You can call me the bad boy chef all you want. I’m not going to freak out about it. I’m not that bad. I’m certainly not a boy, and it’s been a while since I’ve been a chef.
Hong Kong is a wonderful, mixed-up town where you’ve got great food and adventure. First and foremost, it’s a great place to experience China in a relatively accessible way.
Don’t dunk your nigiri in the soy sauce. Don’t mix your wasabi in the soy sauce. If the rice is good, complement your sushi chef on the rice.
‘Kitchen Confidential’ wasn’t a cautionary or an expose. I wrote it as an entertainment for New York tri-state area line cooks and restaurant lifers, basically; I had no expectation that it would move as far west as Philadelphia.
Anyone who’s a chef, who loves food, ultimately knows that all that matters is: ‘Is it good? Does it give pleasure?’
What nicer thing can you do for somebody than make them breakfast?
Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it’s a start.
I don’t have much patience for people who are self-conscious about the act of eating, and it irritates me when someone denies themselves the pleasure of a bloody hunk of steak or a pungent French cheese because of some outdated nonsense about what’s appropriate or attractive.
The Italians and Spanish, the Chinese and Vietnamese see food as part of a larger, more essential and pleasurable part of daily life. Not as an experience to be collected or bragged about – or as a ritual like filling up a car – but as something else that gives pleasure, like sex or music, or a good nap in the afternoon.
I hated the Naked Chef. Fine, yes, he did good things for school food or whatever, but, you know, I don’t want my chefs to be cute and adorable.
I’m not searching for hard news; I’m not a journalist, but I’m interested in pushing to boundaries of where we can do the kind of stories that we want to do. I mean, it’s a big world and CNN has made it a lot bigger and they haven’t flinched.
If you’ve ever hauled a 28-pound two-year-old around New York, you’ll find that men fold at the knees a lot quicker than women.
You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together.
Bad food is made without pride, by cooks who have no pride, and no love. Bad food is made by chefs who are indifferent, or who are trying to be everything to everybody, who are trying to please everyone… Bad food is fake food… food that shows fear and lack of confidence in people’s ability to discern or to make decisions about their lives.
The cooking profession, while it’s a noble craft and a noble calling, ’cause you’re doing something useful – you’re feeding people, you’re nurturing them, you’re providing sustenance – it was never pure.
It just seems there’s better things to do in your life than be on television if it’s not interesting, if it’s not challenging, if it’s not fun. You know? When it stops being those things for me, I’ll stop making television.
There are people with otherwise chaotic and disorganized lives, a certain type of person that’s always found a home in the restaurant business in much the same way that a lot of people find a home in the military.
Big stuff and little: learning how to order breakfast in a country where I don’t speak the language and haven’t been before – that’s really satisfying to me. I like that.
If I’m in Rome for only 48 hours, I would consider it a sin against God to not eat cacio e pepe, the most uniquely Roman of pastas, in some crummy little joint where Romans eat. I’d much rather do that than go to the Vatican. That’s Rome to me.
Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.
Get up early and go to the local produce markets. In Latin America and Asia, those are usually great places to find delicious food stalls serving cheap, authentic and fresh specialties.
The fact that over 50 per cent of the residents of Toronto are not from Canada, that is always a good thing, creatively, and for food especially. That is easily a city’s biggest strength, and it is Toronto’s unique strength.
As I see it, fast food outfits have targeted small children with their advertising in a very effective way. You know, it’s clowns and kid’s toys and bright colors and things like that.
I always entertain the notion that I’m wrong, or that I’ll have to revise my opinion. Most of the time that feels good; sometimes it really hurts and is embarrassing.
Meals make the society, hold the fabric together in lots of ways that were charming and interesting and intoxicating to me. The perfect meal, or the best meals, occur in a context that frequently has very little to do with the food itself.
In America, there might be better gastronomic destinations than New Orleans, but there is no place more uniquely wonderful.
I’m married to an Italian woman, and I used to love cooking Italian at home, because it’s one-pot cooking. But my wife does not approve of my Italian cooking.
If anything is good for pounding humility into you permanently, it’s the restaurant business.
