Podcast Review: ‘WTF’ with Marc Maron and Anthony Bourdain
Lively and open conversation represents Bourdain, his ethos and spirit
The late American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain: this podcast is so shockingly human and offers a beautiful perspective on food as a human activity. Photograph: Ian West/PA Wire
After Anthony Bourdain’s tragic passing last week, I found myself not only watching back over his vast collection of television shows in which he toured the world, one dish at a time – but also on a deep-dive of audio interviews he gave, too. WTF with Marc Maron is something of a Criterion Collection podcast – a long-running show in which Maron interviews comics and writers, often with staggering intimacy not without occasional conflict. In this episode, Bourdain and Maron talk with incredible ease. In the wake of Bourdain’s passing, Maron has edited out the original introduction of this 2011 interview, so when the podcast begins, we are thrown directly into a lively and open conversation that represents who Bourdain was, his ethos and his spirit in a way that feels very organic and very true.
Bourdain is self-effacing in a way that is very refreshing – he talks about his early years bluffing his way through kitchens, and the sheer value of working as a dishwasher. Maron asks small questions and doesn’t dominate the conversation, rather he incites anecdotes and perspectives from a remarkable man – and gives him space to tell his stories. These stories are sometimes lively tales of kitchen antics, and other times are almost bleak recollections of years of addiction. Both Maron and Bourdain have been “drug warriors” in their time, and are unafraid of speaking emotionally and honestly about recovery, and what heroin does to a person as well as the people they love.
This binary in conversational tone and subject matter makes this a really valuable listen – there is tremendous humility here. Bourdain mentions reading Kerouac in school and immediately being drawn to a kind of bad-boy glamour, but he doesn’t hesitate to paint an honest picture of what addiction can do to a person. It is so clear throughout this listen what we have lost in his passing, and what he has left us with as a legacy in his bright, raw charm.
Bourdain says that you have to be a romantic to cook well – he speaks so philosophically about what it is to feed people, and what it is to be a cook or a chef. There is a period in this podcast that is so shockingly human and such a beautiful perspective on food as a human activity, food as a vehicle for pleasure that I rewound it several times to listen again. Whether or not you are a chef, you eat, and this listen will bring your perspective on dining and breaking bread with others somewhere very different. The podcast may seem like an ephemeral form, but it is episodes of the form like this one that contribute to a greater legacy – Bourdain is with us still, here, in this hour.