Walking the Talk
Anthony Bourdain shuffles onto the stage in jeans, boots, and open shirt over t-shirt. He waves to an enthusiastic audience, exchanges a few words with the fans in the first few rows, and begins a rambling, amusing, irreverent monologue.
At 50+ years he is cool with an air of endearing geekiness. The crowd, mainly late twenties to thirties, is boisterous and adoring. They are foodies. They get all his jokes and asides about other chefs and hosts on the Travel Channel and other cable networks. Me, I get the jokes about Rachel Ray. I have seen the guy who eats bugs, and I sometimes watch Top Chef. Compared to the rest of the audience, I know nothing.
The meal was terrific. The couple next to us orders Bananas Foster and it’s prepared tableside with great fire and panache. We order the same.
Ten minutes later the server plops a cold plate with ice cream and a banana in front of me, fresh from the kitchen. We hail our waiter. “Hey,“ we say, “what happened to the tableside preparation?” After all, that’s half the fun.
The waiter peers at us with disdain. “It was prepared tableside,” he tells us.
“What?” my husband says. “It was prepared right next to us and we didn’t notice it?”
“Oui,” he says curtly, and he stalks away.
We look at one another. Crappy ending to a great meal. But we are not scene-makers, so we pay the bill and leave the frozen banana melting in an ice cream pool.
The next day, I find the restaurant online, click on “Contact us,” and briefly describe what happened. Within 12 hours I get a reply. So sorry! When were you here? Who was your waiter? Where did you sit?
Two days later a gift certificate for $100 arrives in the mail. We use it at Les Halles in D.C. a couple months later. I am always impressed when people walk the talk.
On stage Bourdain is taking questions from the fans. Finally someone asks him, “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever eaten?” Bourdain sidesteps the question he’s probably heard at every venue. Instead he says that when you travel, if people offer you food, it’s a gift – something they’re proud of in their culture. So you just accept the gift -- whatever it is.
I think about how many ways there are to get an education.