5 a.m., Hong Kong.
Wow. What a long, strange couple of weeks it’s been of celebrated faces and crazy travel. It all started 12 days ago in New York City where I found myself sitting in a make up chair for the Today Show next to Dee Sneider. This was an auspicious beginning to a week of promoting my new cookbook/memoir (as it has been called) because before I my accidental food career began, I was in the music biz, and one of my first jobs was being the “T-shirt puke” for Twisted Sister. T-shirt pukes, FYI, are the low man on the rock tour totem pole. I mentioned this to Dee who was kind, but not nearly as excited as I was about the coincidence of our reconnection. In fairness, lead singers never venture into T-shirt puke territory on the road unless they need some swag for a “special guest.”
My Today Show segment was with Kathie Lee and Hoda. Hoda’s first question for me was something to the effect of “so I understand your mother had a lot to do with this book”. Well, as it happens, my mother has been dead for 30 years (a fact I chose not to bring up), and my recollections of her cooking have more to do with burned chocolate chip cookies than coconut shrimp lollypops. I recovered as best i could and buried the two of them in a little Glutton triathlon for some sweet revenge.
Later that day I attended a party at Hill Country BBQ where I ran into Mario Batali. His empire continues to expand as his waistline shrinks. Mario is one of the coolest guys in the biz and Eataly, the newest addition to his empire, is nothing short of stunning. And speaking of cool guys, I was fortunate enough to have a 3 ½ hour lunch with Jeffrey Steingarten, my food-writing hero, at Ma Peche, a contemporary Vietnamese restaurant that is part of David Chang’s empire. Jeffrey is as enigmatic in person as he is in print, and never fails to amuse with stories about his experiences as a judge on Iron Chef America and columnist for Vogue. I am trying to convince him to publish a third collection of his Vogue articles and offered to work for him for a month for $1 to help him compile the material. BTW, his first compilation, The Man who Ate Everything is a must-read for any inquisitive foodie.
From New York, I flew to Tampa to do a surreal cooking demonstration on a Holland American cruise ship for a fund-raiser for the new Salvador Dali museum in St. Petersburg, FL.. The original Dali museum played a pivotal role in my evolution as a Surreal Gourmet, and I was happy to return the flavor. Before my appearance, I was treated to a half hour tour by the ship’s executive chef of the ship’s cooking facilities. I saw miles of kitchens and walk-in freezers capable of storing 2 weeks worth of food for 1300 passengers and 600 crew members. My favorite part of the tour was the crew mess hall which housed two kitchens, one featuring Philippine food and the other Sri Lankan—designed to keep the crew members from those respective countries happy and well-fed. (note to self: if I ever end up on a cruise, eat with the crew).
Twenty-one hours in the air later, I found myself in Hong Kong having dinner beside the Travel Channel’s Samantha Brown. I had met Samantha in Hawaii while shooting my Kona coffee-picking episode a couple of years ago. And when I say “met”, it was literally a 15 second conversation after which I concluded that she was a bit of a diva. Well as it turns out, I was quick to judge (another note to self: maybe 15 seconds isn’t enough time to sum someone up). Samantha is quite hilarious. As we ate and drank our way through an awesome Szechuan meal, she compared how humans meet for the first time, with the butt-sniffing ritual that dogs go through.
Samantha and I were in Hong Kong courtesy of Discovery Travel & Living (the network that carries Glutton and Surreal Gourmet in Asia), along with the fabulous Janet Hsieh, to host a huge party in celebration of the global rebranding of the network to TLC. For the occasion, they built a life size “replica” of my Toastermobile. (It wasn’t exactly an Airstream, but it was damn impressive non-the-less). To top it off, the chefs at the Four Seasons prepared my bacon and egg dessert for the 400 guests in attendance. Suffice to say, those Discovery-cum-TLC folks know how to have a good time.
And the adventures continue…