Sitting in a corner of the new Midtown location of New York restaurant Sake Bar Hagi, countless plates of Japanese food surrounding him, Anthony Bourdain begins talking about porn. Food porn, that is.

I don’t mean the perfectly-lit avocado toast photos on your Instagram feed and Pinterest board, but the lavish descriptions of sushi that fill his new graphic novel, Jiro: Blood and Sushi. As the title implies, the loving odes to sushi almost outnumber the body count in this Tokyo-set dystopian gangster story. Almost.

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I’ve asked about what makes good food writing, because Jiro: Blood and Sushi contains plenty. And it may be hard to remember in the wake of his TV series No Reservations, The Layover and Parts Unknown, but Anthony Bourdain first became megafamous for his memoir Kitchen Confidential. “Food is an emotional thing that should be experienced emotionally,” Bourdain says. He counts off the qualities of good food writing: “A genuine passion for the subject,” “ a sense of humor and to not be a snob,” and “a vocabulary, because it is like writing porn—food porn. There’s really only so many words you can use to describe the experience, and the more you have available, the better.”

Blood and Sushi is a prequel to Bourdain's 2012 graphic novel Get Jiro!, a similarly violent and food-centric tale. Bourdain wanted to be a comic book artist until his mid-teens. "In a lot of ways, it's a late in life opportunity to live out my first dream," he says. It's also a return to his teenage years in other ways: "I’m creating a book that I would very much have liked to read when I was growing up. As a 14- or 15-year-old boy, I was dissatisfied with the level of violence and sexuality in the graphic novels I had access to," he says.

Bourdain is quick to mention Japanese directors and writers as he talks about the Jiro series and he describes his first visit to Tokyo in 1998 as "a truly life-changing experience." He explains that Blood and Sushi is "more of an exaggerating riffing on Japanese films than an accurate portrayal of Japanese culture. I forget what the entire body count for an average year in Japan is, but I think we kill off about twenty times that in just one day in this book."

Bourdain says he may write another sequel or prequel in the Jiro series, "as long as we're doing something new." He takes a similar approach to his CNN travel/food series Parts Unknown, currently in its sixth season. Asked if he can see running out of, well, "parts unknown," he points out, "It's a pretty big world and there are always going to be interesting places that we haven't been before, but also, there are many worlds within the world we know." Like his Los Angeles episode focusing solely on Korean and Korean-American food. "I'd love to go back and do another L.A. show and pretend that no one lives there who isn't Mexican or Salvadoran or Central American," he says.

This isn't the first time BUST has interviewed Bourdain—he was previously featured in our Boy Du Jour series. At the time, he spoke to us abut sexism in the restaurant industry, so I ask for an update.

"I think the tenor has changed," he says. "What is acceptable behavior in kitchens I think has thankfully changed, a lot, like a real lot. When I started twenty years ago, it was really a towel-snapping, locker room attitude where behavior was very, very different than it became even 10 years ago. I think it is marginally or even greatly improved and become more civilized and appropriate and welcoming to women, but on the other hand, it’s still got a long way to go."

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He adds, "I’m always sort of uncomfortable when I’m asked about this because I’m the last person in the world to talk about it without sounding like I'm mansplaining!"

If this is mansplaining, Anthony Bourdain, you can mansplain to us whenever you want.

Image via CNN

Published October 10, 2015

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Erika W. Smith is BUST's digital editorial director. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @erikawynn and email her at erikawsmith@bust.com.

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