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Bourdain Doesn’t Want His Big NYC Market to Be Just For ‘Gringos’

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Plus: The market will evoke a “grungy, polyglot dystopia”

Anthony Bourdain Market Bourdain photo via Facebook; Super Pie photo via Curbed NY

The New Yorker dropped a lengthy profile on Anthony Bourdain this week, and the globe-trotting celebrity revealed more details about his highly anticipated, $60 million international food hall, the Bourdain Market, in New York.

For one, he doesn’t want it to be a place only for food world obsessives (including the “Eater-reading cognoscenti”), American-born Asians, and “gringos.” He wants street food that will also draw Asian-born locals who want to eat like they do at home.

At a visit to Times Square nightclub Circle, Bourdain noted that the predominantly Asian crowd there is what he wants to see at the market, too. “If the younger Korean hipsters and their grandparents like us, we’re gonna be O.K.,” he tells writer Patrick Radden Keefe.

The market at Pier 57 — inspired by the street hawker markets of Singapore — is one of the most anticipated restaurant projects of the decade. Bourdain has previously said that he wants to bring his favorite vendors from his visits around the world, including Tian Tian Hainanese chicken rice from Singapore and Sarawak Iaksa from Choon Hui Cafe in Malaysia. More than 100 vendors will be featured, many of whom need visas to come to New York.

It has faced delays, and with President Donald Trump’s plans for increased restrictions on work visas, recruiting street vendors to the U.S. may be more difficult. Even before the Trump administration, the sheer number of visas the market needs has made the opening a massive undertaking in paperwork. Still, once open, Bourdain Market is expected to be a huge tourist attraction.

Part of the draw is that many of the dishes offered will be entirely new to New Yorkers. Radden Keefe questioned whether enough people would want to eat things like grilled heart to turn a profit, but Bourdain says he is not worried.

“I’m an optimist,” Bourdain replied. Tastes evolve, he insisted. Exposure to foreign cultures makes inhibitions fall away. “I grew up watching ‘Barney Miller,’ and it was Asian jokes all day long. They made fun of Asian food. It smelled like garbage. That’s not funny anymore.” With his chopsticks, he gestured toward a bowl of kimchi between us [at Kang Ho Dong Baekjong]. “Americans want kimchi. They want it on their hamburgers. It’s like when Americans started eating sushi—a huge tectonic shift.”

He’s hoping that he’ll be able to teach “the gringos” that they can love food that’s popular with people who grew up in Asia, according to the profile.

Meanwhile, on the vibe of the market, the film buff says that it should evoke Blade Runner — “high-end retail as grungy, polyglot dystopia,” or a “a post-apocalyptic Grand Central Terminal, if it had been invaded by China.”

The profile also goes through Bourdain’s life, his meal in Vietnam with President Barack Obama, and his time in kitchens across New York. One of his friends, writer Joel Rose, says that the chef was known as “a fixer.” “Anytime a restaurant was in trouble, he came in and saved the day. He wasn’t a great chef, but he was organized. He would stop the bleeding,” Rose says.

Plus, Bourdain’s hard stances on politics in restaurants make an appearance here, too. New York restaurants and the power-lunch crowd shouldn’t be cozying up with Henry Kissinger, who oversaw bombings and genocide in Cambodia, Bourdain says. “I’m a big believer in moral gray areas, but, when it comes to that guy, in my view he should not be able to eat at a restaurant in New York,” he says.

Take a look at the full profile here, and stay tuned for more information on the Bourdain Market.


Watch: Anthony Bourdain Really Loves In-N-Out Burger

Bourdain Market

Pier 57, New York, NY 10011

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