Alan Richman Responds to Bourdain: 'He Is a Living, Breathing Low Blow'

Alan Richman
At this point in Anthony Bourdain's career, public insult is pretty much par for the course. Even so, Bourdain's loathing for Alan Richman is almost unparalleled: Not content to nominate him for a "Douchebag of the Year" award two years ago, he's dedicated an entire chapter of his latest book, Medium Raw, to the GQ critic. It's titled, somewhat predictably, "Alan Richman Is a Douchebag."

In it, Bourdain slams Richman for his decidedly unfavorable review of Les Halles, which was published weeks after Bourdain nominated him for the aforementioned dubious honor. Bourdain describes the critic's decision to review the restaurant, where he was once the chef and still acted as a consultant, as, metaphorically speaking, "a vicious sucker punch" to "my old girlfriend from junior high -- whom I haven't seen in years." At the conclusion of the chapter, after tallying Richman's other crimes (unfavorably reviewing New Orleans' post-Katrina restaurant scene, etc.), Bourdain writes, "Alan Richman is not a douchebag. He's a cunt."

When we contacted Richman to get his thoughts on the matter, he would not comment directly about Bourdain's book, except to say, via email, "Bourdain is beneath contempt, and his book is beneath commentary." However, he was interested in addressing a question we had: Why had he chosen to do that Les Halles review in the first place? His answer to that question -- and his answers to several others -- follows after the jump.

Why did you choose to review Les Halles, which was not a new restaurant or even a particularly distinguished one?

You know, dozens of journalists commented on and speculated about that review when it came out two years ago, but you're the first to ask me why I wrote it. That was the blog world mentality in action -- opinion is better than information.

I clearly had one motive in mind when I set out to write about a restaurant in which Bourdain was involved -- to comment on Bourdain. Even back then I felt he shouldn't be allowed to get away with his unending onslaught of slurs and insults, not just at me. For better or worse, I believe in an old-world system of honor, which doesn't involve turning the other cheek. At the time, and maybe even now, Les Halles was listing him as its chef-at-large. When I telephoned the restaurant, I was told he acted as a "consultant." And, finally, he had just filmed a segment of his show in the restaurant. Certainly, that made the place fair game.

I wrote the piece with the intention of getting even with Bourdain. I admit that. But I had no ill-will towards Les Halles. To be honest, Bourdain is such an untalented cook that I expected it to be better than it was when he worked there. Instead, I found an appalling restaurant, one of the worst in New York. Read the review. Even more disgusting than the food was its dishonorable exploitation of Bourdain's fame. It was serving 600 meals a day, an unimaginable total, and if they were all like mine, nearly inedible. I think, in retrospect, it was one of the most useful and serviceable reviews I've written -- nobody else had said how dreadful one of the most crowded restaurants in New York had become.

Why did you fail to mention Bourdain's Douchebag Award in your review?

It was not Bourdain's invective that I found insulting. It is Bourdain the person that I found (and continue to find) offensive. That's what I was countering, not his idiotic words. I didn't care then and I don't care now what he calls me -- he is a man without a vocabulary, capable of nothing except name-calling. Because that word at that time had flashed through his infantile mind was of no concern to me.

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