BY KRISTY ALPERT, APRIL 16, 2014
easier to not like Anthony Bourdain. But, damn it, the man is making a living getting paid to do what makes him happy. We can’t help but want to throw back a few beers with the irreverent baddass and host of CNN’s Parts Unknown.
So we did.
We caught up with Bourdain in the Grand Cayman Islands at the Cayman Cookout to find out what this world traveler and adventurous eater grills between layovers.
Guy Gourmet (GG): Being on the road 250 days a year, where do you find time to grill?
Anthony Bourdain (AB): We actually just started taking a real family vacation once a year for a month. Mom, Dad, and the kid, load up the car then drive off to a place we can rent in the Hamptons … rather conventional. But the Hamptons I stay in is all old people and golfers, so no one really gives a shit about me. I don’t really do anything but barbeque in the backyard, hang out, and go to the beach with my daughter.
GG: Sounds like a great way to spend a month.
AB: Those are happy memories. Eric Ripert is probably my best friend in the world. His family will come over and we’ll grill steaks. He has the best seafood restaurant in the country, so we don’t eat a lot of fish when we hang out. Daniel Boulud as well. We all rent out near each other in the Hamptons and there’s always a big hunk of rib eye going on the grill. Maybe a bottle of good French wine.
GG: What does grilling out mean to you?
AB: I haven’t had a backyard since I was a kid. I’ve been living in New York [City] since I was 17, so to have a BBQ in the backyard represents a temple of normalcy for me. It means I’m a dad, officially. I’m doing something normal people apparently do. They grill in the backyard. So I tend to rather over-enjoy it because it’s just really deeply reassuring to me that there is this time of stability and domesticity to do such a normal Dad thing. Stand in the backyard with a beer waiting for the meat to cook.
GG: Why do you think grilling is an equalizer among men?
AB: Sooner or later everybody throws some kind of meat over the grill. Unfortunately most people grill very badly. It’s a great American outdoor activity, yet I don’t think many Americans know how to do it.
GG: Okay, so what are we doing wrong?
AB: What most people do wrong is they rush the flame. They grill too hot. But the single most common mistake that everyone makes is they don’t rest their meat. They throw it on too cold, and then they take it off and serve it right away before the juices have distributed.
GG: And how do you do it?
AB: I’m a bit of a control freak at the grill. I control the fire first of all. You want a nice medium flame. Ideally I would have wood or charcoal, but the place I rent has gas so that’s what I have to deal with. I always go rib eye. I get a big fat 34-ounce one. I let it sit out for about 45 minutes, then at the last minute I rub it with salt and pepper, brush the grill lightly with oil, throw it on, and I grill it almost to the point that it’s done. Then I pull it off the fire, and let that heat carry over while it rests for about five to 10 minutes. Then I slice it and serve it. Old habits die hard, you know, so I do the slicing against the grain—not too thick, not too thin—with a sharp knife. And I fan it out like dominos.
GG: So a sharp knife is a must-have for you. What other tools do you use?
AB: I use tongs because I don’t want to be stabbing my meat. Sticking a knife in to see if it’s done is a crime against food. In the end you can actually hear when a steak is done. That sizzling out of it; it tells you that it’s ready. It should be romantic.
GG: What are your go-to side dishes?
AB: My in-laws are Italian, so if I don’t have bread when they come, it’s a crime. It’s not just an ingredient to them. It’s an implement you’re using it to push food around. But to me, I could take it or leave it. Bread takes up real estate that I’d rather use for meat. I’ll grill asparagus sometimes. Fennel maybe. Belgian endive. Those all grill really well.
GG: How do you pass the time while your meat rests?
AB: I’m drinking a beer while I’m grilling. It’s an important part of the process. I’m not drinking the expensive craft beer. I don’t want to have to think about, evaluate, or even particularly enjoy the beer. I’m drinking utility beer.
GG: Utility beer? Like PBR? Keystone?
AB: I like good beer as much as the next guy, but a cold beer is a birthright. If you’re talking about beer too long, you’re sort of missing the point. I don’t want to talk about notes of raspberry. Beer nerds really annoy me. America needs good craft brewers and I support it, but me, personally, I have trashy taste and I’m perfectly okay with a quick silo of PBR. And chances are I would rather that than a perfectly chilled pint glass served to me by some hipster bartender with an ironic fedora.
GG: [pauses to shake his hand]
AB: Listen, because of who I am and who my friends are, I drink a lot of very good wine, but I’m not a wine snob either. I’m happiest in Italy going to these average local joints where you ask, ‘Hey this wine is nice, who made this?’ and they point to some little old man at the bar. It’s basically local swill and I’m perfectly happy drinking it. So if I’m out there at my barbeque I don’t want some hipster douchebag yammering about homemade beer for anything over 15 seconds. There are better things to talk about in this world.