Genuine with a side of snark

By Theresa Howe

Anthony Bourdain at the Paramount

I have long enjoyed watching Anthony Bourdain’s travel shows. He’s a great writer and his personal story is also compelling. I occasionally find his snarkiness to be grating, but appreciate that he tends to keep it real – would you eat a recently deceased warthog’s colon, raw?

I was curious what the live version would be like, so got tickets for his stop in Seattle at the Paramount. He lived up to his reputation, cutting away at the oh-so-American obsession with fame, the elevation of food to bizarre levels of importance while people are starving in our own country, and the excesses we portray in all of their disturbing glory.

Once he settled into the heart of his talk, it became clear that beyond cooking, beyond travelling, storytelling is what drives him. Yes, he has had many madcap experiences on which to draw and his writing and visual storytelling reflect that. During the Q & A he talked extensively about his move to CNN, how much freedom he and his creative team are given, and how being a part of CNN has allowed him to go to places where he couldn’t previously, like Iran.

He kept circling back to the idea that when visiting places you don’t know and cultures you can’t possibly understand, being surprised and thrown off is exactly what you should be. He also underscored that he goes places, asks really simple questions, usually over a meal, and listens to the amazing stories people tell him. He doesn’t care what’s cooking, he cares about who is cooking it and why and what it means to them.

He remains foul-mouthed, hilarious and opinionated, but beneath snark and sneer, he’s managed to retain a curiosity about the world and the people who live in it and uses that gift to tell some amazing stories. He asks questions, and we get to see the answers.

What’s your favorite way to get people to tell you stories?