Anthony Bourdain in Toronto

30 Sep

Anthony Bourdain was in Toronto last week promoting his new book, Medium Raw. While his main speaking event was held at Massey Hall, Toronto cook and food media personality extraordinaire Ivy Knight organized and hosted a private event at  the Drake Hotel the night before where food writers, Food Network celebs, and local chefs and kitchen staff members of some of Toronto’s best restaurants got the chance to interact with Bourdain. Jenny and I were lucky to get an invite to the event, which gave us an up close and personal look at Bourdain in his natural environment. Our camera battery unfortunately chose this exact moment to kill itself rather than be used by us (cue obscure Young Ones reference), but I managed to track down some great shots, taken for the Drake Hotel by Connie Tsang.

The Drake, as usual, served up a great spread, with Bourdain-esque things like roast pig and foie gras sandwiches, as well as sushi and a spread of Canadian cheeses. But as star-struck and happy as we were eating great food surrounded by food luminaries including David Rocco, Kevin Brauch and Vancouver’s Vikram Vij, I think the coolest thing was hearing Bourdain speak, seeing him interact with (mostly awe-struck) fellow chefs and food writers, and realizing how Bourdain is as down-to-earth is in real life as he seems in his books and on TV.

Bourdain talked about how he still feels lucky – ten years after his first book, Kitchen Confidential, turned him into a celebrity – to be doing what he does for a living. He also made a point of emphasizing that while that book was about his experiences in New York City’s restaurant kitchens, he’s no longer a chef. “A chef has callouses on his hands, and goes home smelling of onions and garlic. They have beef fat underneath their fingernails, and when they wake up in the morning it hurts. That’s not my life anymore.” He also said the birth of his daughter changed him – gone are the leather jacket and the earring.

Bourdain said his new book emphasizes these shifts in his focus, while also making it clear that one of his passions hasn’t changed: he still loves food, and he still gets cranky when faced with bad food or people who don’t respect food.

Bourdain told the crowd that while he’s quite comfortable in Montreal, he wasn’t that familiar with Toronto’s food scene. But apparently the exposure to the city’s passionate chefs and food writers left a mark; he announced at the Massey Hall speaking event that he’s planning to add Toronto to the season 8 lineup of No Reservations. So we’ll probably be seeing Bourdain back in Hogtown soon.

Where do you think Anthony Bourdain should visit for a Toronto episode of No Reservations?

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