Tony Bourdain came to Lowell last Saturday (1/9/2010). I'm flat broke and really couldn't afford to go, but somehow came up with the scratch to go sit in the nosebleed section. I noted that the best seats were sold out, and at $70 a pop told myself that the audience was probably going to be rich, burb, ex-yuppies - the in-crowd that Bourdain so disdains and attracts.
But no! By a show of hands, a great portion of those in front (as well as the rest of the audience) were cooks and people in the industry. Tony made a joke - it was a bad night to be eating out in Lowell. Indeed, the full $70 seats shows a real love and respect for this man - a connection, or a desire to be connected. Even my paying for the cheap seat says that to some extent.
But after the first 15 minutes, I was ready to ask for my money back. He repeated, virtually verbatim, entries from his blog - including the dreaded Sandra Lee meeting moment, and the Rachel Ray fruit basket story. The audience loved it. Either they weren't wacked-out blog bimbos. like me, or they just liked to hear him telling the stories. As it turned out I wasn't at all dissapointed with the evening. He got away from the blog stories pretty quickly and got to talking about the important stuff - other celebrity chefs, food (by golly), travel, and of course, himself. Which is why we paid to see the guy.
Honestly - it's impressive to sit through any lengthy monologue and be thoroughly entertained. Comedian, thespian - I don't care who. Standing, alone, in front of an audience for well over an hour and keeping people happy, is hard to do. He turned to q&a after a while, and this was some of the best stuff. He fielded the, "What's Padma really like?", question nicely (answer: he wants to keep being a guest judge, and isn't she a lot better than Katie-Lee Joel was, and btw, Gail Simmons is the really hot one - and she really knows her stuff. Wow... I have always thought this.)
As a chowhound, I loved the reponse to the question of how to get information about the best places to eat in a city or country you've never been to. He said to simply look up restaurants in Google for that area, get a name and location, then to go to Chowhound or eGullet and post that you had a wonderful meal there. You will immediately get back dozens of posts telling you that you shouldn't have gone there, but you should have gone to this or that other place, as the food is much better. This is so, so true. Tony's an ex-chowhound and ex-eGullet poster. His stuff on eGullet after the Lebanon shoot was heartfelt. He knows that simply posting a request for recommendations gets met with lots of high-nosed commentary - "do a search, newbie". But this approach would indeed yield mountains of great data with only a few insults as to your original choice.
Overall, it was a great night, soiled only by the fact that I couldn't find my dog-eared, paperback copy of KC to bring to get autographed - my son said go to the bookstore and buy another - but he just doesn't get it. What am I, a rich, burb, ex-yuppie?
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