Foods Anthony Bourdain Hated With A Passion

The late Anthony Bourdain – handsome, intelligent, former heroin addict, bad boy celebrity chef. You may know Bourdain from his famous book, "Kitchen Confidential" or his edgy, culinary travel shows, "Parts Unknown" or "No Reservations". "For many, the celebrity chef's death in 2018 felt like the loss of a close and troubled friend," The Boston Globe shared in a review. "If you miss Anthony Bourdain ... Morgan Neville's "Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain" is a salve."

Bourdain was gentle, humble, and hilarious but he was also fervently opinionated and a firebrand. "I think it's in my nature to be a provocateur. A child psychologist would probably say it's an attention-getting device: I want to provoke, I want to get a reaction," he said in an interview with Slate. It's one of the reasons we're fans but also why we can write a piece about the foods the man hated, he was vocal about it! With no further ado, here are the foods that irked the legend.

The third slice of bread in a club sandwich

Are you with him, or are you with him? As much as we adore bread in all its forms, Anthony Bourdain has a point. The club sandwich, or double-decker sandwich as it's known, typically consists of three slices of lightly toasted white bread layered with mayonnaise, bacon, thinly sliced chicken or turkey, crunchy lettuce leaves, and tomato slices. A traditional one would be cut into quarters and each quarter secured with a toothpick. It sounds rather delicious, right? But many establishments don't get it right. They're often ... dry. It's a crime against sandwiches.

"The third slice of bread on a club sandwich, I think, is a satanic invention," Bourdain said in an interview with NPR. In his cookbook "Appetites", he even implied that the double-decker sandwich was scheming to destroy America. The man clearly felt very strongly about this. There are so many delicious sandwich varieties out there, why choose two layers of filling, between three slices of bread? "I'm really irritated by that useless middle slice of bread on the club sandwich," Bourdain told the Los Angeles Times. "It's been there forever; it's not a trend. It's lasted for decades and why, when we can so easily dispense with it?" It's also hard to eat. It's "ruining our sandwich experiences through 'tectonic slide'," Bourdain wrote on Thrillist.

Using a brioche bun for a hamburger

Hamburgers have gone through so many iterations. We've had the wagyu trend, sliders, plant-based burgers (those are here to stay), gourmet burgers with unique toppings, and fusion burgers. In his autobiographical book "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly," Anthony Bourdain wrote: "The simpler the food, the harder to execute well." With that sentiment, he didn't believe the iconic hamburger needed to be messed with at all. To the extent that he didn't even give a recipe for a hamburger in his cookbook "Appetites", but a breakdown of what the best burger is as far as an eating experience and balance.

Bourdain believed the three key ingredients for the perfect burger were a soft squishy potato bun, good-quality meat, and cheese designed to melt well. He was not a fan of the brioche bun trend. "Adding a brioche bun ... is not necessarily making the experience better." He believed the bun should absorb grease, not add grease to the experience. "A proper hamburger bun should retain its structural integrity, playing its role as delivery vehicle for the meat patty until the last bite. The brioche bun, woefully unsuitable for this role, crumbles," he wrote in his Crimes Against Food list. He went as far as to add: "God is against the brioche bun."

Undertoasted muffins in an Eggs Benny

In the final episode of "Parts Unknown", Anthony Bourdain revisits New York City's Lower East Side. It's a place he frequented during his rebel past, it's a place of grit, art, life, abandon and regeneration. The last thing we see Bourdain eat on film is a simple meal, a couple of hard-boiled eggs made by his friend, artist and musician John Lurie. In the scene, Lurie admits he hasn't cooked for anyone before (oh the irony) "I am grateful and honored," Bourdain says. "Eggs, the perfect food."

Bourdain's gripe with most restaurant-produced Eggs Benedict is that the muffin is undercooked. Imagine you get the poaching right (an art), you make a killer hollandaise (which can be hit or miss) and then you undercook the muffin that it all rests on. Fail. "You know it. The lazy cook toasts it under the broiler for a few seconds on one side, leaving the outer surface gummy and raw tasting and lacking the textural note your poached egg and Canadian bacon and sauce desperately need," he wrote on his Crimes Against Food list. Messing up a classic recipe frustrated the chef. It's as if he's saying: "Just get the basics right."

Ruining a Caesar salad by adding chicken

Did you know Caesar salad originated in Mexico? Odd right? Parmesan cheese ... Mexico ... it doesn't make sense. You can read more about its origins here. The reason Anthony Bourdain was so agonized that people added chicken to a Caesar was two-fold. To start with, a traditional Caesar salad doesn't contain chicken. It's made with romaine lettuce, Parmesan cheese, lemons, dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, garlic oil, salt, pepper, eggs, and one-day-old bread (croutons). No chicken. No bacon. These are new additions. One of the reasons Bourdain abhorred a chicken Caesar is because it strays from the tradition.

And because the chicken is always inevitably overcooked and dry. A crime against the tender white meat. In "Appetites", when he shares his classic Caesar Salad recipe, Bourdain opens by writing "Another reason to love Mexico – unless you insist on putting sad, overcooked, characterless strips of grilled chicken cutlet on top of it and mashing it down into landfill. God does not want you to put chicken in your Caesar."

Anthony Bourdain never ate airplane food

It's safe to say that Anthony Bourdain traveled extensively over the course of his career. At the height of it, he was traveling about 250 days a year. He visited numerous countries and cities, exploring different cultures and cuisines. His travels took him to all corners of the globe. While the exact number of flights he took wasn't documented, one thing he did share vociferously was his distaste for airplane food.

