Chef Anthony Bourdain is known for mincing onions but definitely not words, and in his new Travel Channel series, The Layover (debuting Nov. 21 at 9 p.m.), he’s offering up expert culinary advice for exploring America, Asia, and Europe when you have only 24 to 48 hours. But how will Bourdain’s acid wit hold up against that of his foodie BFF, Le Bernardin chef and frequent Top Chef guest judge Eric Ripert? We listened in as Ripert and Bourdain served each other heaping plates of good-natured sarcasm (Guy Fieri, you might not want to read this).
Eric Ripert What’s the craziest food item you’ve tried to smuggle into the country, and where did you hide it?
Anthony Bourdain Some Croatian sheep’s-milk cheese. I put it in with the dirty laundry, and one tended to approximate the smell of the other.
Ripert You don’t like to eat airplane food. Are you ever embarrassed by your special snacks?
Bourdain You know why I don’t bring snacks on the plane, Eric? Because I once took some ribs from a BBQ joint in Kansas City, and as soon as I opened it up, everybody on the plane was smelling it and they were looking at me with expressions of pure hatred. I can’t digest comfortably when everyone in the plane is glaring at me, so I just starve.
Ripert What is the name of your favorite pillow, which I know you bring on trips?
Bourdain Could you be talking about Mr. Smushy?
Ripert And the teddy bear?
Bourdain Yeah, I had somebody embroider Guy Fieri’s face on it.
Ripert If you got stuck on a really long layover and had to move into an airport á la Tom Hanks in The Terminal, where would it be?
Bourdain The Changi Airport in Singapore. They’ve got a swimming pool, movies, and Malaysian, Chinese, Indian, and Arab food. It’s hard to beat.
Ripert Do you bring your Speedo?
Bourdain I think I’m past the age where I can pull off a Speedo.
Ripert You said when traveling, people should relax their definition of the word toilet. Can you elaborate?
Bourdain I mean if you’re in rural China or parts of central Asia, tribal parts of Africa, you’re not getting a bidet, let’s put it that way. You’re lucky to get a hole in the ground on a good day. When you travel as much as I do, you’re really appreciative when you get a really good bathroom, like a Japanese toilet. The ones that sing to you and spray you with hot water. They’re fantastic. You really appreciate those things after you’ve been crapping onto a stalagmite of frozen fecal material somewhere in Harbin in China.
Ripert How many languages can you say ”Hurry, please point me in the direction of the nearest bathroom” in?
Bourdain Shockingly few. I’m pretty good at finding a bathroom, and there’s always the nearest potted plant.