Writer Maria Bustillos first connected with Anthony Bourdain after she wrote a lengthy piece for Eater diving into his early career as a crime novelist. Bourdain tweeted his appreciation for the article, which inspired Bustillos to ask for an interview with Bourdain for her blockchain-backed, “alt-worldly” website Popula. Bustillos was hoping for a 15-minute phone interview. Instead she got to spend two and a half hours chatting with Bourdain in a “comfy Irish bar,” where their warm, casual conversation ranged from politics to the #MeToo movement to the importance of creating an empathetic global culture and how food can play a role in that.
Though it was published this week, the interview took place back in February, four months before Bourdain’s death. That makes it likely one of the last interviews Bourdain gave and certainly one of the most unique. Bustillos opens and closes the piece with thoughts on both Bourdain’s life and his death. But rather than polish up the interview itself into a more formal piece, Bustillos simply shares the raw transcript of their conversation, including its many stops, starts, and tangents.
There are plenty of headline-grabbing pull quotes from the interview, especially when it comes to Bourdain’s political opinions. He passionately vents about his frustrations with the op-ed writers at The New York Times, and has an immediate response to Bustillos’ tongue-in-cheek question about which Times writer he’d like to strangler first (Thomas Friedman). In perhaps the interview’s most provocative section, Bourdain answers a question about the Monica Lewinsky scandal by calling Bill Clinton, “A piece of shit. Entitled, rapey, gropey, grabby, disgusting.” He also has a lot of vitriol for the way he believes both Bill and Hillary Clinton handled accusations of sexual assault leveled against Bill, saying, “The way they efficiently dismantled, destroyed, and shamelessly discredited these women for speaking their truth is unforgivable.”
Later, in a particularly provocative end to the interview, Bourdain dreams up an elaborate death scenario for Harvey Weinstein (Bourdain’s then-girlfriend Asia Argento was one of the women to publically accuse Weinstein of sexual assault):
My theory of how he goes is uh, he’s brushing his teeth in a bathroom, he’s naked in his famous bathrobe, which is flapping open, he’s holding his cell phone in one hand because you never know who on the Weinstein board has betrayed him recently, and he’s brushing his teeth—he suddenly gets a massive fucking stroke—he stumbles backwards into the bathtub, where he finds himself um, with his robe open feet sticking out of the tub, and in his last moments of consciousness as he scrolls through his contacts list trying to figure out who he can call, who will actually answer the phone. And he dies that way, knowing that no one will help him and that he is not looking his finest at time of death.
But there’s so much more to the wide-ranging, lengthy discussion (be warned, as the article definitely isn’t a quick read). Whether they’re agree or disagreeing, Bourdain and Bustillos seem to get along really well and are happy to jump from topic to topic. They discuss everything from the failure of 1960s political revolutions, to Bourdain’s philosophy on parenting, to what it was like to spend time among Trump voters in West Virginia, to the experience of filming his TV show Parts Unknown in repressive countries that refused to allow Bourdain to document the full reality of their culture.
Bustillos generally steers the conversation more towards politics than food, but Bourdain does share his thoughts on the best way to cook a squirrel (squirrel pie with squirrel gravy). And—as he so often did throughout his career—Bourdain extols food’s ability to bring people together:
One of the things I’ve started noticing on my shows and through my experience was… [say] you go to a place like Beirut, and you find yourself talking to a Muslim woman. If you’re a journalist tasked with an agenda, you know, you’re there to report a story, and you come right out with it. You’re going right into some very difficult areas. Whereas I have the luxury, I’m there to eat! Presumably. I’m there to eat, and I’m asking very simple questions. “What makes you happy? What do you like to eat, where do you like to go to get a few drinks; you know? What do you miss about the place when you go away?” And I find, again and again, just by spending the time, by asking very simple questions, people have said the most astonishing things to me.
You can read the full interview on Popula.
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