Anthony Bourdain: Bad Boy Makes Good
07/05/2010 at 01:00 AM EDT
Yes, his daughter Ariane has a fully tricked-out toy kitchen, a chef's hat and apron, mountains of plastic food and a toy oven. But Anthony Bourdain swears he's not trying to turn his 3-year-old into a chef. "Aside from her dating a chef, the last thing I'd like to see happen is her entering the culinary industry," he says with a laugh. "But she wanted it. And I'm the 'spoil the s--- out of her' kind of dad."
The trademark edge may still be there, but Bourdain, 54, is the first to admit that his tough-guy image is no longer accurate. Yes, the former bad boy of the culinary world, who documented his wild years of sex, drugs and haute cuisine in a 2000 memoir, Kitchen Confidential, has become a big old softie. "When you know all the lyrics to Dora the Explorer and you go with your daughter to dance class," he says, as Ariane watches Nickelodeon in the family's Upper East Side apartment, "any notions that you are a 'bad boy' are completely ridiculous."
That much has become clear on his hit travel show No Reservations, now in its sixth season. The Travel Channel series has added family-friendly locales, like wife Ottavia's native Italy, to the mix, so that she and Ariane can tag along on location. "I'm shooting 175 days a year, so I want to have them with me as much as possible," Bourdain says. "Besides, everyone's expecting me to be snarky and mean. Why not do a cuddly family show?"
Friends of the chef's credit much of Bourdain's transformation to his wife, 32, a former restaurant manager. "Tony is still a rebel, but Ottavia has a huge positive influence on him," says chef Eric Ripert, who introduced the couple in 2005. (Bourdain split from his first wife, Nancy, in 2004.) "She is the voice of reason-and in many ways, I think Anthony is more stable because of the fact that he has a family."
That stability had certainly been lacking in his earlier years. A rising star of the culinary scene in the '80s, Bourdain burned out and became addicted to cocaine and heroin. In 1998 he made a comeback as chef of Manhattan's Brasserie les Halles and began writing (his fifth book, Medium Raw, just came out). Clean for more than 15 years, these days he will drink at parties, but that's pretty much it. "All the clichés are true. Being a parent changes everything," says Bourdain. "I never want her to be embarrassed by me. Daddy may have done bad things in his life, but she will never see that side of me."