"You're not digesting your food on the plane, which is why you feel like a horribly bloated beach ball when you get off," he explained to Travel + Leisure. "The food can't possibly be that good. It can be edible at best, no matter how hard they try. The conditions that they're working in, there's not much they can do." So what did Bourdain eat when he was cruising at altitude? A cheese board of course! And Scotch on the rocks. He believed it was much better to arrive hungry in a new place and eat at a street stall than "arrive gassy and bloated, full, flatulent, hungover. I just avoid airplane food. It's in no way helpful," he told Esquire.

He was never mad about pumpkin spice

Was Anthony Bourdain the first to call it when it came to the death knell of pumpkin spice? He was always ahead of the curve. In 2019, Ina Garten relegated the fall-inspired flavor from her "Hot" list to the "Not" list on the Today Show, saying "I like coffee to taste like coffee." Martha Stewart shares the sentiment. In 2023 she was done with pumpkin spice in her beverages. "For Thanksgiving, I really love pumpkin pie, and I really love apple pie, or apple tart. That does not mean pumpkin latte."

However, Bourdain was less gracious in his thoughts about the seasonal spice mix "I would like to see the pumpkin spice craze drowned in its own blood," he said in a Reddit interview with users. Yikes! When Town & Country asked him what he thought about a similar craze, the Unicorn Frappuccino from Starbucks he answered: "Wow, that's like four things I hate all in one sentence: Starbucks, unicorns, and the colors pink and purple. Also a Frappuccino! It's the perfect nexus of awfulness. Just add pumpkin spice to that mix, and you can nuke the whole county."

As a chef, he was keen on showing meat substitutes the door

If you're vegan or vegetarian, meat substitutes can form a big part of your protein intake. We're talking soya, MorningStar Farms, BeyondMeat and the like. These meat replacement products irked Anthony Bourdain. He was around for the first wave of neo-veganism, and it pissed him off. The opinionated chef once told Playboy that vegans make bad travelers and bad guests and that their dietary restrictions are "rude." "Being a vegan is a first-world phenomenon, completely self-indulgent," he said.

He directed some of this anger toward the products that were gaining momentum at the time. When asked about the lab-grown Impossible Burger, Bourdain shared that as a chef with 30 years of experience, he didn't believe there was any replacement for the texture of meat. Worse still, he didn't like restauranteurs exploiting people by charging a high price for plant-based burgers in a hip restaurant. The only time he softened on the subject was if meat substitutes were going to be used to provide much-needed protein to feed the hungry of the world. Unlikely, but ideal.

He was not a fan of McDonald's Chicken McNuggets

Celebrity chefs have fast food go-to's, just like gym bunnies have a cheat day. In-N-Out Burger, based in California, is a big hit with the big hitters. Gordon Ramsey, Julia Child, Ina Garten, David Chang, and even Anthony Bourdain have admitted the burger franchise is their first choice. "One of my favorite places in Los Angeles is In-N-Out Burger. We don't have those in New York," Bourdain shared in an interview.

But his appreciation of fast food pretty much stops there. In 1983 Chicken McNuggets were launched and local news channels across the US showed people queuing around the block. Stores ran out of chicken. Chicken McNugget mania had hit. Bourdain is more a fan of handcrafted food. He went on record to say that Chicken McNugget was one of the most disgusting things he'd ever eaten. When The A.V. Club asked if it was worse than the warthog rectum he ate in Namibia, Bourdain said: "Given the choice between reliving the warthog experience and eating a McNugget, I'm surely eating the McNugget. But at least I knew what the warthog was. Whereas with the McNugget, I think that's still an open question. Scientists are still wondering."

Johnny Rockets also doesn't get his vote

It all boils down to a depressing experience Anthony Bourdain had at a Johnny Rockets franchise in a deserted airport. It was so bad, that he claimed it was the most "soul-destroying meal experience" he's had. It seems he never shook it or was able to forgive the fast food chain for doing its ... worst. It was on Conan, the late-night talk show, that Bourdain shared his food nightmare.

There was no one else in the restaurant, he explained. The airport was quiet, but behind the counter were two managers, a cashier, and three cooks. "I'm alone there. I'm hungry, I order a burger," he tells Conan. "They throw a cold burger, halfway on a bun, reach into the fry basket for some pre-cooked fries, they don't even dunk it in the grease. They throw a limp pickle on." Now just imagine a tired Bourdain, with nowhere else to look, watching this. He knows this lackluster excuse of a hamburger is heading his way. "They're all standing there in a row, nothing else going on, no other customers, and sort of slid it across at me. All looking at me. And we all stood there silently for a second, sharing this moment of perfect misery. None of us were where we wanted to be." Bourdain continued. "Such things send me into a spiral of misery and depression that lasted three days." After telling his story he added he's "not a fan."

Despite being opinionated about his dislikes, Anthony Bourdain did admit food is a subjective experience

In his life, the provocateur didn't hold back in sharing his strong aversions when it came to food and food preparation. You could think boy, he's got a chip on his shoulder. But ultimately, in true Anthony Bourdain style, it boils down to something quite simple: pleasure. "Anyone who's a chef, who loves food, ultimately knows that all that matters is: Is it good? Does it give pleasure?" That's his yardstick and it's hard not to agree.

Kathryn Schulz of Slate once spoke to Bourdain about the self-righteousness a person can feel about their opinion of food, what is considered "right" and "wrong" to them. The outspoken Bourdain admitted that one of the troubles with our opinions about food is that before we're even out the starting blocks our preferences are embedded in our identity. "It's an extension of ... your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma." The French-trained chef admitted it can make us stubborn and stuck in our ways. "Do not tell a Roman how to make cacio e pepe, for instance," he jokes. Despite the strong feelings he had about different foods, franchises, and fads, Bourdain knew that chefs are more likely to understand the mechanics of taste and because of that, understood that taste is subjective and can vary from person to person.