Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fabled Foodie Anthony Bourdain Visits Old PTown Haunts, Where He Started Out

Anthony Bourdain posed for photos when corralled by a number of folks
who spotted him walking down Commercial Street Monday afternoon. 
Anthony Bourdain, arguably the world's most famous foodie, has been in PTown for the last couple of days, returning once again to the place where his culinary career began. He and his film crew spent a good bit of Sunday afternoon at the Top of the Pot, on the second floor of the Lobster Pot, shooting video for one of his television shows, all of which center on kitchens, chefs and food. And the passion that launched his career, and continues to carry him around the world on a quest for great and unusual foods, began with his very first job in a kitchen, right here in Provincetown.
Bourdain's best-selling book Kitchen Confidential:Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, is a tell-all exposé of things many would find unsavory, things that go on in even the best restaurant kitchens. When he wrote about what he called "twenty-five years of sex, drugs, bad behavior and haute cuisine," he changed the names of several people and places in order to protect the not-so-innocent. This was the '70s, after all…
As a youth, along the coast of France during a family vacation, a French oysterman had given him something that would change his life. Aboard his new friend's boat, young Tony tasted his first oyster. Then, at the age of 18, and sharing a Provincetown summer rental with friends, he reluctantly went to work as a dishwasher in a waterfront restaurant. As he took up the mundane chores of cleaning shrimp, bearding mussels and peeling potatoes, he liked the life he found in the kitchen. He liked the camaraderie (and the carousing) of the restaurant staff, both after work and during.
In his book he called that first restaurant the Dreadnaught, avoiding any repercussions as he told stories of his escapades with fellow employees, many of whom he identified with pseudonyms. That job led to others in the culinary world, and he became inspired by Provincetown chef Howard Mitcham, who had a genuine love for food. Bourdain soon entered into the Culinary Institute of America, and eventually  worked in many of the acclaimed kitchens of New York City, and as Executive Chef of Manhatten’s renowned Brasserie Les Halles.
Upon the great success of Kitchen Confidential and other writings, his first television series, A Cook's Tour, invited us along as he traveled the world in search of the perfect meal. Other TV projects followed, and his career has morphed into that of a tour guide of sorts, taking us to far-flung corners of the world in episodes that are part travelogue and part cuisine quest, with a bit of local food lore and culture as a garnish.
The Flagship restaurant, now a private home, had an old dory for a bar.
I had always heard that the Lobster Pot was that first PTown restaurant that had launched Bourdain's career, and others swear that "reliable sources" claim it was any number of other spots in town, so I asked him.
It was the Flagship, built on pilings on the edge of the harbor in the East End. Started in 1930, it was a funky place full of the warmth of old wood and the feel of a true New England fishing village. Although several restaurants moved to the spot after the Flagship closed, after some 60 years in business, none of the many ever really succeeded in filling the joint the way the Flagship had, and the remodeled building is now a private home.
Mr. Bourdain was unable to say just when the program he had been woking on here would air, but he promised to let the folks at the Lobster Pot know once the date was set. The Lobster Pot, by the way, just re-opened Friday, for their 35th year in Provincetown.
I had my first steamers of the season there on Monday.

8 comments:

  1. Has that Anthony B show aired yet?
    I must meet him or should I say he needs to meet me. I was the first customer at The Top of the Pot.
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