The Afternoon I Holed Up in Bender's with Anthony Bourdain
Filming the San Francisco episode of No Reservations (the show airs on the Travel Channel network August 10) was similar to the other times I've hung out with Anthony Bourdain. It was all drinking and eating, only this time with cameras around. A little back story: Tony and my husband, Oscar Villalon (former books editor for the Chronicle), have been friends since Kitchen Confidential first came out in 2000.
Mary Ladd The nasty bits: The Bender's Bloody Mary, crowned with a beef stick.
In March, Tony's producer emailed Oscar to let him know the show was coming to town. Did he want to participate? I offered to help by jumping on the email and phone chain, and ended up eating a HUGE meal in San Francisco a week later with the show's scout, who insisted on having me ham it up for his digital camera. My food-nerdy emails to the crew continued, but they already had some locations and ideas in place. Oscar and I promised we'd keep all location discussions under wraps, as well as not leaking where Tony was staying. We're still not spilling the beans.
For one Sunday shoot (we were there for three shoots total), we were supposed to meet Tony and crew in the afternoon. Oscar and I were pacing, waiting for the call from the producer to say we were good to go. But typical of any TV production, the timeline changed: Rather than proceeding directly to the location, we'd need to stow away with Tony somewhere, preferably at a bar. I said, "Bender's" to Oscar after he hung up the phone, and sure enough, Bender's was the bar Tony's crew had picked, too.
We needed to have a drink and cool our heels while the crew finished filming elsewhere. The scout, Tony, Oscar, and I sidled up to the bar. Tony and I had draft beers, while Oscar tried the stellar Bloody Mary, complete with beef stick, killing a good 45 minutes together. Three people approached Tony while we talked and drank. The crew had vehicles to drive us the five or so blocks to the shoot, but Oscar and I wanted to walk. Tony joined us, and together we showed him more of the Mission.
Two or so hours later, after wrapping at the location, I asked if I could eat Tony's leftovers. He couldn't finish -- doing so, he said, would be "python eating," the kind of gorging that results in food coma.
I know: Eating someone else's leftovers deserves an ew reaction. But hey, they did taste soooo good.