Anthony Bourdain, the celebrated chef, culinary travel host (“No Reservations”) and bestselling author (“Kitchen Confidential” and “Medium Raw”) has just added comic book writer to his repertory. He’s written “Get Jiro!” a graphic novel about a ruthless and exacting sushi chef who battles rival chef warlords. We asked Bourdain about his new book at the launch party Wednesday night at Les Halles in the financial district.
Bourdain, who is handsome and very tall – about 6’6” – is hard to miss. At the party we saw him keep an eye on dishes he had personally selected and prepared, including boudin noir (blood pudding) with caramelized apple, veal bone marrow, and veal blanquette with button mushrooms, pearl onions and white cream sauce. Later we discovered these same dishes are in his book, beautifully illustrated and described.
“A violent, satirical vision of a chef-centric yet dystopic future, set in a possible future Los Angeles, where gangs of marauding chefs slaughter each other over differences of culinary philosophy,” is how Bourdain described “Get Jiro!” to us, adding, “I look at this hyper foodie world, and we’re not too far from a place where people might kill themselves over a reservation in a restaurant or kill someone else. Where a really great chef might be forgiven for murdering someone for disrespecting their work.”
Jiro suffers no fools and in the book he slices off a customer’s head because he’s soaked his fish in soy sauce and wasabi and then had the gall to order a California roll.
Bourdain, who said he’s loved comic books since he was a kid, co-wrote “Get Jiro!” with Joel Rose, a seasoned author who wrote “The Blackest Bird” and “Kill Kill Faster Faster.” Bourdain approached DC Comics with their idea for the book, “in the unreasonable hope that they would underwrite a full color, hardbound project involving our choice of illustrator.” Their choice was DC Comics/Heavy Metal artist Langdon Foss.
“If you look at the artwork, particularly the food details, from my point of view it really paid off. Few will argue with whether or not that is indeed fresh water eel or salt water eel,” Bourdain said.
We segued into questions about his television show. Does he get as drunk as he seems? On air he’s sautéed his liver in an enormous and wide range of different liquors. “The short answer, yes,” he said. “Look at the San Francisco episode in ‘The Layover’ or any show with my sidekicks on the air. That’s a carry home situation. My job is occasionally to eat too much and drink too much. It’s not an assignment I’m troubled by.”
New year he’ll move to CNN, where he’ll continue his culinary journeys, which have always been to him as much about the dining experience and culture of other countries as about the food. “To the extent that we can turn on the tv and see how people live in other countries than ours,” Bourdain said. “What makes them happy? What they’re like at the dinner table? I think that’s vital information.”
He’s been trying to make arrangements to shoot in hard-to-get-to locations, but many of these places have security restrictions. “I’m on record as having a serious interest in having a Congo show, Libya, Myanmar,” he said. Mention of Syria as a possible locale made his eyes light up. “Well here’s hoping! If it’s safe enough to get into Syria in November, I’d be a very happy guy,” he said. There's a lot to learn and convey to his viewers. “What’s it like to sit down with a Syrian family eating Syrian food in a post Assad world? It’s not a political story necessarily. I don’t think it requires a reporter to do it. I think someone with a good heart and a camera, who is interested in food and people, still has something to contribute there. We tend to read about places like Syria when bad things happen there and yet we don’t have any idea what they’re like.”
Closer to home, we asked him what was a favorite place to eat in New Jersey. He's got a soft spot for roadside joints, so we weren't surprised when he told us Hiram's in Fort Lee. “It’s burgers, deep-fried hot dogs and Birch Beer. It’s a very important place to me from my childhood,” he said. “When I was a kid it was our default family place that my dad would bring me and my younger brother and it was a happy memory, a lot of emotion and sentiment tied up to there.”