Monday, April 13, 2015

Parts Unknown Seoul Episode with Anthony Bourdain

Daniel Gray with Anthony Bourdain in Seoul

Wow. One of the highlights of my life as a foodie was to meet Mr. Anthony Bourdain when he came to Seoul. When he finally came to Seoul with his team, I was excited and I hoped that maybe I would be asked to be on the show, but I didn't know what would come of it. Joe McPherson of Zenkimchi was working as the fixer on the production so I thought they already had their foodie for the show. I was lucky to meet up with the lovely Nari, who is a producer with Zero Point Zero Productions and director Marc. We met up for noodles and we talked about the show and I gave suggestions for guests on the show. I then recommended some of friends for the show and some other food experts that I knew. The production seemed to be quite big and they were looking for people that had real insights into Korea. I recommended my friend, DJ Shine from the rap group Drunken Tiger. I am really looking to see how his interview goes.

What was interesting is that I had something to do with the steps leading up to Mr. Bourdain's return to Korea. I had first worked with Zero Point Zero back in 2009 as a fixer for Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie Show. That was my first job working in video and I am proud of that episode. Over the years I got to work with lots of other productions and then I was asked by Euny Hong, author of the Birth of Korean Cool to help set up interviews and translations for her book. I didn't know then that Nari would give Mr. Bourdain a copy of that book. Apparently, Mr. Bourdain liked the book it was one of the reasons he wanted to make his triumphant return to Korea. Small world.

I think the show will show the real side of Korea and not the sterile, healthy, beautiful, castrated view that many would like you to see. Korea is sophisticated and beautiful, but I feel the kinetic, exciting parts are what will draw people to Korea. Korea is fun. It's exciting. The food can be messy and smelly, but it tastes real. People like to drink in Korea and I think that is fine as well.

I was so happy to meet one of my heroes and I got to be on his show. Reading Kitchen Confidential made me want to work in the restaurant industry. After university, I worked in restaurants to survive and I thought my calling was to be a chef. I started attending culinary school until my mentor, Chef Lou, gave me deeper insight into the industry. He said that my silly degree wasn't going to get me a better job in the restaurant industry and it was simply a vanity project. He told me work and learn on the job, save up and buy my own place. Chef Lou was a bitter old guy that had been through it all. He put in his time and he had places of his own, which closed. He was working as a head chef of the restaurant I was at because he needed to live. He was a lifer and I hope he is well today.

So what was it like to meet Anthony Bourdain? Amazing. He is a remarkable person. He can eat and drink anyone under the table and yet maintain a zenlike composure. He was the star on set but he would direct how he wanted the scenes to play out from the background. He had incredible insight into Korean concepts of Han. I simply tried to keep up with him and stay sober.

Watch the Seoul episode on April 26th at 9pm ET/PT on CNN.