Anthony Bourdain’s job as host of the high-profile food and travel show Parts Unknown takes him all over the world. It also makes him highly recognizable when it comes to fans across dozens of countries. Sometimes, in fact, his level of visibility can make it hard to even conduct business — even though the addict-turned-chef-turned-TV-star is far from the typical Hollywood celebrity.
"It’s much easier for me and production of the show if no one knows or gives a s---,” Bourdain told Food & Wine at the 10th Annual Cayman Cookout at the Grand Cayman Ritz-Carlton. Describing the show’s desire to capture authentic moments, he said, “We want people to behave as they did yesterday and as they’re going to behave tomorrow. We don’t want them to try too hard, freezing up, being intimidated, or being impressed."
He told Food & Wine that it can be “virtually impossible" to work in some places because of fans’ enthusiasm: “There are some countries where I cannot walk down the street. It’s a problem when it’s a crowd of really nice people.”
For instance, Bourdain said the Philippines makes for a “really tough” place for him to visit. “I have a lot of Filipino fans, and they know I love them and the country. I’ll be eating in a restaurant, and there will be 100 people outside, all of them really nice with cameras. And I feel like an utter s---. It just changes the whole dynamic."
Another place surprising to Bourdain — Borneo — is home to a group of his superfans. And in "super-rural, middle-of-nowhere Oman,” Arabic-speaking women “swarmed” him.
Elsewhere, people are much more low key about his presence. "If I’m on TV [in France], it's an obscure little satellite network there. You never know which countries I’m in heavy rotation on cable. It’s just anomalies,” he said.
And while the French might not easily recognize Bourdain’s face, they do have another reference point: "They were like, 'I know you! You were on The Simpsons!' They recognized me as an animated character,” he told Food & Wine.
Ultimately, when he’s in New York, he’d rather no one made a fuss over him. “I’m always on the lookout for a good Irish bar where nobody gives a f--- about me... and I found one… It’s all janitors and construction workers, and they’re like, 'Hey, you’re that asshole from TV' And after that I’m just a regular."
And if he really needs to flee fans for a little low-key R&R, he uses his daughter as an assist: “If we’re together, and I’m taking her out to dinner and an overzealous fan comes up, she immediately goes, 'Dada, my tummy hurts,' so I can go, 'Honey, it’s OK.’ And then they feel bad interrupting me, and they go away. She even does the lip thing."
Savage — but apparently effective.
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