I’m very type-A, and many things in my life are about control and domination, but eating should be a submissive experience, where you let down your guard and enjoy the ride.
Understand, when you eat meat, that something did die. You have an obligation to value it – not just the sirloin but also all those wonderful tough little bits.
When I’m back in New York – and this is a terrible thing to complain about – I eat a lot more really, really good food than perhaps I’d like to. So many of my friends are really good chefs. It’s kind of like being in the Mafia.
I would like to see people more aware of where their food comes from. I would like to see small farmers empowered. I feed my daughter almost exclusively organic food.
You have an impeccable argument if you said that Singapore, Hong Kong, and Tokyo are food capitals. They have a maximum amount of great stuff to eat in the smallest areas.
Context and memory play powerful roles in all the truly great meals in one’s life.
I’m not afraid to look like a big, hairy, smelly, foreign devil in Tokyo, though I do my best not to, I really do.
I’m not afraid to look like an idiot.
Is there a sharper commentary on American culture and the world than The Simpsons?
My house is run, essentially, by an adopted, fully clawed cat with a mean nature.
At the end of the day, the TV show is the best job in the world. I get to go anywhere I want, eat and drink whatever I want. As long as I just babble at the camera, other people will pay for it. It’s a gift.
I don’t like to see animals in pain. That was very uncomfortable to me. I don’t like factory farming. I’m not an advocate for the meat industry.
The Congo was the most difficult shoot of my life but was also maybe the greatest adventure of my life.
I’ve been really fortunate in that I guess I was hired to do ‘A Cook’s Tour;’ I was already a known quantity, meaning I had written a really obnoxious book and nobody expected me to be anyone that I wasn’t already.
I, personally, think there is a really danger of taking food too seriously. Food should be part of the bigger picture.
I’m not looking to freak people out – eating rodents or bugs. I don’t do that anymore.
I could do one show after another in China for the rest of my life and still die ignorant. There’s a lot of places left to go.
I like telling stories, and I tell stories that interest me. It would be boring to have to go to nothing but the best restaurants. That would be a misery to me.
I’m always secretly the most pleased when a show just really, really looks good and when my camera guys are really happy with the images they got.
I’m a Twitter addict. Jose Andres is a serial tweeter. It’s funny to see which chefs have embraced it, and the different paths they take.
If somebody crafts an interesting tweet that’ll lead me to their blog, I’m going to their blog.
I’m a decent cook; I’m a decent chef. None of my friends would ever have hired me at any point in my career. Period.
I was a journeyman chef of middling abilities. Whatever authority I have as a commenter on this world comes from the sheer weight of 28 years in the business. I kicked around for 28 years and came out the other end alive and able to form a sentence.
It would be an egregious mistake to ever refer to me in the same breath as most of the people I write about.
My mom had Julia Child and ‘The Fannie Farmer Cookbook’ on top of the refrigerator, and she had a small repertoire of French dishes.
You know, from age 17 on, my paycheck was coming from cooking and working in kitchens.
If you get an opportunity to work with David Simon, anybody with good taste would.
I’m not besotted with the notion of being on CNN to the point that I’m going to suddenly morph into Anderson Cooper or Christiane Amanpour. I’m not a foreign correspondent.
I’m really good at sleeping on planes. I mean, I smell jet fuel and I’m out; I’m asleep for takeoff.
My brain and body and nervous system, they see a plane ride, a long plane trip, as an opportunity to sleep with nothing coming in, nothing to do. I just go offline the minute I’m on the plane.
I learned a long time ago that trying to micromanage the perfect vacation is always a disaster. That leads to terrible times.
Chefs are fond of hyperbole, so they can certainly talk that way. But on the whole, I think they probably have a more open mind than most people.
I feel that if Jacques Pepin shows you how to make an omelet, the matter is pretty much settled. That’s God talking.
When I was writing ‘Kitchen Confidential,’ I was in my 40s, I had never paid rent on time, I was 10 years behind on my taxes, I had never owned my own furniture or a car.
I wasn’t that great a chef, and I don’t think I’m that great a writer.
