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Anthony Bourdain, the Mick Jagger of food and travel
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Anthony Bourdain, the Mick Jagger of food and travel
by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

Anthony Bourdain
w/ Mario Batali
May 30 - 8pm
Paramount Theatre
$45-$175


I love food and I love to travel - combined with a killer mixtape, it's the ultimate nirvana. Unsurprisingly, I'm a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain. I've spent many hours watching this Travel Channel star trek around the world in search of exotic cuisine, paradisiacal nooks, and whatever comes chilled in a bottle. The New York-based TV host rose to fame when his best-selling book, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, revealed the delights and not-so-delightful inner workings of the restaurant business, from the ass-grabbing and ball-fondling behind the counter to the 65th floor banquet rooms of the world-famous, brag-worthy Rainbow Room. A big reason why Bourdain is revered throughout the food industry - and, yes, he reels 'em in like a hot rock band - is that he got his start at the very bottom of the food chain, as a lowly paid dishwasher in Provincetown, and moved steadily up the ladder. After graduating from the CIA, as in Culinary Institute of America, he climbed the ranks by slinging brunch specials in a cramped Big Apple hole-in-the-wall to becoming executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles to his current stint as an author, chef, and television personality in high demand - oh, and let's not forget that from New Zealand to Seattle, he attracts sell-out crowds to hear him speak about eating and exploring the planet.

You must be wondering why a tall, skinny, 50-something guy has such a strong appeal with ordinary folks that would move us to pay X number of dollars to see him in person. Are we out of our minds? Absolutely not. For those of us who love food, and I mean not only putting it in our mouths but who spend countless evenings seeing it prepared on TV, scour magazine after magazine for fresh takes on old favorites, sit at open-counter diners to watch chefs dash sea salt on a gorgeous piece of halibut, or who wait over a half hour outside a top-reviewed bistro for a last-minute reservation cancellation, Bourdain is our messiah. He's a man who appreciates the greatness of food, that made-from-scratch cassoulet, and he's a guy with big enough balls to honestly tell us that underneath a Monday morning seafood frittata is a slab of fish that wasn't consumed over the weekend and must now bring in some kind of profit. My personal head over heels affair with cuisine began nine years ago when I lived in Paris, discovering the sheer joy of a tournedos poele with a red wine-shallot sauce or a simple, warm baguette smothered with camembert - food in its purest form can't be beat, and Bourdain is the pastor who preaches to a very hungry choir.

I've watched every episode of Bourdain's travel series, No Reservations, including the one in Kazakhstan when he receives an excruciating massage in the buff - well, they didn't show his areas of interest, but his oiled-up chest sure made me press rewind on the remote. Indeed, some of Bourdain's faithful are attracted to his gentlemanly looks (when he isn't droopy-faced due to an obvious hangover, that is) - I, too, think he's a catch at his ripe age - and others find his bad boy, chain-smoking, potty-mouthed image too irresistible. I'm quite pleased with the whole package, anything he does or says is usually right up my alley - the episode in which he prepared a lamb roast in an RV with a side of grilled radicchio is one I've seen about 10 times. But my absolute favorite is when he sits down to a humble meal of fish and rice with a small family in Vietnam, not to mention tossing back a still-beating cobra heart like a tequila shot on Cinco de Mayo.

Bourdain's weekend visit to Seattle, his second in the past year, is something of a curiosity - we know he'll talk, but what about exactly is a mystery. He'll be joined by Mario Batali, a star amongst foodies in his own right, who interestingly collaborated with Oscar-winner Gwyneth Paltrow on a book that documents a culinary journey through Spain. There will likely be intriguing stories told from Bourdain's latest expeditions, and since he's sure to make an appearance at a few of Seattle's highbrow spots (he'll definitely drop by Salumi, owned by Batali's family members), he'll probably give us a New Yorker's opinion of local cuisine - are we over-praised for our pan-seared salmon, and, most importantly, were we truly deserving of four out of five Northwest-region chef nominations for the prestigious James Beard awards? Here's hoping Bourdain and Batali escape the downtown traps (uh, Brasa is mediocre and overpriced) and head to Capitol Hill or Fremont or the International District for some of Seattle's underappreciated yet most sensational restaurants. To be in a roomful of people that garner food as an everyday valuable asset to the soul and folks who love stumbling across a greasy sandwich hut in Uruguay while ignoring the Zagat-rated café in the tourist pit, Saturday night spent with Anthony Bourdain is certainly one to look forward to - the Mick Jagger of food and adventure has come to play.
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