Favorite entrée from an island? The whole roasted pig from Bali. Unbelievable. And bull-foot soup in St. Martin — it’s kind of like ox tail, but it’s a hoof.
Favorite island cocktail? Whatever the local beer is. I’m not a cocktaily guy. But if I were in Venice at a swank establishment and a situation called for a cocktail, a Negroni is a good choice these days.
On your recent trip to Hawaii, what was the best and worst thing you ate?I expected to have some really bad, bogus stuff there. I liked that spam sushi! It was kind of awesome. I ate a lot of good food there. I like the laulau as well. When you’re getting into that salty, savory, porky sector, I’m a happy guy.
When you travel, are your producers finding things, or are you? All of the above. Being a chef is like being in the mafia. It’s like you call your local guy in New York and say, “You know somebody in Hawaii?” When you go to certain places, you kind of have to go kiss the ring, anyway. You have to pay respect to the local guy, whether in Singapore or São Paulo. Being a foodie is really an international thing now. You go to any three-star kitchen, and the staff is from all over the world. If I know the place pretty well, I might have a lot of connections there. I have as much creative control as anyone ever in the history of television, from music to editing. I work with close friends. It’s like being in the band.
Your No Reservations show from Jamaica was great, showing a different side of the island. Yeah, from the getgo, I said, let’s do a Jamaica show, but I don’t want to see a beach unless it’s maybe a beach for the locals. I wanted to see Kingston, shantytowns — local only — as few white people as possible. No resorts, no sailing scenes, no scuba. What do local people like to eat after a couple cocktails at 2 in the morning?
ISLANDS is footing the bill. What and where are we eating? Japan’s an island, right? [laughs] There are a lot of nice places in the world, but for the most bang for the buck, if somebody else is paying, we’re going to be eating some sushi. If they’re willing to pay 300 or 400 or 500 dollars a pound wholesale for raw fish in Japan, I think we could probably do pretty well there.