In the tight squeeze of a kitchen at Les Halles, where Anthony Bourdain slung pans while writing Kitchen Confidential, a film crew is focusing in on Anderson Cooper’s face as he takes his first bite of tripe, the stomach lining of a cow. Bourdain stands by, amused. Cooper sniffs—“A little horsey”—takes the tiniest bite, shakes his head, and gives his review: “It’s not for me.”
CNN’s silver foxes (Cooper, Bourdain) are crowded in the back of the kitchen, which is still finishing up a few French onion soups for straggling late lunchers. It’s been a marathon shoot, as Bourdain teaches Cooper five semi-exotic dishes for a new segment on Anderson Cooper 360 to promote the new season of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. They made escargot, blood sausage, pig’s feet, tripe, and veal kidneys in mustard sauce. Fans of 360 know the punch line: Cooper is one of the pickiest eaters of the species Grown-Up. He recently had waffles for the first time on the show, asking, “What’s the point? It’s just a pancake with holes in it.”
After the filming, Bourdain takes a few selfies with the chefs, who always welcome him back like the prodigal son, and we ask Cooper what it was in his childhood that made him so food-phobic—we know his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, who told us about her daily peanut butter and jelly sandwiches last year, also has a penchant for the comfort of simple meals.
“I was raised in a Wasp household, so the only food we had was Carr’s water biscuits and aquavit,” he quipped—a line he’s clearly had to repeat often. Now he eats the same thing for months at a time; right now it’s oatmeal with fruit and cinnamon (“that’s my big adventure”), a salad for lunch, and salmon sushi for dinner.
Food for Cooper is just fuel, and we ask if he’s ever considered trying Soylent—the shake that has all of the vitamins and minerals needed to stay alive, popular among computer-glued coders in Silicon Valley. “I’m obsessed with the idea of Soylent!” he said. “I have not actually tried it. If I could, to me, it’s the ideal solution.”
“It’s absolutely everything I’m against”—that’s Bourdain chiming in, who can’t let this stand—“it’s evil in a bottle, or a bag, or whatever it comes in. It’s just anti-human, it’s anti-everything, and it’s filled with heavy metals, apparently! It’s just wrong.”
Cooper: “I see it as saving time to give me pleasure in other realms. I’m wasting time eating when I could be receiving pleasure in other ways.”
Bourdain: “You’re chipping away at my soul with every word. You’re killin’ me here.”
But would he try it? Bourdain considers. “Yes. I would try.”
Cooper: “I’ve heard it doesn’t taste very good, so I’d put a little bit of cinnamon in mine.”
Bourdain and Cooper are an odd pairing. Bourdain towers over all, asserting his dominance in the kitchen, his territory marked in his old stomping grounds at Les Halles. But Cooper is a good sport, and remains confident in his pickiness, admitting, sorry, it’s weird, it’s slimy, and he doesn’t like it. While Bourdain gesticulates and tells a story about getting a tattoo from some drunk guys in Borneo, Cooper stands by, arms crossed so that his bicep muscles wink at the camera. This isn’t the first time they’ve cooked together. The last time was at Cooper’s home, in his never-before-and-never-again-used kitchen, with sparkling top-of-the-line appliances, non-grease-splattered tile, and completely empty cabinets. “After I saw his kitchen I pretty much went home and wept with envy,” Bourdain said. “One of the great joys in my life is torturing him with good food, for which he is previously unaccustomed.” Cooper laughed, “What he’s destroyed for me [is] my go-to food overseas, spaghetti bolognese. That's what I have when I travel because I know what it’s going to taste like.”
“What do you think your Indonesian cooks . . . how much do you think they care about the bolognese sauce on day three? It’s a petri dish,” Bourdain said in his perfectly sound-bitten way.
Cooper: “Now I order off the children’s menu. The only sad part is that I have to pretend there’s a child.”
When there are children around, though, Cooper can make hot dogs. He told us, “I toast the bun, that’s my little flair,” to which Bourdain shook his head and replied, “This is a dark, dark, story.” But that’s not what his partner’s niece and nephews wanted when they stayed with them for two weeks. “The seven-year-old was like, [Cooper mimics a kid’s voice] ‘I would like a salad, and I will make the dressing. All I need is some vinegar and oil, salt.’ I was like, Who are you?! You’re not an actual child.” And the kid made the salad. “He was going to soccer camp, and I was like, ‘What kind of lunch do you want?’ And he was like, ‘I want a pâté sandwich.’ I was like, ‘NO, you can’t have a pâté sandwich.’ ”
Bourdain’s daughter is similarly adventurous, but “the central irony in my life is that my daughter loves all the shows that I’ve been making fun of relentlessly. She loves, like, MasterChef Junior, Cutthroat Kitchen, Chopped, all those cooking-competition shows. She’s super into them.” Bourdain had a dose of reality when he visited her class on career day. “There’s no bigger star in second-grade firmament than Andrew Zimmern,” he said. “I’m on the side of every fucking bus in New York, I’m on TV, and all they want to know is, ‘Do you know Andrew Zimmern? Does Andrew Zimmern eat brains? Does Andrew Zimmern eat bugs? Does Andrew Zimmern eat pee-pee parts?’ I’m like, ‘Yes, yes he does!’ ”
“Pee-pee parts” weren’t on the menu, but at least Cooper sampled tripe, one of a cow’s many stomachs.
“Without a doubt,” he said, “I’ve been more adventurous. I know it’s baby steps, but I’ve had more sushi beyond just the salmon, and I’ve had some rolls, you know those? I know it’s not crazy for everyone, but for me, it’s pretty crazy.”
The new season of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown begins in Cuba on Sunday, September 27, at nine P.M E.S.T. Anderson Cooper 360 airs weeknights at eight P.M. E.S.T.
A second video was posted to CNN.com where Anderson and Anthony talk Cuba:
There was a short clip of Anderson's appearance on Radio Andy last Monday:
With John Berman in the AC360 anchor chair this week we will be posting Anderson's interview recorded December 16, 2014 for the Archive of American Television.
ANDERSON COOPER JOURNALIST
"It's thrilling and incredible that this has happened. I started out with this idea of just going to wars by myself, building a little fake press pass and carrying a hand-held camera. I've been able to forge a life out of it. I'm very lucky."
ABOUT THIS INTERVIEW
In his two-and-a-half hour Archive interview, Anderson Cooper talks about his early life, including his appearance on To Tell the Truth and his travels to Africa. He discusses his time working for Channel One News where he covered complex international stories from Vietnam and Somalia. He describes going to work as a correspondent for ABC News, which led to him anchoring the overnight program World News Now and appearing on the short-lived spin-off 20/20 Downtown. He recounts being hired by CNN in the wake of 9/11 after two seasons of hosting the ABC reality show The Mole. Cooper outlines his early years at CNN, where he took any fill-in anchoring job he could get when he felt his job there was threatened. He details being anchor of CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, and discusses reporting such stories as Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti. Jenni Matz conducted the interview on December 16, 2014 in New York City, New York.
This is the first 20 minutes of the 2 1/2 hour interview. We will be posting the entire interview over the course of this week. Enjoy!