On Sunday, August 10, author and host of CNN's "Parts Unknown" Anthony Bourdain kicked off a series of Q&A-style seminars called "Stirring the Pot: Conversations with Culinary Celebrities" at Guild Hall in East Hampton, Long Island. The event--co-sponsored by Nespresso, Canti Processco, Beach Magazine, East Hampton Gourmet and others--was the first of a three-part series taking place on Sundays throughout the month (the other two speakers are Martha Stewart and restaurateur Daniel Bouloud).
The sold-out morning kicked off with a VIP reception featuring food and drink from the sponsors, and guests who paid extra got to spend a little time chatting with Bourdain in the venue's outdoor garden before the session. Then New York Times food critic and columnist Florence Fabricant sat down with Bourdain on the Guild Hall stage to discuss travel, food, politics and the worst food he's ever eaten ("It's been so long now, I've tried so much, it would be hard to remember the worst food. But I'd have to say the rotten shark they serve in Iceland."). After about 40 minutes, Fabricant opened the floor to the audience for a few questions. Then guests were able to stick around for a book signing for Bourdain's most recent book, "Medium Raw."
Since Nespresso had coffee available and the meet-and-greet was early (full disclosure, the NY Drinks Examiner attended the event as a media guest of Nespresso), we decided to grill Bourdain on his morning routine. He seemed chipper for 10 a.m. on a Sunday. He admits he's a "morning person," but that coffee must play a role. "I'm a massive, two-huge-cups of coffee with cream and sugar kind of guy. But I really have a very short window. Whatever I'm doing, I'm not getting better as the day progresses."
As to how Guild Hall got Bourdain to brave the summer Hamptons crowds, it turns out he and his family have been coming out to the area for the past three years. "I stay out here for the month," he told Examiner, "and we're not that far away. Doing the normal suburban dad things now makes me ridiculously happy." (he has a seven-year-old daughter).
Fabricant asked Bourdain--who has his hand in every aspect of his CNN show "Parts Unknown," where he often explores risky corners of the world like Libya and the Congo--how he chooses where they shoot. "I like to find a new way to look at places that have been covered and photographed many, many times," he told her. But he also prefers staying away from "clean, well-organized countries. I like hot, messy, smelly, barely functioning countries. Like southern Italy, India and Iran."
In fact, he returned to the topic of Iran several times during the conversation with Fabricant and said he was pleasantly suprised with the everyday people in a country that Westerners tend to know very little about. Bourdain said it was one of the few countries still on his bucket list to visit. "We got in on a window that seems to have closed since then. But the people were incredibly gracious and welcoming. In fact, I was surprised: Tehran was the most pro-American place I've ever been." While acknowledging all the challenges the Iranian people face from their own government, he also said he was pleased with "the difference between the political Iran we live with on the news, and the Iran that everyday Iranians live in." The experience will air as part of Season Four of "Parts Unknown."
Bourdain told Fabricant that neither his Food Network travel show "No Reservations," nor his current series on CNN have ever been solely about the food. "I'm at least as interested as to who's cooking and why. There's often a very brutal or interesting history behind the cuisine."
"Stirring the Pot" continues at the Guild Hall during the month of August. Author and TV host Martha Stewart will appear August 17, and fine dining restaurateur Daniel Bouloud appears August 31. Tickets are $15 for general admission, $13 for Guild Hall Members. A limited number of VIP tickets are available for $75 and include a meet-and-greet continental brunch with the speakers. For more information, visit guildhall.org/events
Thirsty for more? Check out National Spirits Examiner or NY Drinks Examiner.
Do you have a cocktail trend, new product, bar or teahouse you'd like me to review? Want to give me a heads-up on your favorite hot spot? Please email me at NYDrinksExaminer AT gmail.com. Or follow me on Twitter @roberthp.
FTC Disclaimer: The author sometimes receives product samples for review, which carry no cash value and cannot be re-sold, and sometimes attends press events such as lunches or cocktail parties, designed to promote a given product. The author is not paid by any alcohol manufacturer, retailer or distributor, or provided compensation apart from revenue from an assigning publishing company for editorial publication. Opinions are the author's own. By the way, you should be 21 or older to read this page. Author was invited to "Stirring the Pot with Anthony Bourdain" by Nespresso coffee, a sponsor of the event. Apart from providing caffeinated life blood, the author received no further compensation for this event.