I’m sure that at no point in my life could I ever have shown the kind of focus and discipline and commitment necessary to work a station at elBulli or Le Bernardin. No. That ain’t me.
I make friends faster and easier than journalists.
People are generally proud of their food. A willingness to eat and drink with people without fear and prejudice… they open up to you in ways that somebody visiting who is driven by a story may not get.
The worst, most dangerous person to America is clearly Paula Deen.
I often look ridiculous in Japan. There’s really no way to eat in Japan, particularly kaiseki in a traditional ryokan, without offending the Japanese horribly. Every gesture, every movement is just so atrociously wrong, and the more I try, the more hilarious it is.
I try to very hard to avoid a situation where I would be eating cat or dog; I’ve managed to gracefully avoid that. It’s hypocritical of me and an arbitrary line, but one that I have managed to avoid crossing.
Tokyo would probably be the foreign city if I had to eat one city’s food for the rest of my life, every day. It would have to be Tokyo, and I think the majority of chefs you ask that question would answer the same way.
I’m not Ted Nugent. My house is run, essentially, by an adopted, fully clawed cat with a mean nature. I would never hunt. I would never wear fur. I would never go to a bullfight. I’m not really a meat and potatoes guy.
I’m never a reliable narrator, unbiased or objective.
When I’m doing a book tour in the States, I’ll wake up in the room sometimes in an anonymous chain hotel, and I don’t know where I am right away. I’ll go to the window, and it doesn’t help there either, especially if you’re in an anonymous strip and it’s the usual Victoria’s Secret, Gap, Chili’s, Applebee’s.
One of life’s terrible truths is that women like guys who seem to know what they’re doing.
An employer of mine back in the ’80s was kind enough to take me on after a rough patch, and it made a big difference in my life that I knew I was the sort of person who showed up on time. It’s a basic tell of character.
I wish I could play bass like Larry Graham or Bootsy Collins. My God, I’d give up just about everything else for that.
In college, I think I probably positioned myself as an aspiring writer, meaning I dressed sort of extravagantly and adopted all the semi-Byronic affectations, as if I were writing, although I wasn’t actually doing any writing.
I’m evangelical on the subject of some chefs and writers.
I’m a comic nerd. I’m a former serious collector for much of my childhood and early teen years I wanted to draw underground comics.
I’ve sat in sushi bars, really fine ones, and I know how hard this guy worked, how proud he is. I know you don’t need sauce. I know he doesn’t even want you to pour sauce. And I’ve seen customers come in and do that, and I’ve seen him, as stoic as he tries to remain, I’ve seen him die a little inside.
Doing graphic novels is cool! It’s fun! You get to write something, and then see it visually page by page, panel by panel, working with the artist, you get to see it fleshed out.
Going to Southeast Asia for the first time and tasting that spectrum of flavors – that certainly changed my whole palate, the kind of foods I crave. A lot of the dishes I used to love became boring to me.
Sometimes the greatest meals on vacations are the ones you find when Plan A falls through.
Being a vegan is a first-world phenomenon, completely self-indulgent.
The notion that before you even set out to go to Thailand, you say, ‘I’m not interested,’ or you’re unwilling to try things that people take so personally and are so proud of and so generous with, I don’t understand that, and I think it’s rude. You’re at Grandma’s house, you eat what Grandma serves you.
I’m a pretty decent writer. It comes easy to me. I don’t agonize over sentences. I write like I talk. I try to make them good books.
The Kobe craze really annoyed me. Most of the practitioners had no real understanding of the product and were abusing it and exploiting it in terrible and ridiculous ways. Kobe beef should not be used in a hamburger. It’s completely pointless.
I like the fact that Melbourne always seems to support their chefs and promote them in ways I find really admirable.
I’ve seen zero evidence of any nation on Earth other than Mexico even remotely having the slightest clue what Mexican food is about or even come close to reproducing it. It is perhaps the most misunderstood country and cuisine on Earth.
I think fine dining is dying out everywhere… but I think there will be – and there has to always be – room for at least a small number of really fine, old-school fine-dining restaurants.
I don’t snack. I don’t generally eat sweets or drink soda. I never eat between meals or even before big ones.
