Friday, May 13, 2011

Lucky Peach Sneak Peeks

My boyfriend and I started watching No Reservations one summer while visiting with his parents. There's not much to do out there but read, watch for the occasional deer poking around in the backyard, or sit in front of the TV. After the painfully long academic year, we opted for lots of TV. I caught the end of the `San Francisco' episode, where Bourdain is biting into a bloody burger and remarks with relish "Tastes like it died screaming." Not particularly put off by the humour (which, by the way, is typical of Bourdain, defying the likes of Alice Waters and shunning places like Chez Panisse to eat greasy diner meat), I kicked up my feet for the next episode and called for my boyfriend to join me. We were immediately smitten with Bourdain--his snark, his appreciation for local life and perspectives (street meat and all), his often cutting insight into the state of things. Tony Bourdain is a man whose hand I'd like to shake. And No Reservations is still our go-to when we want to wind down in front of the TV. So, I can't wait to see what Bourdain, David Chang, and their fellow editors have gotten up to with Lucky Peach, McSweeney's new culinary quarterly. The first issue is due June 14, and its theme is ramen. 
McSweeney's sent out this little excerpt of a grim conversation between Bourdain, Chang, and Wylie Dufresne yesterday, which will appear in the first issue. It's classic Bourdain (which is to say, it's sharp, bleak, and full of expletives--be warned). Find more teasers like the one above here, at McSweeney's.
Scene: Café de la Concha, 1 Mira Concha, San Sebastián, Spain.
It is nighttime, and DAVID CHANG, TONY BOURDAIN, and WYLIE DUFRESNE are gathered around a table. A January storm rages outside and keeps the café nearly empty. The three Americans—in town to speak at a conference—are catching up over hard cider and pintxos, and talking, at CHANG's behest, about culinary mediocrity back in their homeland.
TONY: So what about all these kids rolling out of culinary school now, with their $80,000 in debt? They're totally jacked there.
DAVID: We're all their fucking problem. We're sort of a catalyst for them.
TONY: We're inspiring generations of kids to go to culinary school.
DAVID: Could you have achieved your career without having gone to culinary school?
WYLIE: Sure. Of course I could have. I went to college, too.
DAVID: But now, what percentage of kids going to culinary school are actually going to contribute to a real kitchen? Like a two-Michelin-star, one-Michelin-star, whatever, a real fucking kitchen. Zero.
TONY: Man, that's such a dark worldview. I just spoke to a kid today who came up to me and said, "You came up to the Culinary Institute of America five years ago and gave a commencement address." I have no recollection of meeting this person. She asked me then, "What should I do after school?" And I said, "Do what I didn't do. Acknowledge the fact that you're not going to make any money at all, you're not going to get paid for two years, and go work for the best. I would suggest Spain, some place like Mugaritz." She's at Mugaritz now. Come on, man, that's a fucking awesome start.
DAVID: And if you didn't talk to her, she'd probably—
TONY: Oh no, don't do that. My point is that there are actually people who come rolling out of culinary school—maybe it's a tiny, tiny number, but probably proportionally more than during my time—who don't see the Hilton as a fantastic gig, or a cruise ship or a country club, and understand that if they wanna be great, if they want to be really good, then they have to start looking at places like Mugaritz or Arzak.
WYLIE: I disagree with that. I think unfortunately there is more of a mediocritizing of the average culinary-school graduate now than there was way back when. I think to a certain extent schools are selling them a bill of goods. "Come to culinary school, go through our program, and in six to eight months you could be the chef of this or that." Not "Come to our schools and we'll give you the absolute basics so you can go out into the world and work for pennies." But that's the truth. Today it's, "You could end up on TV."
TONY: Fuck, you're right. So we're part of the problem.
DAVID: We're part of the problem.
TONY: We suck. We are destroying what we love.
WYLIE: You more than me.
 Well, there goes my back-up, back-up plan.

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