Raw Craft’s Host Anthony Bourdain Continues a Journey to Show Us Remarkable Craftspeople
Written By: Xan Estin Anthony Bourdain
At William Grant & Sons’ The Balvenie’s “Raw Craft” series in September, we had the opportunity to interview a culinary creative alongside a brand that fits his own well. The Balvenie comes to be through curated craftsmanship, from a distillery that grows its own barley and utilizes its traditional floor maltings. Anthony Bourdain is a man who puts in all the work, curates each experience he displays and has created a brand that many know and respect. Anthony Bourdain, chef, author and documentarian, opened up about his personal influences, the lessons he has learned along his journeys, as well as exclusive details of master craftspeople by bringing us The Balvenie’s “Raw Craft.”
Q: You refer to your featured artists as “marinating in training.” How long does it take for them to become masters of their craft?
Anthony Bourdain: Boy, that depends on what they’re doing and I think you’d get wildly divergent answers from the various craftspeople. There’s a Japanese term ‘Shoshin’ which means ‘beginner’s mind.’ I know a lot of artists’ do say they have not reached that point and will never tell you they feel they have mastered it. For a lot of people I believe it’s an ongoing process. In the Japanese way of looking at things you try to show up everyday assuming you know nothing.
Q: According to you, how does one become the master innovator of a craft?
AB: I do Jiu Jitsu, and if you do a thing 10, 000 times maybe you’ll get good at it. Repetition, repetition, repetition.
Q: What is the distinction between science and magic of a finely tuned craft?
AB: I will never know the answer to that question, but I don’t know that I want to. The best moments on the show are when you lose sight of that difference. You think, ‘Wow! I’m not sure what this is or how it happened.’ There was a moment in the knife making process where you see this wave of heat suddenly work its way through the knife and you think, ‘Whoa! Dude.’ The craftsman is explaining scientifically what’s happening but it doesn’t make any difference. It still looks like magic to me.
Q: You referred to crafts as ‘the gateway to the soul.’ Does that mean you can always recognize a master based on their innovation?
AB: I think so. The best craftspeople always use their personal vision, voice, preferences, and passions. It is impossible for them to not put that imprint into their product. You see it certainly in Elizabeth Brims’s [blacksmith] work. All of them feel this is the way it should be and there’s a distinctive feature that sets them apart from others who are working in the same area.
Q: All of these valuable tools are exemplary in their innovative area of focus. What is the key to pursuing artistry with such determination?
AB: A little twinge of insanity, perhaps. Don’t discount it. Whatever it takes. It is an insane urge to write a book. It’s a foolish enterprise. Normal people wouldn’t do such a thing. What would drive you to work a year or years on something that probably will not pay off? Why would you think anyone would be interested in listening to your story? It takes an abnormal personality to persevere up against that kind of logic. I think these are not ordinary people that set themselves apart. A little touch of insanity.
Q: What’s next for “Raw Craft”?
AB: We are looking at a whole new group of craftspeople. All of them are very exciting, and we shall see.
Tony the TV Personality: You can also catch Anthony Bourdain on shows like “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown.”
Cook Like Tony: Bourdain is an author of numerous culinary escapades, but his latest “Appetites: A Cookbook” is his first cookbook in over 10 years. Flip the pages to discover his finding from traveling (and tasting) the world. You’ll be sure work up an appetite.