Editor’s note: Telluride Inside… and Out’s monthly (more or less) column, Tall Tales, is so named because contributor Mark Stevens is one long drink of water. He is also long on talent. Mark is the author of “Antler Dust” and “Buried by the Roan,” both on the shelves of Telluride’s own Between the Covers Bookstore, 224 West Colorado Ave, Box 2129. He is also a former reporter (Denver Post, Christian Science Monitor, Rocky Mountain News) and television producer (MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour), now working in public relations. Mark also now writes theatre reviews for TIO. (His most recent was about “Other Desert Cities now at the Denver Center.) The following blog qualifies: what could be better theatre than the “Good vs. Evil” stage tour featuring chefs Eric Ripert and his tourmate (and tour-menter) Anthony Bourdain? The lively event was held in CU-Boulder’s Macky Auditorium on April 14.

Anthony - Eric 1Bourdain v. Ripert.

Evil (that would be Bourdain) v. Good (Ripert)?

Well, hardly a smack-down.

Staged, partially scripted humor.

A gentle jab here and there between these two celebrity chefs but after two hours at Macky Auditorium in Boulder on Sunday (April 14), you could tell these two are friends, despite the contrasting styles and backgrounds. One wore black jeans; the other blue.

One, Ripert, is the Buddhist gentleman chef (or so the legend goes) who runs the ultra-classy and wallet-draining Le Bernardin in New York City.

The other, Bourdain, the former heroin-shooting and former cocaine-snorting rock star chef who has toured the world eating and thinking about culture and food for his former television show, “No Reservations.” He’s the rock star bad-boy of sorts and no doubt picked the cover version of “Who’ll Be The Next in Line” (an old Kinks classic) that preceded their arrival on stage. (Think it was the Mudhoney version, but the Queens of the Stone Age version is still far superior.)

But both are highly visible on a variety of food shows on television; both have been judges on “Top Chef,” for instance, and know their way around a network television contract.

Bourdain is a bit more the outlaw, the poet, the Kerouac, the beat. Ripert is the (allegedly) more refined, more polished, more upscale.

It’s Bourdain who will now travel back alleys and remote villages of the world for his new food show on CNN, “Parts Unknown,” and it’s Bourdain who will, in fact, consume parts unknown.

So for the first 90 minutes of this extremely loose “show,” the two grilled and skewered each other, albeit gently. Hardly a roast; more like a slow braise. They took turns sitting in a cheap metal folding chair with a bright light overhead.

The F-bombs fly. The M-F bombs fly. But it’s easier for Bourdain to find inconsistencies in Ripert’s hallowed image. Bourdain has been a warts-and-all guy since writing “Kitchen Confidential.”

A few things we learned:

• Ripert works hard not to be abusive to his staff in the kitchen because eating food should be a happy experience. “You cannot mix anger and happiness at the same time,” he says.
• Ripert thinks Gordon Ramsay (“Hell’s Kitchen”) is a bad role model.
• Bourdain to Ripert: “What does it cost to eat at Le Bernardin?” Ripert: “Lunch or dinner?” Bourdain: “F___ Lunch.”  Ripert: $375 for dinner. Per person.
• You can’t get a cheeseburger at Le Bernardin – but maybe if you are former French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
• Both Bourdain and Ripert have eaten roasted ortolan. That’s a small European songbird that is eaten whole, bones and all, in one bite. Traditionally, the eater hides his face behind a napkin while consuming the birds, which have been fattened in a dark cage prior to being drowned in Armagnac and, then, roasted.
• Despite preaching peace and mindfulness, Ripert once punched a diner in the face and cursed-out his wife because the couple’s overt racism toward a waiter.
• Bourdain’s wife, Ottavia Busia Bourdain and a mixed martial arts specialist, “eats so much protein it’s like being married to a wolf or Chuck Norris.”
• After giving up cigarettes six years ago, asserts Bourdain, “my life has improved in no way at all.” (He smoked two to three packs a day for 36 years).
• Bourdain about drug use: “I F___’d up in every way you can F___ up and it seems to be paying off.” “I’m on CNN, bitch.”
• Bourdain has patched things up with Emeril Lagasse and Rachel Ray, two Food Network chefs he trashed in “Kitchen Confidential.” But his wrath for Paula Dean remains solidly intact.
• One of Bourdain’s proudest moments is writing a role for Emeril in Treme, the HBO show about post-Katrina New Orleans, in which Emeril dropped an f-bomb.
• One key thing that redeemed Rachel Ray, Bourdain points out, is her taste in music. “I found out late in my campaign of mockery that she’s a New York Dolls fan.
• According to Bourdain, a vegetarian who goes to Thailand, a country with thousands of years of food history, and insists on eating only vegetables “is like going to the Louvre and saying you’ll only view the paintings that are in blue and black.”
• Bourdain was just being a good guest in Namibia when he consumed the roasted pig rectum, which left him violently ill.
• Boneless chicken wings, according to Bourdain, are a sure sign of national weakness. “How can we ever be expected to defend our borders if we are too lazy to gnaw chicken off a bone?”

During the audience Q&A (Macky Auditorium was full but not packed), Ripert and Bourdain counseled would-be chefs about how to get into the business, mostly with dire warnings about the difficulty of the industry and the messed-up (that’s a mild way of putting it) individuals who dominate the kitchens.

But one audience member wanted to know from Bourdain about his writing process. “Show up on time every day,” said Bourdain. “And read Elmore Leonard.”

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