eat. It was so weird eating next to him. Each few bites, he let out a moan of satisfaction in the food. This guy really eats anything and everything. When the camera wasn’t rolling, I took every opportunity to ask him questions. I told him that my friends and I had tried to do the same things he did in Osaka, Japan. I asked him about the importance of blood in French cooking. I asked him about his experience in China. Just a few of the many questions I fired at him.
Me: “How do you like the food?”
AB: “This is good stuff. Americans really underestimate the power of blood as a thickening/flavoring agent.”
As soon as he was done with the Thai Boat Noodle soup, the cameras stopped rolling. Before he could leave, I pulled out my chef coat and books and kindly asked for his autograph. I asked him to draw his trademark chef/skull logo which is displayed in his book, The Les Halles Cookbook and in tattoo form. You can see it in one of the Miami Ink episodes. I held the chef coat and folded it neatly back into backpack. And before I knew it, Anthony stood up, shook my hand, took a photo and quietly put his black blazer back on and was out the door back to his hotel. Wow, very cool.
Anthony Bourdain is someone I highly respect. After reading his Kitchen Confidential novel, I knew I wanted to try my hand as a cook/caterer. He’s funny, drinks, smokes and is probably more open-minded than anyone out there when it comes to food. He’s the anti-Food Network celebrity and is a true badass. Most of all, I admire the fact that he knows how to enjoy life, and will never stop pursuing it until the day he dies.
Thank you Anthony Bourdain for your time, this means a lot to me. Thanks to everyone for reading.
“No Reservations” Season 3 will air sometime in January and will feature the Sapp Coffee Shop segment including Phillipe’s French Dip and many other LA establishments. Eat here soon before it gets crowded. It’s good!