Interview: Anthony Bourdain
"It's a cliché to say that being a father is the greatest thing ever, but there's only one thing better and that's being the father of a little girl" ... Anthony Bourdain.
CHEF, AUTHOR and TV PRESENTER
MARRIED WITH A DAUGHTER
I grew up in the solidly middle-class community of Leonia, New Jersey. My father, Pierre, an executive at Columbia Records, exposed me to great musicians like Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan, and I got free records for most of my adolescence. Prior to getting pregnant with me, my mother, Gladys, worked in newspapers. Both my parents loved film and from a very young age, through stills in picture books and watching movies on a 16mm projector, I knew who Kubrick and Fellini were.
Once I was single, I learnt quickly that hanging out with fans or sleeping with them was not going to make me happy.
At 13 I was an angry and alienated teenager. I was loved, no one ever beat me, but I resented the normalcy of our household. At high school I fell in with your typical bad crowd but I also fell in love with Nancy Putkoski. She was a bad girl, older than me, part of a druggy crowd, and I was smitten. I graduated a year early so I could follow her to Vassar College [in upstate New York]. Up until that point Vassar had been an elite university for women, but they had just started admitting men and so when I arrived at 17, I found myself a rarity. I was an unprepared, immature young man in the company of very many female wolves, who pretty much taught me the way of the world.
Nancy and I spent over two decades together, either as a couple or married. She was my partner in crime, my wife, and before that my girlfriend. There was plenty of love there. We went through a lot of times, many of them great, many of them bad. It's that simple - or that complicated.
After writing Kitchen Confidential in 2000, I was offered a TV deal. I spent almost two years travelling and filming A Cook's Tour and, as a result, my marriage fell apart. To cope, I went to the Caribbean where I behaved in a completely irresponsible and suicidal way. I didn't value my own life and acted accordingly. I had put myself in a very dark place and behaved recklessly in the not-too-subconscious hope that something terrible would happen. I was doing everything possible - smoking pot, drink-driving - to invite that.
I found divorce just the worst thing in the world: it was f...ing awful. It wasn't that it was even a contentious divorce, there was no long, litigious battle; it's just a terrible thing when a relationship that great ends. Once I was single, I learnt quickly that hanging out with fans or sleeping with them was not going to make me happy. I was never interested in that kind of thing. I am not interested in weak, adoring personalities. Somebody who is attracted to me because I am on TV or because I wrote a book is not interesting to me at all.
In 2005 Eric Ripert, a chef and my best friend, had taken pity on my dysfunctional lifestyle; the fact I was drifting and travelling three weeks of every month filming my TV show No Reservations. He knew I was looking for company, but it had to be somebody smart. So he introduced me to Ottavia Busia, a general manager of a New York restaurant. She was equally dysfunctional, as she worked as many hours and had as little private life as I did.
At first, we were the worst people for each other, which was kind of cool. In the beginning it was reluctant and grudging, but metamorphosised from casual and dysfunctional to something serious.
On our second date, we got matching tattoos on our backs. I think it's bad luck to tattoo each other's names, so we got an image we have in common. It's a knife with a drop of blood. Then she got a snake on her shoulder. She wanted something that would be scary to her martial arts opponents and I got a smaller version on my arm. We decided to have a baby and on April 9, 2007, Ariane was born - we married 11 days later.
It's a cliché to say that being a father is the greatest thing ever, but there's only one thing better and that's being the father of a little girl. Knowing that she is not only going to grow up to be a big girl but a young woman has ingrained behavioural changes in me. I made a decision that she is never going to read embarrassing shit about her father on the internet: Daddy's not ever going to a titty bar.
My father died in 1987. He always seemed proud of me, but it's a source of sadness that he never saw a single book or article of mine published.
He never saw me make good - I was working in a shellfish bar, still on a methadone program [Bourdain is a former heroin addict], when he died.
Of course, he would have loved to have met my daughter, Ariane. He'd have made a great granddad. He had a real sense of the absurd, as does my daughter. I think they would have been fast friends.
Anthony Bourdain's latest book, Medium Raw ($25, Bloomsbury), is out now in paperback.
From Sunday Life