“Sud­denly there is some­one more im­por­tant in this world than me and I am no longer the star”

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Cover Feature - By An­thony Bour­dain, Blooms­bury, $49.99, out now.

“When I met Marco Pierre White, I said, ‘Thank you Marco for mak­ing chefs f**kable. Be­fore you, no one wanted to think about what the chef looked like or what they thought’.

“But the rock star chef thing is a re­ally bad mis­nomer. Chefs are cer­tainly em­pow­ered now and peo­ple think about them as full and com­plete hu­man be­ings, but rock star, no. If any of us could play bass, we’d be play­ing lead gui­tar like Ste­vie Ray Vaughan.”

Celebrity chefs, he adds, have too much at stake for shenani­gans. “If you’re on Masterchef, chances are you’re not up all night with a room full of hook­ers and co­caine.”

In his drawl that’s part NYC cab driver, part Sesame Street nar­ra­tor, Bour­dain de­scribes how, af­ter 30 years of cook­ing, he has changed along with the in­dus­try.

“Ut­ter con­tempt” for the world be­yond the kitchen doors (es­pe­cially if you were one of the “a**holes” who or­dered a well-done steak or slipped him a bag of co­caine at a book sign­ing) gave way to a yearn­ing for that very life, where peo­ple had week­ends off, health in­sur­ance, fam­i­lies and a lawn to mow. Nor­mal had an ex­otic glow and the chef found him­self like a kid with his nose pressed up against the glass.

In his lat­est cook­book, Ap­petites, Bour­dain has landed in this fetishised ter­ri­tory with recipes that he says rep­re­sent nor­mal. From the cover illustration by Ralph Stead­man, fa­mous for his work with coun­ter­cul­ture icon Hunter S Thomp­son, to the edgy im­agery within, the chef’s brand of nor­mal bears his unique stamp.

The book is a gritty, ir­rev­er­ent stew where you will find a help­less body in a gimp suit next to a recipe for liver sand­wich, Korean noo­dle soup spilling from an army hel­met, and the au­thor eat­ing on a loo (with the lid down, thank­fully).

There are ju­jitsu prac­tion­ers hold­ing chunks of raw meat in their ban­daged hands, and vi­gnettes of lip­stick-stained cig­a­rette butts in take­away con­tain­ers. Mean­while, close pal and Miche­lin­starred chef Eric Ripert is pic­tured in­hal­ing a mouth­ful of spaghetti in one chap­ter, and with sausage gravy drib­bling from his mouth in an­other.

When I ask him who cooks at home, Bour­dain says, “If you tell me I’m cook­ing for 500 peo­ple in a ban­quet sit­u­a­tion, I could do that stand­ing on my head cold-blooded. But 10 peo­ple com­ing over for din­ner, I’m a ner­vous wreck be­cause now I care about the peo­ple.”

This fo­cus on cook­ing with care is a new devel­op­ment for the chef who be­came a fa­ther at 50, a mile­stone that he says brought huge change and re­lief.

“Any no­tion of cool goes out the win­dow when you’re a fa­ther. Sud­denly there is some­one more im­por­tant in this world than me and I am no longer the star of this pic­ture. When I’m home and not work­ing, I let my 9-year-old daugh­ter Ari­ane make ev­ery major de­ci­sion for the en­tire month.”

Af­ter 35 episodes of A Cook’s Tour, nine sea­sons of No Reser­va­tions, 20 episodes of The Lay­over and eight sea­sons of his cur­rent se­ries, Emmy award-win­ning Parts Un­known, Bour­dain has more stamps in his pass­port than most, but he ex­plains the side-ef­fect of this well-inked life on the road is that he can be “a hard per­son to live with”.

He re­cently sep­a­rated from his wife of nine years, mixed mar­tial artist Ot­tavia Bu­sia, ad­mit­ting: “I’m al­ways mov­ing, 250 days a year. The care, feed­ing and main­te­nance of re­la­tion­ships is not some­thing I’m too good at.”

Bour­dain tells me that the things that con­tinue to thrill him, that make his heart race and re­mind him that there is light and magic and beauty in this world, are in fact al­ways the sim­ple things – a work­ing class pasta out of a chipped bowl with some cheap wine in the weeds of Italy, a bowl of noo­dles in Viet­nam that cost him a dol­lar, and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a new city in vivid flashes and smells from a mo­tor­bike.

“I’m hap­pi­est when I’m on a scooter, by my­self, in a coun­try not my own,” he says and I sus­pect he may have binned the term rock star chef, but that the leather jacket hasn’t been hung up for­ever just yet. Ap­petites

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