Getj Cover

Star chef Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential gave Bradley Cooper his first leading role. Perhaps Bourdain’s latest literary endeavor — graphic novel Get Jiro! — will launch another future Sexiest Man Alive into orbit. If the action-packed novel gets the page-to-screen treatment, whoever steps in as vigilante sushi chef Jiro will have to be buff — think Snake Plissken, only with better knife skills and fueled by hamachi.

Bourdain co-wrote the novel with Joel Rose (Kill Kill Faster Faster, The Blackest Bird) and tapped Wizards of the Coast‘s Langdon Foss to create the eye-popping art. Before Get Jiro! hits stores on July 3, Bourdain sat down with EW to talk about his geeky past, what inspired the dangerous Los Angeles seen in the novel, and what’s in store for his two upcoming series. Read on…

Though he’s a strapping, 6’4″ man’s man these days, Bourdain admits he fit squarely in the “geeky comic collector” mold when he was younger. He was a “wannabe artist [who] would draw little sort of underground comics. I wanted very badly to be a comic book artist. That was my dream.”

An admirer of MAD magazine, 1940s editions of The Spirit, and R. Crumb, he was intrigued by the idea of visual storytelling. “I was considered for a time a guy that could really draw,” he said. “I went to Art League and did classes, but it became clear to me right away that I would never tear the world a new one” like his heroes had. “It broke my heart ultimately.”

So Bourdain put up his pencils, pulled out his knives, and blazed his own trail. “In the end, things worked out really well. I’ve been telling stories for a long time.” But with Get Jiro!, Bourdain is able to merge his childhood passion with his adult vocation. The novel depicts a turf war between battling factions of foodies in a near-future L.A., with increasingly rough neighborhoods. Bourdain saw the city’s “inner and outer sprawl,” with its “concentric rings of decreasing privilege” taken to the extreme as an appropriately gritty setting.

Just like Jiro, Bourdain will soon be traveling around with a culinary mission. He is in the thick of producing a new food and travel show for CNN. Teaming up with a news network has allowed him to expand his boundaries significantly because, “before, if I wanted to go to Libya it was nearly impossible. With CNN, they’re already on the ground there.”

Later this year, he’ll explore another collaboration, working with Brit import Nigella Lawson for ABC’s newest reality cooking show. “I like her a lot,” said Bourdain of Lawson. “She’s smart as hell, and I think we’ll be interesting and will make an unusual mix on a show together. We’re not two people you would think of as being at the same table together.” For a man who’s cemented his celebrity status with No Reservations, it’s safe to say Bourdain is more prepared than most to face the unexpected.

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