TV Interview: Anthony Bourdain – The Layover (Travel Channel)

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Anthony Bourdain in Rome, Italy for his new series on the Travel Channel, The Layover, airing Mondays at 9 PM ET/8 PM CT.

 

As if Anthony Bourdain wasn’t busy enough, he’s added a second TV show to his jam packed schedule.  The Layover debuted on the Travel Channel late last month and has proven itself every bit as satisfying as Bourdain’s other show, No Reservations.  But whereas No Reservations takes a little more time in its given locale (upwards of 5 days of filming are done per episode), The Layover is intended to get you in and out of a specific major city in the world fast, while also packing in as much boozing, eating and imperative sight seeing as possible. Think of the two shows as iconic punk rock bands. No Reservations is akin to Television (more open and spread out) and The Layover is like The Ramones (fast and to the point, no bullshit)

Thus far, The Layover has found Bourdain in Singapore, New York and Rome. I’m only halfway through watching the Rome episode, but it’s shaping up to be my favorite of the three.  Bourdain doesn’t have time to move slowly through Rome as the locals suggest, there’s no time for such luxuries.  So he’s off and running, eating, drinking and enjoying.  Just watch this for the porchetta scene. If ever there was a time TV got me salivating for food, this was it.  Crispy skin, tender meat…holy jeebus. Book me on a flight to Rome already.

Porchetta in Rome, Italy from I Porchettoni.

I’ll admit to being a little let down by the New York episode. I still want to visit, but I think I would have left New York for a second season.  The show doesn’t “pop” like the other two do.  I don’t know – maybe living there (as little as he seems to given his aforementioned hectic schedule) dampened the enthusiasm level in Bourdain.  Not saying it was bad, just a “B” instead of an “A+”.  Still the episode’s high point is when he visits Bemelmans Bar at The Carlyle Hotel.  To see that beautiful room is worth the whole show.  It’d be a damn shame to think of a world without that room and the artwork left behind by Ludwig Bemelmans on its walls.

Bourdain reads from Ludwig Bemelmans' children's book "Madeline" at Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City. Bemelmans painted his artwork on the bar's walls.

The idea behind The Layover is to provide useful tips to tourists to get them where they want/need to be the fastest.  In the Rome episode, Bourdain doesn’t hesitate to say that the ability to get around the city is a fustercluck of epic proportions.  Or that the denizens around the main train hub gives those at Penn Station in New York a run for its money for disturbed and disturbing.

He also likes to mention the things you shouldn’t do, like that hotel breakfast in Rome with the shit eggs – eat like a citizen does and grab a cappucino – but don’t drink one after 11 AM or else you’ll look like a dumbass tourist.

Let Bourdain tell you himself about eating in Rome: “If you’re only in Rome for 24 hours I feel very strongly you should be eating Cacio e Pepe rather than in a bad touristy restaurant. The fact is I happen to know a couple of places in Rome that serve this most Roman of dishes really, really well.”

Bourdain driving in a classic Fiat with his travel companion Sara Pampaloni in Rome, Italy.

When Bourdain is done in one city, a second unit stays behind while he and the main crew goes on to the next location.  This second unit then films a few other choices one could make while in the city. Surprisingly, he says that filming for The Layover is tougher than on No Reservations.

Anthony Bourdain: It’s a lot harder.  It’s tough on the entire crew. I mean, these guys were running backwards in just withering, withering 110 degree heat, 100% humidity in Singapore and Hong Kong, running backwards all day, you know, holding cameras, almost no down time, three, four, sometimes five meals a day, as opposed to maybe two on No Reservations, a much more reasonable, spread out, less compressed schedule.

Anthony Bourdain waits in line at a food hawker stand in Singapore

I had the opportunity to ask Anthony Bourdain a few questions recently as part of a media conference call.  While my colleagues got some more information regarding The Layover (of which, the pertinent stuff I feel I have addressed above), I figured I’d ask a couple of questions that I’ve always wanted to ask and some Chicago-centric ones as well. 

The Layover airs Monday evenings at 9 PM ET/8 PM CT on Travel Channel.  On Monday, December 12th, the show’s fourth episode, this time in Miami, airs.  The Miami episode of The Layover is followed by an all-new episode of holiday episode of No Reservations at 10 PM ET/9 PM CT.  This holiday episode of No Reservations features guest appearances from Samantha Brown, Norah Jones and Christopher Walken.  Yes, Christopher Walken.

Anthony Bourdain visits Ludo Lefebvre's food truck, Guerilla Chicken in Santa Monica, CA.

Rock ‘n Roll Ghost: You’ve mentioned that you don’t have the proclivity to snack in between meals or over indulge with food in any way. Are you surprised by this considering some of your more impulsive and addictive past behavior?

Anthony Bourdain: No, I don’t know. I mean, yes, it is sort of incongruous. You know, you’d think that I would sort of transfer my addictive personality to food.

Maybe it helps that I really don’t care about sweets much. I’m not a dessert type guy. I’m really kind of oblivious to that. And I think, there’s a point after the third or fourth mouthful of a lot of things where you pretty much enjoyed it all you’re going to enjoy it.

So, yes, it is kind of unusual. You’d think I’d be, you know, I’d be huge.

Anthony Bourdain

I had an opportunity to meet you in Chicago for the last book signing that you did. And I was wondering, it’s only been a short time since No Reservations did a show here, but I feel that the cuisine in Chicago has exploded since that time. Any plans to do any more filming here?

Anthony Bourdain: Well, I will tell you this. If we do another season of The Layover we’ll absolutely, positively do one in Chicago. Love it there. Love the restaurants there, love the food, love the bars, love the town.

Have you had a chance to come to any of the big openings this year like Grant Achatz’s Next?

Anthony Bourdain: No, in fact, if there’s one meal that I regret not having more than any other, it is the Escoffier menu at Next. That’s so right in my zone. That’s exactly what I always sort of secretly wanted to see — I was always curious about what Grant (Achatz) could do with that menu and I’ve always had a real, deep emotional connection and love for that kind of food. So I’m really heartbroken that I missed it.

I think it’s a great concept, Next, and that’s probably the meal I want to have most right in America now.

The next one they’re planning to do after the current one is a tribute to El Bulli.

Anthony Bourdain: Yes, that obviously I could live without, you know, because I’ve been to El Bulli. But, I mean, some of the concepts that he’s been talking about doing are really, really exciting. I mean, the Naples and — I don’t know. He had a year in mind for Naples and I think Shanghai he had a year in mind. It just sounds…it’s such a great idea and he’s so supremely talented.

K.F. Seetoh and Anthony Bourdain enjoy a little food in between other eating.

One final question.  You’ve obviously written books. You do a lot of article writing. You’ve got your work writing for HBO’s Treme. You’re very obviously into film. Is there anything coming up that you’re working on in regards to maybe a screenplay or an idea for your own hour-long drama, perhaps with HBO or something like that?

Anthony Bourdain: No. I am really, really happy and having a lot of fun writing for Treme and that’s…you know, that is a labor of love, honestly. So that’s enough for me.

Official The Layover Website

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