This is Bobby with celebrity chef Johnny Ciao, whose beard is eating his face.
There is, as you might suspect of someone named Johnny Ciao, someone named Johnny Ciao whom you have never heard of and yet describes himself as a celebrity right up front. He’s not a chef, he’s a celebrity chef.
Well, he is now. When this was taken–1985 or ’85–there were no celebrity chefs. There were some famous ones, like that towering goblin woman or that bald one who turned out to be a childfucker, but nothing like today’s sexy, rebellious model. It’s all Anthony Bourdain’s fault: preening, macho self-mythologizers: the kind of guys that see something in Bukowski after age 22.
Bourdain could write, at least: he gets into the detailed minutes of a foreign place, where foreign people do foreign things. He translated a kitchen, a modern line system kitchen pumping out the steaks, for America and we rewarded him with a camera crew, diarrhea, and a divorce.
He’s destroyed the genteel quarters of the food section of the bookstore I used to love, though: Jacques Pepin’s old world apprenticeship at the ancient oven of some long gone Paris hotel, or Bill Buford’s stage with madmen in Tuscany. Now it’s all young turks from the Culinary Institute with tattoos of butcher’s diagrams; they all brandish cleavers on the covers. Search as I might, I have not yet found a memoir written by a guy from Oaxaca who does the actual cooking, but perhaps I need to look in different bookstores.
These chefs wish to become celebrity chefs, who get sent places to eat things enthusiastically. Fifty or more percent of Bourdain’s shows are him taking a bite of something, then going “Oh, yeah: that’s in my wheelhouse.” He’s always in some fantastically fucked-up country that had a civil war as recently as currently. One of those places that still has old-fashioned diseases like dropsy or rickets; or else they have brand new, recently mutated bugs like hippo pox or fbola (it’s one worse.)
The worst is the exaltation of the street over the dining room: the reverse snobbery that eschews the sirloin in favor of the joint grub. Peasant over pheasant, if you will. (Or even if you won’t: this isn’t a democracy.) I can understand an interest in an ancient, passed-down recipe for stew that takes three days to cook and utilizes spice from all over the valley. I also know that the stew had to boil for a weekend: the primary proteins were hoof, tail, and asshole. Also: organs.
TotD is against eating peasant food, except for lobsters (which used to be so plentiful they were fed to convicts in Massachusetts,) or if the peasant was from the south of France and the food is, like, a crusty loaf and some vin du table and then you put your beret over your eyes and snooze for twenty minutes and then you pork the milkmaid Marie in the barn while the cows watch.
Go visit Johnny Ciao: I’ve linked to his photos page, and if you’re on the fence about whether it’s just exactly perfect or not, I’ll quote you seven small words and say nothing more: “On the golf course with Stephen Baldwin.”