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Saturday, July 15, 2006 

Anthony Bourdain...Beirut Confidential

Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain was stranded in war-ravaged Beirut yesterday after Israeli forces bombed the city's international airport and blockaded all of Lebanon's ports.

The best-selling author of "Kitchen Confidential" flew to Beirut on Sunday with a camera crew from his Travel Channel series, "No Reservations," to do a show on the local cuisine. But after the thunderous assault on the city in response to Islamic extremist group Hezbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers, Bourdain and his crew holed up at the Moevenpick Hotel while they waited for evacuation instructions from the State Department.

"Our network, our friends and our families just want us out of here as soon as possible," Bourdain told Page Six yesterday afternoon, as Israeli shells exploded in the distance. "We're not getting a show out of this . . . I just wanna hang out and drink at the bar. The mojitos here are great.

"They're bombing right now in southern Beirut. I can hear the explosions. The thing is, the people here are really, really nice and totally embarrassed by Hezbollah and horrified by the bombings."

After spending Monday and Tuesday eating his way through Beirut and befriending locals, Bourdain and his crew partied at local nightclubs into the wee hours. "This is a party town," he explained. "Everyone in this city is [bleeping] gorgeous. It's like L.A. It's a totally international, sophisticated city. Everyone speaks English and throws dollars around."

Bourdain - who once consumed the raw, still-beating heart of a snake on camera, and who's traveled to the likes of Cambodia and North Vietnam in search of exotic eats - seemed mostly unfazed by the bombings, even though it was his first time in a war zone.

But many Lebanese who fear Israeli reprisals will get worse were streaming out of Beirut yesterday. "The roads to Damascus are packed with every Lebanese with a Rolodex," said Bourdain, who is the chef-at-large at Park Avenue South bistro Les Halles. "They're all heading toward Damascus."

Lebanon is one of the hottest summer vacation spots for Saudis, Emiratis, Kuwaitis and others, as well as for the huge Lebanese community in the Gulf. Lebanese tourism has enjoyed a spike in recent years, as many Gulf Arabs stopped vacationing in the United States after the 9/11 attacks. - PageSix New York Post

I like this guy. He used to have a show on FoodTV but he so despised the other chefs (and vice versa I suppose) that they parted ways.

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