One-On-One With Anthony Bourdain

Dishing with the Parts Unknown host about the Rhode Island food scene and when he’s finally coming to Providence

So Rhode Island Magazine ·

Anthony Bourdain is always hungry. The chef turned world traveling TV host is constantly on the hunt for interesting food and culture. The sharp-witted personality broke onto the scene in 2000 with the release of his book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. Since then he’s been a fixture on the New York Best Sellers list with several titles, as well as the host of his own show on the Travel Channel and CNN.

We caught up with him just in time for his upcoming tour, “The Hunger,” at Foxwoods on October 8. We talked about his thoughts on the Rhode Island food scene, underappreciated dishes and when he’s finally coming to Providence.

You’ve mentioned that one of the first things you do when traveling to a new place is going to a central market. We’re in the process of developing one in Providence. In your experience, what has made some more successful than others?
A mix of real butchers, bakers, produce vendors and fish mongers who can talk knowledgeably about their products and sell seasonal stuff only. And good individually owned and operated hawkers or food stalls. It should be a public market, not a food court.

You’ve said that one of the things you enjoy cooking at home for your daughter is linguine in a white clam sauce. There are a lot of Italian restaurants in Rhode Island that serve this dish. For you, what’s the right way to make it?
First, I steam open a lot of little neck clams, use the broth and toss it all into the pasta that’s finishing in this sauce, [then I add] some additional clams in the shell. And I add a little whole butter at the end. It's a cheat, but it really helps the dish.

In recent years, a slew of breweries and distilleries have popped up in the state. Why do you think the craft beer and whiskey movement has really taken off?
No idea. Maybe because so much industrial mass market beer is so bad. Maybe because of a surplus of judgmental hipsters. Maybe because it's satisfying and fun to make quality beer and because there's clearly a market for it. I like craft beer, by the way, but I will drink a crap beer if it's close and cold.

What’s the best piece of advice you can give restaurants owners that are also the head chef?
I wish I knew. Maybe to concentrate on what you do well, and better than anyone else, and only on that. Never try to be everything to everybody. Figure out your specialty and go with that. 

Aquaculture has become a huge industry in the state, specifically oysters. How do you prefer to eat oysters on the half shell?
Unwashed with a squeeze of lemon, maybe a bit of mignonette if I'm in the mood. Never [with] cocktail sauce. Though as a jersey boy, I do like that with clams.  

There’s a movement to incorporate lesser-known fish into restaurant menus and fish markets (like scup, monkfish and skate). What do you think is the best approach to get diners to try them?
Call it something with the name "snapper" in it. Make a name up. I don't get it, actually. Skate is one of the most delicious fish out there. Bluefish, if fresh, is extraordinary. Monkfish is terrific as are their livers (ankimo). The Japanese and Europeans have known this for years.  Believe me, give it a few years and people will be paying top dollar for all of them. 

Rhode Island is a “Part Unknown” to you. When are you finally coming to our state?
We've been looking at doing a Providence show for some time now. Soon. 

Anthony Bourdain “The Hunger” Tour
October 8, 8pm
Grand Theater, Foxwoods Resort Casino
39 Norwich Westerly Road
Mashantucket, CT

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