Comic fans and Bourdain-obsessives could not wait to get their hands on Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi, Anthony Bourdain’s second food-related comic and the prequel to his 2012 graphic novel Get Jiro!, when it dropped on Tuesday of this week. The comic follows “ultra-violent sushi chef hero” Jiro as he pursues his love of cooking while also working for his father’s mob.

According to Bourdain, the Jiro character and scenario stemmed from a single incident: Bourdain was eating by himself at a very good sushi bar in New York called Sushi Yasuda. Chef Yasuda, a lifelong practitioner of full-contact karate, was at the bar making sushi for his guests. That’s when three “wealthy, arrogant, flashy meatheads” walked into the restaurant and proceeded to commit one of the worst sushi faux pas known to man: they poured a big bowl of soy sauce, loaded it up with wasabi, then blindly dunked the nigiri rice-side down into the soy-wasabi slurry. That’s when Bourdain thought, “Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if Yasuda could just reach across the counter and kill them?”


We caught up with Bourdain last night at Brooklyn’s Book Court, where he spoke about his G.O.A.T. sushi experience, how food porn translates to illustrations, and why caring too much is a smothering instinct.


jiro

(Cover art by Dave Johnson)

On His Best-Ever Sushi Experience

“I had a meal at Masa in New York with my friend, Eric, where the sommelier at Per Se came over and matched monster French wines with every course. And Masa, the chef, was enjoying the wine with us. So it was a convivial—and wildly expensive—evening. And then there’s Jiro Ono’s place in Tokyo, from the film [Jiro Dreams of Sushi]. Twenty-two courses in about 20 minutes. I mean, it’s unbelievable. Just thrilling.

The difference between good sushi and extraordinary sushi is the difference between a Prius and a Ferrari, or rural Texas and Mars. Your breath is taken away, you feel confronted—almost brutally—with your own ignorance. You say to yourself: I didn’t know it could be this awesome. It’s just little things, like good rice—really good rice. It’s shocking and life-changing.”

https://instagram.com/p/1FXZA5MIYb/


On Supermarket Sushi.

“Have I ever had supermarket sushi… no. I’ve had utility sushi, and I’m not opposed to conveyor-belt sushi. It’s fine.”

On illustrations vs. Instagram food porn.

“People like food porn, that’s clear. I don’t know whether you guys are like me, but every time I go out to dinner now—whether I’m with chefs or friends—everyone whips out their phone and has to Instagram their plate before they eat. Like, it doesn’t exist until you Instagram it. And it’s not just porn, because with porn, presumably you’re making something to make people feel good. When you Instagram your food, you’re hoping to make people feel bad! You’re saying, Look what I’m eating and you’re not! It’s an aggressive act, but clearly an effective one. And I don’t know if we ever thought about that when we were doing the books. Like, do we want people to feel good or bad when they’re looking? You know what? I’d rather people feel bad. I’d rather they look at the food and go, Oh god. Goddam it. Why am I not… fuck! Why am I not eating that!?

[In terms of illustrated “food porn,”] I would refer you to Oishinbo, which is almost photographic in its quality. I think it was one of the best-selling Manga series ever. It’s incredibly informative, just loaded with what many might think of as boring content: exactly how miso is made, how sake is made, how they raise pigs for various dishes.”

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On not giving a shit.

“I scrupulously avoid ever thinking about who will read this. It’s a smothering instinct, it’s bad for you. If I had asked the question ‘Who will read this?’ when I wrote Kitchen Confidential, I never would have been able to write the book. I assume no one was going to read it, which was an incredibly liberating thing. I’ve joked that not giving a shit is a successful business model—I mean, I’m joking about it, but there’s truth to that. If you start thinking what people expect, what the public wants, that’s when you start aiming solidly for the middle. And that’s not good.


Same thing with everything i do. When I’m making television, I never think: Gee, will they like it? The people who liked it last week, will they like it next week? That’s a terrible way to live. I always think about: What are the writers like on Season 15 of Two and a Half Men. They’re thinking about: What do they want? What do we have to provide? I’d rather hang myself in the shower than go to work thinking that. Doing the same thing every single week because it works… that’s hell.”

https://instagram.com/p/b6LCldMIfo/


On doing a show about tentacle porn.

“We did a show largely about hentai and tentacle porn—you know, the dark, quirky side of Japanese pop-culture. And we sent it off to the network and held our breath. They didn’t say a thing; we got nothing back. And this was some pretty disturbing shit. Then a couple days later, the head of CNN calls me into his office, and he sits me down, and has this look I’ve never before seen on his face—it’s almost frightened—and he says: ‘Tony, the Japan show did really, really well in the ratings. Who do you think watched it?’ I said ‘Jeff, look, I don’t know, but a week before the show came out I sent out a Tweet saying: Be sure to tune in Sunday #hentai. He got this look of sheer terror because even though it’s good news that the show did really well, it’s because of a huge body of people who apparently appear on no known metric.”

unnamed-1Photo: Erin Mosbaugh