Born in 1956 in New York, Bourdain grew up in Leonia, New Jersey. He remembers his passion for food was ignited as a young boy and on a family vacation in France where he tried his first oyster on a fisherman’s boat. His father was a man who placed significant emphasis on food and the experience it created, cultivating an environment where the practice of tasting and eating together was not taken for granted.
In 1973, Anthony graduated from Dwight-Englewood School, going on to attend Vassar College but dropping out after two years. While attending Vassar College he worked as a dishwasher and line cook in seafood restaurants in Provincetown, Massachusetts, sparking his decision to pursue a culinary career. In 1978 he graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and went on to work in and run multiple New York restaurants including the Supper Club, One Fifth Avenue, and Sullivan’s.
In 1997 he published an article in The New Yorker titled ‘Don’t Read This Before Eating’, exposing the culture and lifestyle of line cooks and Chefs across New York and North America. Eventually, in 1998 he became the Executive Chef at Brasserie Les Halles, a famous fine-dining restaurant in New York. From there Anthony’s career both expanded and diversified. His article in the New Yorker led to multiple other writing projects including a best-selling book in 2000 titled Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, which expanded on what he wrote about in his New Yorker article. Following in 2001, he wrote A Cooks Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines, a detailed account of his travel adventures and experiments with exotic foods.
Not only did Bourdain’s career expand into writing, but he has also hosted a number of television shows. In 2002, Bourdian hosted A Cook’s Tour for two seasons on the Food Network, featuring his exotic culinary adventures across the globe. His most critically acclaimed show was Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, exploring a similar dynamic as A Cook’s Tour and running for nine seasons.
Throughout his television career, he continued writing and publishing. In 2008 he wrote a crime fiction novel titled Bone in the Throat and was also published in publications including The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Observer and many more. Today he hosts a show called Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown where he explores often unknown cultures and cuisines across the globe.
If there is one thing, and one thing only, you need to know about Andy Ricker it is his passion for Thai food. Obsessed doesn't begin to describe Ricker fascination with the Northern Thai cuisine and style of cooking . He has dedicated his life to learning and understanding the intricacies of Northern Thai food, its flavors and the way those flavors come together on your palette.
After Ricker finished school, he set out on the adventure of a lifetime, backpacking across the globe. Traveling throughout New Zealand, Australia, Vietnam and Thailand, Ricker working in a variety of kitchens learning different culinary cuisines. After about four years of travelling Andy returned back to America, looking to plant roots. Eventually he decided on Portland, Oregon as a place to settle down. Working for a few years as a line cook and then as a painter, Ricker decided he was tired of punching someone else’s clock and wanted to be his own boss. The next step was trying to figure out how to do that.
At the time, a friend of his was travelling around Thailand so Ricker decided to go visit him. Catching up with his friend in the Northern region of Thailand surrounding Chiang Mai, Ricker devoured a bowl of soup that was like nothing he ever tasted before. The flavour profile, combination of spices and broth with herbs he had never seen before completely stunned and intrigued him From that day forward, his life would be forever altered.
After dedicating a significant amount of time to studying Northern Thai spices, cooking methods and techniques Ricker returned to Portland, Oregon. Upon his return he started selling traditional Thai charcoal-grilled game hens and green papaya salad out of a shack. It wasn’t long before he gathered a large following and saw an opportunity to expand. Broke and in debt, he borrowed money from his mother to buy a house and turn it into a restaurant he named Pok Pok. Initially, Ricker used the main floor as the kitchen and dining area and lived on the second floor.
Pok Pok immediately found great success and was nominated for Restaurant of the Year in 2007 by The Oregonian, only one year after opening. Ever since Andy’s passion for Thai cuisine and his restaurant has only grown. Today he owns eight restaurants, two in New York, two in Los Angeles and four in Portland, and maintains plans to continue growing. At least once every year he travels to Thailand to refresh his palette and continue his learning. He is dedicated to presenting America with the most accurate representation of Northern Thai cuisine he can muster.
In 2013, Anthony Bourdain and Andy Ricker travelled to Thailand together for an episode of ‘Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown’. In his show, Bourdain travels across the globe to explore little known destinations and diverse cultures. In this episode, Ricker acts as a tour guide for Bourdain, taking him to all his favorite local stops to try flavorful, and often daring, cuisine Northern Thailand has to offer. The episode conveys Ricker’s clear admiration and appreciation for the cuisine as he details and explains each flavor profile to Bourdain in great detail. While Ricker has committed his life to understanding every facet of Northern Thai cuisine, Bourdain aims to explore as many cultures and cuisines as he can get his hands on. Inevitably, this dynamic duo makes for a thoroughly entertaining episode and as they entertainingly drink and eat their way across Chaing Mai.
Based on the above mini bio’s, it is clear that Andy Ricker and Anthony Bourdain have many similarities and differences. Both, at a fairly young age, developed an intense affinity for food and culinary cuisine, leading them into successful careers. Interestingly enough, each of their passions for food has taken a very different path. Bourdain does not appear to have a passion for one specific style of genre of food but a genuine curiosity to try as many different type of cuisine as he can get his hands on. In contrast, Ricker has clearly dedicated his life to food from the most Northern Region in Thailand, developing an intimate understanding of one very specific genre of food. Fostering flexibility for Bourdain and focus for Ricker, each have followed very different paths within the world of food, whilst neither shy’s away from experimenting with new cooking styles.
The careers of both Bourdain and Ricker both began in the kitchen. Both starting as dishwashers and climbing their way up the kitchen, they both have developed intimate relationships with the kitchen restaurant setting. While Bourdain may have started in the kitchen, he certainly hasn't stayed there. Venturing into other career paths including writing and television hosting, Bourdain has not restricted himself to the kitchen, if anything he has moved past it. The common theme amongst his television shows has been the exploration and discovery of new styles of cooking and food. Moving beyond the preparation and presentation of food, Bourdain has rediscovered his passion in the experience of eating and enjoying the culinary delights presented to him. Ricker tips the other end of the scale, mainly defined as a chef and business owner. His passion has led him to explore an intimate relationship with the world of Thai food, allowing him to become, what some might say, the North American Thai expert. He is dedicated to accuracy, yet shy’s from claiming authenticity. He is aware he is an outsider, though the Thai community in both Thailand and America seemed to have welcomed him in with open arms. The contrast between Anthony Bourdain and Andy Rick is incredibly dynamic. Both starting in the same place, they have found themselves executing their careers entirely differently while maintaining exciting commonalities.
Although it is clear that Anthony Bourdain and Andy Ricker are extraordinarily different people, they do have one significant thing in common, their genuine, un-faltering passion for food and the culinary arts. Whether its through Bourdain’s travel and constant appreciation of different food or Ricker’s intimate obsession with the cuisine of Northern Thailand, both have spent their lives exploring different palettes and contributing their talents to the world of international cuisine.