In your TV show, 'No Reservations,' you fearlessly eat your way across the world. Have you ever turned down any food anywhere?
I have yet to turn down food. Anywhere. I try very hard to be a good and grateful and appreciative guest. Chances are, the culture where I'm eating has been doing it longer and better than mine. I consider myself fortunate to be there, and try to act accordingly.
Your first book, 'Kitchen Confidential,' changed dining out in America by advising restaurant-goers never to order fish on a Monday if they enjoy fresh fish or order a steak well done if they prefer unspoiled meat. What else can you advise us when it comes to the inside story on smart ordering while eating out??
Things are much better now -- with fish markets, with the quality of food handling in general -- and the prospects of a restaurant meal. There is a sense of pride and raised expectations in kitchens now that didn’t exist when I started out. Eat in busy places with a menu that’s tightly focused with a real identity -- meaning they know what they’re good at and not trying to be everything to everybody -- and you’ll be fine. Specialization, a busy place, a visible sense of pride are good things to look for. A slow place with a big menu or "half price" deals or all-you-can-eat? Not so good.
How many times have you gotten food poisoning?
Just a few. Nothing too serious. My crew -- who are more careful and fussy about street food, get sick more often -- almost invariably from the hotel buffet or Western-style businesses.
What’s the No. 1 stomach-churning thing you’ve eaten and lived to tell the tale? And is there any one everyday American food you can’t stomach?
Lightly grilled warthog rectum. I avoid American fast food whenever I can. I never eat chicken McNuggets.
What’s your healthiest habit?
Do you make New Year’s resolutions, culinary or otherwise?
No resolutions. I'm realistic
Do you have a guilty-pleasure food?
KFC’s macaroni and cheese. I’m SO ashamed.
What kind of food did you grow up eating?
My mom was a good cook with a small but very decent repertoire of French and American classics. We ate at fairly adventurous restaurants for the time: Chinese, Japanese, Swedish. And of course, I spent summers in France, eating classic bistro and brasserie and home cooking.
What’s your go-to dinner for surprise dinner guests?
You’re making a big mistake if you think you can get a surprise dinner off me. My refrigerator is empty. We're going out to dinner -- or calling out for pizza. I’m a New Yorker!
What disease or condition would you most like to see eradicated in your lifetime and why?
Well, other than AIDS, breast cancer, the obvious answers ... I think it’s disgraceful the rate of morbid obesity and type 2 diabetes among children in this country.
If you could eat just one type of cuisine for the rest of your life, what would it be?
What’s the worst culinary trend you’ve witnessed in your career?
Fusion. And molecular gastronomy. [Spain’s star chef of El Bulli fame] Ferran Adrià is a genius. Chances are, the guy imitating him is NOT. As far as fusion, I’d more often than not eat authentic Thai rather than fake Thai.
You became a father in April 2007. How has this experience changed your views about your own health and the health of the planet?
I try to feed my daughter healthy things -- so she has the opportunity later to make her own choices. I quit smoking for her. Because I obviously can’t smoke around her. And because -- while dying early was once my own prerogative -- I now feel an obligation as a 51-year-old new dad to at least try and be around for her a bit longer. Beyond that? My feeling is you’re on your own.
How do you relax and recharge from your globetrotting?
A beach, a palm tree, pile of books, and a beer.
Originally published in the January/February 2008 issue of WebMD the Magazine.