Bourdain savors TV 'Layover'

Anthony Bourdain

FILE

NEW YORK -- You're laid over in a city somewhere out there in the world with 24 hours to kill. Do you burrow into your hotel suite, fed by room service and movies-on-demand, until time to head back to the airport?

Not if you happen to be Anthony Bourdain, globe-trotting gastronome and on-the-fly bon vivant. With no time to spare, you gorge on local cuisine, savor local sights and maximize exposure to indigenous culture.

Tomorrow on the plane you can catch up on your sleep!

That, in Bourdain's words, is "the art of the layover," the finer points of which he shares on "The Layover," his new Travel Channel series.

On the debut hour, Bourdain lands in Singapore at 5 a.m., with his scheduled departure the next day at noon. The clock is ticking, and though Bourdain isn't frantic, "There's plenty to do," he say. And he does plenty, demonstrating the gusto fans have come to expect on his food-adventuring travel show, "No Reservations."

On "The Layover," Bourdain tells you which bus will get you from the airport to your hotel most efficiently. But under his tutelage, you're in your room just long enough to drop your bags: There are things to see and food to eat.

Besides his many recommendations, Bourdain offers warnings to any traveler who wants an authentic experience: "No one in Singapore drinks Singapore Slings. It's a disgusting drink."

Future episodes find Bourdain visiting New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Hong Kong, London, Rome, Montreal and Amsterdam. Bourdain, staying true to the show's no-time-to-waste creed, performs each hit-and-run in the hours indicated. The recommendations he makes are his own. There are no fees, promotional considerations or solicitations from venues hoping for a plug, he says.

"On this show we include places that anyone lucky enough to travel internationally could try -- restaurants and hotels and things to see -- that I endorse. Or that I think ... should be avoided."

In the latter category, he lumps the London Eye, the huge Ferris wheel that's become a tourist favorite: "I'm telling you up front I'm not doing it, when I could be drinking Guinness in a real English pub."

Over beer and tasty lamb burgers in a Manhattan bistro that Bourdain hand-picked, he bemoans any tourist who opts for what the mass of other tourists do, rather than investigate places frequented by locals.

Consider the time-strapped New York visitor who opts for the Statue of Liberty rather than bingeing at a world-class local deli such as Katz's or Barney Greengrass: "You've made a really terrible error, maybe one you won't regret for the rest of your life -- but if you knew better, you would!"

It should be clear by now that food (and drink) is a driving force in how Bourdain, an unrepentant sensualist, greets the world. At 55, he is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and a decades-long veteran of professional kitchens, from dishwasher to chef. In 2000, he published a best-selling tell-all memoir of his experiences behind those swinging kitchen doors, "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly," which rocked the foodie world. Other food-centric books -- not just nonfiction but even crime novels -- followed.

In 2005, his rollicking culinary travelogue, "No Reservations," premiered on Travel Channel.

Rumpled and rangy at 6 feet 4 inches, often deadpan and more often outspoken, Bourdain gained a reputation early on as a bad boy chef, an angry guy of the gourmet set.

"I'm sure I benefited from those descriptions, but I didn't take it seriously in the beginning, and I certainly don't now," says Bourdain, who is a personable sort and no more edgy than a few million others in New York, which Bourdain, with his wife and 4 1/2-year-old daughter, calls home when not dining at the far corners of the world.

"I enjoy the travel," he says, listing his job's selling points, "and I like taking you on a trip, trying to make you feel about a place the way I feel about it."