World-renowned chef Anthony Bourdain has done it all, from writing New York Times bestselling novels to appearing on Bravo's "Top Chef" -- so hey, why not a graphic novel? We caught up with him this week in New York to discuss "Get Jiro!," the tale of an old-school Japanese cook who chops the head off of anyone who dares ask for a California roll.
What inspired you to develop this book?
I was a chef for 30 years. I knew I wanted to do something that came out of that obsession with the details of food. I wanted it to reflect, in a satirical way, the prejudices that come with having worked in a restaurant as a chef, and feeling that some things should just be done a certain way. Also, I wanted to incorporate some influence from all the cool films I ever saw -- spaghetti Westerns, samurai flicks, kung fu films and the cool stuff that I grew up reading in graphic novels. I wanted it to be fun; I wanted the food details to be correct; and I wanted it to be bloody, and maybe a little funny.
In the opening scene of the novel, Jiro is seen chopping a guy's head off for ordering a California roll.
This guy is an old school, Edo-style sushi guy. This is a guy, Jiro, who presumably is known for working within a certain traditional style. So to go in and ask a guy like this for a California roll, which is an American thing ... it's worse than an insult. It's a completely unreasonable expectation. It's like going to the New York City ballet and asking them to do the twist.
This is a "passion project" for you. What would you say is the importance of a side project?
If you can do it, I totally recommend doing it. What person who grew up loving comic books and graphic novels, given the opportunity to do a graphic novel, wouldn't do it? I found myself at the opportunity to do a graphic novel, and I did. It is my privilege.
Sounds like you've gotten a lot of satisfaction out of doing it, even without the sales coming in yet.
F-- the sales! This is not a commercial venture. This is about the pleasure of picking up that thing and looking at the beautiful artwork that Langdon Foss delivered. It's a new way of telling a story that's deeply satisfying as a former comics nerd, collector and wannabe artist. It's a little boy's dream come true.
“Get Jiro” seems to be heavily influenced by Japanese culture. Have your worldly travels influenced the creation of your graphic novel?
No doubt — mainly my travel experiences in Japan and my increasing intolerance for people who disrespect the craft of sushi. People who refuse to respect the amount of work that a great sushi chef has put in, or the amount of time.