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Anthony Bourdain on Laying Over in Miami

As everyone knows by now, Anthony Bourdain was in Miami filming an episode of his Travel Channel show, The Layover. What most people don't know, however, is that he sometimes likes to imbibe in umbrella drinks, thinks the city's Latin and Caribbean cuisine culture is under appreciated and doesn't think MIA sucks that bad. Eater Miami special correspondent Jackie Sayet talked to Bourdain via cell phone about Miami's food and drink culture.

Jackie Sayet, Eater Miami: Miami again! Why?
Anthony Bourdain: Cause I love it. I love staying at the Raleigh, I love drinking at the Deuce and the opportunity to, you know, get a good tattoo. It’s always fun for me to come to Miami so that’s always a big factor in my decision to make a show, any show. Will it be fun?

JS/EM: As far as the Layover is concerned what makes a place a suitable subject? When you were planning out the first season of episodes what did you take into account?
AB: Am I interested in the place comes first. A personal connection is really helpful. Is there somebody on the ground who lives there, who knows the town, who has a unique perspective on the place and to the extent that I can look at the place through someone else's eyes who knows what the hell they are talking about, that really helps.

JS/EM: This must be your umpteenth time visiting Miami so when you go to a place you’ve been before. How do expectations play into your experience and is it ok to have them?
AB: I think the answer to that is that after years of No Reservations I'm used to having my expectations foiled and turned on their heads all the time. It’s part of the joy of making television honestly -- going to a place thinking one thing and then finding out it’s completely different. That’s the joy of travel.

JS/EM: Miami International Aiport: better or worse than ever?
AB. You know you can at least get a decent Cuban sandwich there, so that’s something! It’s not the worst domestic airport by a mile.

JS/EM: Which would be? are you naming?
AB: Kennedy can be pretty bad depending on? Well if you’re at the Delta Terminal at Kennedy, that’s a living hell.

JS/EM: In the mainstream, Miami tends to be equated with South Beach in recent memory, and culturally to a large extent Cuba for good reason. Do you think Miami is misunderstood or do you think people are finally able to see it through the eyes of those of us who live here?
AB: I mean, the extent to which Miami is Latin American and Caribbean I think is under appreciated for sure. The Haitian dimension is largely overlooked, like the other Latin American countries, Colombia, Nicaragua.. There is a tendency? You know it is your burden and your blessing that people associate Miami with Miami Beach and Miami Vice. I mean, that show made your city in a lot of ways. There’s good and bad that come with that but if you spend long enough in town? Repeated exposure to Linda Bladholm really helped me, from the first time I came to Miami looking to do an article for Gourmet. That’s pretty much her area of expertise. That there are other large groups, that there are many people from West Africa and from other countries in Latin America? Haiti... She really concentrates on that and has done really I think trailblazing work in that area. It seems surprisingly obvious to any Miami native, particularly any Miami foodie, but it was something of a revelation to me early on.

JS/EM: Do you think Miami gourmet street food is trendy or is there serious food going on there?
AB: The food truck scene is really exciting. There are a lot of towns, cities like New York, that are really hostile to it. It really hasn’t broken through here, it’s a real struggle. There’s no place for them to go, and they’re being actively legislated against and mobilized against, where as there seems to be some degree of support for food trucks [in Miami] and that’s a huge plus. Not just from the point of view of people who like to eat that food but also from the point of view of the mom and pop entrepreneurs, the would-be Roy Chois who want to do something strange and wonderful on a mobile kitchen. I always saw food trucks and street food and their potential as potential saviors of the nation in our struggle against the traditional American supermall food court.

JS/EM: It’s interesting, it hasn’t been the easiest of relationships with the city but they have survived and flourished and engaged a larger audience who probably wouldn’t have considered themselves foodies.
AB: It’s short sighted. San Francisco has been very supportive. LA’s been very permissive. If you look at some of the entrepreneurs that are existing and thriving in San Francisco and Los Angeles? Eating out, as Jonathan Gold says, is rapidly becoming a countercultural activity so there’s a whole new audience, a whole new business sector out there to be exploited, and I think a lot of cities are just not seeing that. They just don’t understand that paving over, creating a pedestrian mall in a fake renovated area is not necessarily going to bring business into your city, but a vibrant, thriving food scene might well.

JS/EM: The bar at Michael’s Genuine now boasts 56 American Whiskeys: 48 bourbons, 8 ryes. Michael [Schwartz]’s a bourbon drinker, as are many of our customers. When might we find you with a bourbon?
AB: I drink bourbon or whiskey when I’m not feeling to well or I’m feeling sorry for myself or sentimental or tired. I tend to move toward brown liquors. You know it’s hard to imagine Tom Waits sitting at a bar having a margarita. That’s more Jimmy Buffett.

JS/EM: How about the number of times you’ve been caught at a pool drinking a frosty, tropical and somewhat girlie beverage?
AB: To each life a girlie drink must come. There’s a time and a place for everything, and every once in a while I want a drink with an umbrella in it! I’m not ashamed.

JS/EM: I recall receiving a funny email from one of your producers at the end of the shoot, something about an overheated Corvette parked in our lot overnight? What ever happened to the little red Corvette?
AB: I am not at liberty to say. Let's just say... we worked that motherfucker! [EaterWire]