Photo: Bobby Fisher

Travel-weary Anthony Bourdain finds comfort in a simple, elegant omelet.

January 28, 2017

Back when I used to stand on my feet and really work for a living, cooking and leading cooks in a series of kitchens of high and mostly low repute, I didn't actually prepare much food for myself. At the end of a long shift in a hot, loud kitchen, I preferred the restorative nutrition of a few beers and maybe a street meat sandwich or a greasy slice of pizza before heading home and slumping off to bed.

 Photo: Hector Manuel Sanchez

But once in a while, paradoxically after a particularly grueling night—say, New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day, or Mother's Day, surely among the busiest and most difficult days to work in restaurants—I'd do a hard reset the next day for breakfast by making myself a simple omelet, into which I'd cook julienned smoked salmon and chopped chives. I'd top it with sour cream and caviar, pour myself a cup of coffee or a glass of Champagne, and enjoy a perfect, solitary meal.

My professional cooking days are long behind me, and I now make a living largely on the road, always on my way to or from some far-flung location, to find out how to eat, how they live, and to make fun and creative television out of what I find with some of my best friends. My life has improved immensely from those days of dunking potatoes into hot oil for the nameless, faceless masses of hungry New Yorkers with more money than me—but my omelet breakfast ritual, though practiced somewhat more infrequently these days, remains the same.

 Photo: Courtesy of CNN
 Photo: Courtesy of CNN
 Photo: Courtesy of CNN

After a week or more of cacophonous, spicy, unpredictable street food in Asia, or the best of Italy's pastas and cured meats, or the world's most lackluster hotel and airplane fare—or some combination thereof—I crave the simplicity and perfection of eggs, herbs, and fish. So once I'm home in my own apartment in New York, it feels necessary and right to make myself this omelet as a way to come down to earth for at least once meal. I run to the fancy grocery store for salmon and caviar, gather the eggs and butter and the rest, pull out the nonstick omelet pan, and reassert absolute control over what I'm eating, at least until the next taxi pulls up and I'm headed to the airport once again.

Photos: (left and right) On location in England with food personality and cookbook author Nigella Lawson and chef Marco Pierre White for Parts Unknown, June 2016. (middle) On location in Laos shooting Parts Unknown, October 2016.