I did go into the Amazonian region of Brazil. They have prehistoric river fish that weigh in at around 600 pounds, which you don’t see anywhere else. And foods that cannot be exported or even found in other parts of Brazil.
I love the masochistic aspect of eating seething, real Sichuan food in Sichuan Province.
Oh yes, there’s lots of great food in America. But the fast food is about as destructive and evil as it gets. It celebrates a mentality of sloth, convenience, and a cheerful embrace of food we know is hurting us.
To be treated well in places where you don’t expect to be treated well, to find things in common with people you thought previously you had very, very little in common with, that can’t be a bad thing.
One of the things is challenging yourself to do a Rome show when everybody’s done a Rome show. To find some aspect of food culture or chef culture that people can look at in a new way.
I could do nothing but Brooklyn shows for the rest of my career, and I could die ignorant.
Jiro Ono serves Edo-style traditional sushi, the same 20 or 30 pieces he’s been making his whole life, and he’s still unsatisfied with the quality and every day wakes up and trains to make the best. And that is as close to a religious experience in food as one is likely to get.
Anyone who doesn’t have a great time in San Francisco is pretty much dead to me.
You’d have a hard time finding anything better than Barcelona for food, as far as being a hub. Given a choice between Barcelona and San Sebastian to die in, I’d probably want to die in San Sebastian.
For a dinner date, I eat light all day to save room, then I go all in: I choose this meal and this order, and I choose you, the person across from me, to share it with. There’s a beautiful intimacy in a meal like that.
Southeast Asia has a real grip on me. From the very first time I went there, it was a fulfillment of my childhood fantasies of the way travel should be.
I just do the best I can and write something interesting, to tell stories in an interesting way and move forward from there.
I think that if all kids aspire to reach a point where they could feed themselves and a few of their friends, this would be good for the world surely.
The celebrity-chef thing, even at its worst, its most annoying, its silliest, its goofiest, its most egregious and cynical, has been a good thing.
I love New York. I’m a guy for whom a New York accent is a comforting thing.
I’m definitely looking forward to the day when I stop working – if I ever stop working. I like the idea of keeling over in my tomato vines in Sardinia or northern Italy.
What you’re going to be eating in the next year is decided by chefs. If the consensus is that pot-bellies are in next season, that’s what’s on your plate. And I think that’s a good thing, because we know, obviously, about food.
Those places I don’t understand, just doing bad food. It takes some doing. Making good pasta is so much easier than making bad stuff. It actually takes quite an effort to make poor linguine pomodora.
In too much of the West, everyone wants the guarantee of safety, and never having to make any decisions.
I do not have a merchandise line. I don’t sell knives or apparel. Though I have been approached to endorse various products from liquor to airlines to automobiles to pharmaceuticals dozens of times, I have managed to resist the temptation.
To the extent I am known, I think I am known as a person who expresses his opinion freely about things – and I was sensitive to the possibility that if I was seen taking money for saying nice things about a product, my comments and choices and opinions would become, understandably, suspect.
I’m a control freak. If you’re going to slap my name on something, I would like to control it.
I do my very best to avoid shark fin.
I’m very proud of the Rome episode of ‘No Reservations’ because it violated all the conventional wisdom about making television. You’re never, ever supposed to do a food or travel show in black and white.
I can unload my opinion on anybody at anytime.
Nobody in Singapore drinks Singapore Slings. It’s one of the first things you find out there. What you do in Singapore is eat. It’s a really food-crazy culture, where all of this great food is available in a kind of hawker-stand environment.
Every chef I know, their cholesterol is through the roof. And mine’s not so great.
Since the very beginning, Emeril’s had a sense of humor about me calling him names and poking fun at him.
People’s choice to become vegan, from people I’ve spoken to, seems motivated by fear.
I’m a radical environmentalist; I think the sooner we asphyxiate in our own filth, the better. The world will do better without us. Maybe some fuzzy animals will go with us, but there’ll be plenty of other animals, and they’ll be back.
I don’t think people should be encouraged to look like Kate Moss; I think that’s unreasonable. I think the normal human body should be glorified. By the same token, if you need a stick to wash yourself, you’re not healthy.