Anthony Bourdain Gives Tough and Tender Advice

After giving us a glimpse as to how his daughter influenced his latest cookbook, the chef offered up blunt advice to listeners struggling with unpalatable plates, hard-drinking party people, and more.

Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

Each week our listeners send in your questions about how to behave, and answering them this time around is Anthony Bourdain. After talking with Brendan and Rico about his new cookbook and how the culinary world has changed since his “Kitchen Confidential” days, he stuck around to deliver some much-needed straight talk to our listeners.


Dealing with a loud friend in a quiet restaurant

Rico Gagliano: All right. Here’s something from Jason in Seattle. “What is the best way,” Jason writes, “to quiet down a friend who is a loud talker during a meal, especially in a nice restaurant.”

Anthony Bourdain: Wow. You look him right in the eyes and say, “Dude you are being like, loud, really loud. You’re a 10 now, and if you don’t bring it down to a five, I’m leaving.” And then never eat with him again. You just can’t have that. Cannot have that.

Brendan Francis Newnam: And do you say that at what level? A five a seven or a 10?

Anthony Bourdain: I think a very quiet voice except with more of like… you know how people’s eyes get in line ups, this sort of like, “I could kill you right now.”

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, yeah menacing.

Anthony Bourdain: Yeah, like, “I need you to quiet right down now, because we are seconds away from this meal ending.”

Rico Gagliano: On one hand, though, I will say restaurants have become so loud themselves. It’s almost like you need to scream to be heard.

Anthony Bourdain: Look, we could take this over to T.G.I. Friday’s or a sports bar, and you could talk as loud as you want over the TV and the high fives.

An unappetizing appetizer

Brendan Francis Newnam: All right. This next question comes all the way from New Zealand. It’s from Sophie. And Sophie writes: “If someone serves me challenging offal without warning at a dinner party, is it OK for me to say I would rather poke my eyes out with a pen than have one mouthful of your tripe a la mode. I mean it’s a recipe from the Middle Ages, so OK, well done you, but I’m not bringing back the Black Death for a revamp at my next soiree.”

Anthony Bourdain: You will die friendless and alone. You have disrespected your host, OK? Rejected a beloved dish that’s reflective of probably personal history. That tripe a la mode could be a beloved family dish. You just basically spat in the milk of their mother. You rejected any possibility of trying something new. You revealed yourself to be an inward looking buffoon and no one I would want to be friends with.

Rico Gagliano: That’s the polite thing to say.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Wow.

Anthony Bourdain: Some pretty harsh answers here. And plus you sound kind of like a wiseacre, you know what I’m saying? You’re not coming to my party, let’s put it that way.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Someone served me inward looking buffoon and I had the same reaction as Sophie. I turned my nose up and now I’m regretting it.

Anthony Bourdain: Look, take a little bite. Just try a little bite. If you don’t like [it] say, “Not really to my [taste].” That is a respectable response. Just try a little bit.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Also, not to be regionally incorrect here, but she’s from New Zealand. Awful seems like it’s kind of par for the course.

Anthony Bourdain: Yeah exactly.

Rico Gagliano: I don’t know much about New Zealand cuisine.

Brendan Francis Newnam: They have to import everything.

Anthony Bourdain: A popular activity is chasing wild boar through the hills with a pack of dogs and stabbing them. It’s called– I mean literally that’s like a very popular activity there, which I approve of.

Disciplining someone else’s kids

Rico Gagliano: Here’s something from Nathaniel in Manlius, New York. One of the best town names in America. Nathaniel writes: “How do I discipline my in-laws’ kids when they visit for the holidays? Some of them are just awful and disrespectful to their parents. Do I just let it pass and explain to my kids later that their cousins are brats? ”

Anthony Bourdain: Yeah, I think you’re on target there. You can’t discipline other parents’ kids, as much as you might like to. If they’re monsters, you don’t let your kids play with them. You say, “Look, I don’t care what you think. They’re monsters. That kid’s going to grow up to be a serial killer. You’re not playing with him anymore.”

There’s no positive outcome to telling a parent that your kids are monstrous and they need to be disciplined. It’s not your role, and parents tend to not like hearing that.

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, that’s not a great dinner party conversation to have.

Anthony Bourdain: Right. Just stop inviting them until their kids are older.’

When is it OK to send a meal back?

Brendan Francis Newnam: This next question’s a short one, but it’s a good question. It comes from Tom in Chicago. Tom writes: “When is it appropriate to send a meal back to the kitchen? Is it enough just to say, I don’t like it?”

Anthony Bourdain: Look, if it is not cooked the way you asked, if there is something wrong with it — meaning it has diverged in some way from what was promised — then you are completely within your rights to politely call the server over, keeping in mind that your server did not cook your food, so do not please express your frustration on your server. That’s a sin. You know, that’s like the worst thing you could ever do is like get snippy and snarky with your waiter because of something the kitchen may or may not have done.

Now if it’s just not what you thought it was going to be and you don’t like it, preferably you wouldn’t send it back. You realize, “Look I’ve just made a mistake. I’m not going to order that again.” But I think if you really hate it, and you send it back, you should fully expect to pay for the thing. But more often than not a good restaurant they will, I think if they’re wise, accommodate you. I think it’s permissible and just be nice about it.

Rico Gagliano: Sure. And if you send it back, I’m assuming you maybe tip a little extra for the inconvenience to them.

Anthony Bourdain: That’s always a nice thing to do

Brendan Francis Newnam: Well, is the chef shielded from the fact that you sent a dish back just because you didn’t like it?

Anthony Bourdain: Uh no, the chef’s going to hear. And he may not like it. He or she might not like to hear that, but if they’re smart and they’re running a good business… Look, back in the day I would have screamed and yelled and smashed some plates and take it out on a waiter, and made everybody in the kitchen miserable and cursed all of the forces of the universe that conspired to bring me such a hateful, ignorant customer. This is why chefs die young and alcoholic.

The smart thing to do would be to suck it up and send the customer something that will make them happy. That’s good business and it’s probably good for everybody involved.

Dealing with a hard-drinking holiday party patron

Rico Gagliano: Here’s our last question and kind of appropriate as we’re sort of in the holiday season. This is from Ashley via Facebook and she writes, “My husband and I threw a cocktail party every December with many friends. This year, I’ve been asked to not invite a certain person who tends to drink too much and starts drama. I personally don’t have a problem with this person, but a growing number of people disagree. Do I just not invite her and let her learn through word of mouth that the party is happening without her, tell her straight up, or make my friend break the news to her?”

Anthony Bourdain: Look it’s awkward, but, there’s nothing funny about alcoholism. I mean you get a loud obnoxious drunk ruining your party. It is understandable when you don’t invite him again. You have to think about the good of the community.

How do you approach? “I didn’t invite you because, let’s face it, you’re a bad drinker. You get loud, you get belligerent, you know, and you miss the bowl.”

Brendan Francis Newnam: You make it sound so easy! And I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been watching you for years, but, yeah, why don’t more people just call and tell it like it is?

Anthony Bourdain: Look it’s a friend who causes big scenes of drama at you know, at Christmas.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah, not OK.

Rico Gagliano: Anthony Bourdain, it’s been a joy having you. Thank you so much for telling our audience how to behave.

Anthony Bourdain: My pleasure, anytime.