Anthony Bourdain does not come off as a man easily rendered speechless — but he may have met his match.
His talk on Thursday night at Flint Center brought out an eclectic crowd of spirited and often rowdy foodies, many of whom seemed quite capable of getting into a bar fight over the relative merits of Anderson Valley Pinots versus Amador zin. Fortunately no fists flew, just steady waves of enthusiasm at Bourdain’s dynamic dissertation of Food Network gossip, friendly bashing of Alice Waters and Rachel Ray, and tales of his culinary philosophy and many testicle-eating adventures.
“No Reservations” often details some of the bizarre foods he ingests when traveling abroad, which he explains in terms of social propriety: often he is the guest of local families, who often have very little material wealth, but who generously put forth some of their most cherished cuisine. If they were to offer their honored guest the platter of poached puppy dog heads that would normally feed the family for the whole month, then it would be unconscionably rude to refuse the gift on the grounds of pickiness, squeamishness, or heaven forbid, vegetarianism. He professes a more rabidly inclusive form of gastronomic diplomacy.
While taking audience questions, he called on one fellow who had been interjecting various yells throughout the talk — “F— EMERIL!”, for example — addressing him as “you, the angry, belligerent dude in the hat.” The Mr. Belligerent said something about a tattoo, and Bourdain invited him onto stage to provide proof.
The madly grinning Mr. B took the stage and lifted his pant leg for all to see. His entire right thigh was tattooed with Bourdain’s face, looking brusquely cherubic as a softly lit Stevie Nicks in a biker bar.
Clearly Bourdain sees many unusual things in his travels, but his own face on the body of someone he didn’t know left him looking some combination of flattered and mortified. It may have at least been reassuring to note that the other limbs bore similar portraits in ink, a walking Pantheon of Food Network personalities: Mario on the forearm, Alton on the shin, Fieri not visible in polite company…
Mr. B, having leveraged his unique opportunity to win over the roaring crowd, handed his idol a Sharpie and asked him to autograph the leg. Bourdain could have easily signed at the knee or even refused and called security, but instead, reaffirming his unflappability, urged Mr. B to hike the cuff up a little further, to get the scribble right onto the bikini line.
I can only assume he will remember the incident as Cupertino’s gift of poached puppy dog heads.