Hard on the heels of his occasional partner-in-crime Michael Ruhlman, bad-boy chef, author, and TV personality Anthony Bourdain was here in San Francisco this weekend promoting his own new book, “No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach“. He was scheduled for several events, and we signed up to see him at Book Passage’s “Cooks With Books” lunch at Boulevard restaurant.

Tony Bourdain speaking

I’d like to say we had as good a time at this event as we did at the one last week, but we didn’t (well, at least I didn’t. Scott may feel otherwise). Bourdain is a star of much bigger magnitude, and there’s just no way you can get the same level of spontaneity or intimacy at a four-course sit-down meal with well over 100 guests than at a regular signing. It’s not just the sheer increased number of people, though. It’s also directly connected to the nature of fame, and the impossibility of remaining fully open and accessible when the number of people wanting to interact with you has geometrically increased.

Bourdain signed a huge pile of books, spoke briefly, answered audience questions, and was exactly as you’d expect him – funny, pulling no punches, and occasionally potty-mouthed. The event was polished, professional, well-managed, and the food, although not top-notch, was decent. But all in all, it wasn’t really fun. Instead, I felt bad for Bourdain that he has to go through this grinder, and I wasn’t too thrilled with myself for being a part of it. It was nice to see Bourdain face to face, and I’ll be the first to admit that having an autographed copy of two of his books is more fun than not, but honestly, I am not sure I would go to that kind of event again.

Bourdain is a very smart guy, and I’m sure he knew what he was in for when he chose to take the path of author / TV personality over that of a chef. Signing autographs for a couple of hours is work, but standing in front of a hot stove for 12 hours is a hell of a lot harder. On the other hand, at least when you’re done with your 12-hour shift, you can go home and not have to worry about people snapping your picture as you duck into KFC for some take-out.

Musing over the nature and price of fame is hardly new ground, and it’s starting to move away from the focus of this blog anyway. To get back on track, here’s another shot from today:

Tony Bourdain speaking

UPDATE: Scott’s report on the event is a lot funnier than mine.