Anthony Bourdain has advice for Portland restaurateurs

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Photo by Bobby Fisher

Attention Brooklynites, if you are thinking of opening a restaurant in Portland, Anthony Bourdain has advice for you.

“Make sure that the locals love you. When you go into a community that’s not yours make friends with your neighbors. Be positive rather than negative. Become part of the community,” said the globetrotting chef, writer and TV personality on the phone from his office in Los Angeles.

When Bourdain comes to The Cross Insurance Arena in Portland for his Oct. 9th live show, The Hunger, you won’t catch him tucking into shellfish stew at Scales on the waterfront. Last time he was here in 2010 he dined at Street and Company with Dana Street, who owns both establishments. While filming a scene for “No Reservations,” he got a negative hit.

“I spent 30 years in the restaurant business. Being rude to the servers makes me mad and very uncomfortable,” he recalled. “It’s an unforgivable offense to be rude to servers. It put a pall on the experience for me.”

Chances are good the threadbare J’s Oysters, sandwiched between a dock and a hard place, will be his hang. “Now that is my kind of place. I’ve been there a couple of times. I totally adore it. It’s everything I love because its no BS. Just good food and beer, no pretension no frippery,” said Bourdain, who holds J’s in the same esteem as the bean supper in Milo he dug last time.

Whatever he eats, he’ll need stamina for his one-man tour, which kicks off in Boston a few days before.

What won’t he be doing on stage? “Shoving food in your face, and running blenders.”

What to expect? “An hour and a half of standing up on stage. I’ll talk off the top of my head. What I talk about depends on the audience and how drunk people are.”

Speaking of knocking em back, he has no plans to pull an Amy Schumer, who pissed off Portlanders in her short and at times tipsy appearance here last year. “People pay a lot of money for tickets. I’ll be showing up in stable condition to be mildly entertaining,” said Bourdain, who will spend as much time fielding questions from the audience as rapping on food trends.

He’ll touch upon “gluten terror,” a condition that doesn’t reach the impoverished countries he visits on his CNN show “Parts Unknown.” “You don’t see a lot of gluten intolerance in India. They can’t afford it.”

On hot food and culture scenes changing a city: “I just came back from Nashville, where 100 people a day are moving to. There is a detraction of traditional culture and neighborhoods. The focus should be on careful planning and people should get angry over gentrification.”

What can Portland do about its rapidly changing landscape? “When you live on the water there is a lot of peril — character can be gobbled up fast.”

Are destination food cities getting too pricey for locals?

“The nightmare scenario is San Francisco. It’s a terrible wheel that threatens to roll over all of us. High-concept restaurants make it hard for locals to compete. Commit to saying no and support local businesses. Support your local business and shop at local businesses. Anyone who says they do and then supports Walmart is lying to themselves.”

What else is on his mind? Find Sunday, Oct. 9th at 6 p.m. Tickets start at $69 and can be purchased here.


Kathleen Pierce

About Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.