On Friday, the first annual Golden Clog Awards will be doled out in South Beach. These, the primi baby of Michael Ruhlman and Tony Bourdain's darkest places and booziest nights, are an alternate universe version of the Beard Awards, complete with real categories, nominees and, for each winner, a statuette for mantelpiece display. Since the emcees of the Golden Clogs here are two of the biggest names in food, their deliberately lo-fi laser light show spectacular may prove one of the hottest tickets at South Beach.
Yesterday, we caught up with Bourdain, who was kind enough to break down the categories and nominees for us, in this, the first annual Golden Clog Awards. And away we go.
EATER: So, thanks for for taking the time, Tony. We’re less than a week out from the awards – THE awards – and the buzz is going to be palpable any second now.
First question. How did the Golden Clogs come about?
Tony Bourdain: The Golden Clogs came about over too many beers and late night yakitori. Me and Ruhlman, drunkenly ranting and raving. Having foolishly announced the damn things while still impaired, we quickly set about trying to gain a thin veneer of respectability by contacting an "advisory" panel or "nominating committee" of luminaries like Dara Moskowitz, Ed Levine, Mario, Michael Symon , Jennifer Leuzzi--and others who'd rather not have their good names in any way associated with this abomination.
I am reliably told, however, that the Food Network (the SOBE sponsors) are in a state of permanent ass-clench over this whole thing.
EATER: What’s Mario’s licensing fee for the name?
TB: No way. The Golden Clogs is now a registered trademark of yours truly. Like he needs the money anyway...
EATER: Abomination? But on some level, the food community does need a good trophy, no? Other than the Food Network Awards. Is this not it?
TB: Sure. The Beard Awards make the Golden Globes look like a beacon of democracy. But me and Ruhlman sure ain't the solution. I think--if you' examine the categories and nominees--and scrutinize the actual decision making process determining who gets to go home with the gold (spray painted baby clog), one realizes that Ruhlman and I are NOT the right guys for the job of running--much less attending--an alt Beard award..
Our obligation, at this point, I think, is more along the lines of pay homage to those we think deserve a name check from the likes of us...and deliver a good natured knee to the groin to the rest.
To their credit, some "winners" have graciously agreed to play along. Unless they've been "reached" since then. There have been some suspicious "disappearances" from our roster of attendees. And... it hasn't been the most heavily publicized of events at SOBE shall we say...Coincidence? Or CONSPIRACY!?
EATER: Conspiracy. Lee Schrager, Sobe Honcho, has tried twice already to cut our wifi over this very dialogue. Fact.
So, let’s break down these categories. The FURGUS. Martin Picard of Montreal's "Au Pied de Cochon" vs. David Chang of New York's "Momofuku Noodle Bar and Momofuku Ssam and ..." vs. Chris Cosentino of San Francisco's "Incanto.” The East Coast favorite has to be Chang, but Cosentino has some real serious chops. Dude knows pig sweat glands. Plus, he’s already in cahoots with Ruhlman (see Astor Center dinner). Who’s going to take this one?
TB: Tough call...as we're all in the guts mafia. Ruhlman's had more massages from Cosentino--so I KNOW which way he's voting. I like Chang. You can't over-praise what he's doing.
EATER: Offal aside, have you had Chang’s rib eye with the potatoes sautéed in bacon fat? And, more importantly, do you have a your reservations locked up at Ko? Dana Cowin does.
TB: No and no.
EATER: Have the rib eye.
So, frankly, the ALTON bores us. Comment on it, if you like, otherwise let's move on to the MARIO. Colicchio, Keller and Batali. Any of them could fly into Chicago, buy every restaurant in the city and still have money left over to fly home private. Despite the nasty, whorey deal Batali has with Ernst Benz, is there any way this one doesn’t go to Colicchio?
TB: Mario Himself was committed to present his namesake award. yet cancelled for a golf date with Jimmy Buffet. Really. I feel like I've been jilted for Kenny Loggins. Winner? Tough call. Me and Ruhlman are both craven worshippers at the Church of Keller. I doubt He would be pleased to win. I have to sit next to Tom C on Top Chef four 12 hours at a time...And I want a free watch from Mario. So it's gonna be neck and neck.
EATER: Ok, the ROCCO. Firstly, was Rocco eligible for this? If yes, why isn’t he nominated for his Conde Nast cafeteria stunt? If no, why not?
TB: After season two of the restaurant? he'll never top that. Plus, he has generously offered to present his namesake award. Unless Scripps owns A&E, I fully expect him to show.
EATER: Among these nominees, Ramsay, Burke, and Florence, who is your pick and why?
TB: Likely winner? Burke will survive HWT and continue to prosper. Ramsay will not make any less money--and probably lots more. (I LIKE Kitchen Nightmares) And what did Tyler have to lose? Tough call. Winner is whoever has the balls and sense of humor to show up.
EATER: This brings up an important question, TB. How, exactly, are these winners going to be decided? We know whomever schmoozes best gets Levine’s vote in each category, but in general – majority rule? Have any of the judges made known their price?
TB: It's important to note that neither Levine nor ANY other member of our distinguished advisory panel has ANY say in the final decisions or voting. All winners will be decided at the Raleigh pool the morning of the event by me and Ruhlman over bloody marys--or at last minute on stage during the event after free and frank exchange of views with each other and audience.
EATER: Noted. Back to the awards. CHEF’s CHEF is actually a great category, because all three of these guys can really cook. Vetri seems like he’s going to run away with this one, or will his likely dominance of the Beard Awards actually work against him here? And, who’s your pick in this category?
TB: A good example of why neither me nor Ruhlman should EVER even vote in a legit awards show. We're hopelessly compromised. I admire Scott Bryan and want him to do well in all his endeavors. Kahan has done me many a good turn--and I love Avec. I have no idea who will win. Depends on how fervent Ruhlman is on Vetri.
EATER: CAT CORA. Irvine has the zeitgeist momentum here, no? Then again, seriously, Mr. B. WTF? Would it kill you to open a burger place?
TB: Ruhlman thinks I'm a shoe-in for this one. Irvine is a clear, late-in-the game, come-from behind favorite.
And I'm having too much fun post-restaurant business to ever want to worry about somebody slipping roofies to minors at any bar I own. Cause after 28 years I know better. Cause I'm well aware of my limitations. Cause I'm having too much fun. Cause I may be old but still too young to die.
Later this week, part two of our convo with Bourdain, in which we touch upon such important topics as the seating chart, the epic Manrique v. Cosentino battle for the SWOLLEN LIVER award, Bourdain's theoretical acceptance speech and the after party.