Bourdain's fame means that total strangers approach him on the street in cities around the world and ask where he's having dinner. By sheer coincidence, the night before this interview, I bumped into him outside a midtown Manhattan steakhouse. It was the first time we had met. Tall and thin, with an almost Victorian politeness belying the swagger he portrays in his books, Bourdain and I spoke briefly before he strolled alone up Seventh Avenue, disappearing quickly into the night.

AMERICAN WAY: You've got this public persona of being very outgoing and hard-edged, but in person you come across as calm and introverted. Which is the case?
ANTHONY BOURDAIN: I'm very much a divided self. In the kitchen, I'm a control freak. I like a well-ordered universe, and I'm not afraid to yell a little or be profane to get things done. Outside the kitchen, I do things that are more introverted. I write. I'm a reader. I'm neurotic. The difference in my personalities is the difference between me eating and me cooking. When I'm eating, I'm very submissive. I'll tip 20 percent out of obligation, even if I get lousy service. But in the kitchen, I'll take a waiter's head clean off for screwing up.

AMERICAN WAY: That's the voice that comes through in Kitchen Confidential.
BOURDAIN: When I wrote it, I wrote with no fear. I assumed I was writing for a very small audience of cooks. So I used the same voice I use in the kitchen. Very direct. I'm not a guy who should spend a whole lot of time gazing at the universe, though I sometimes do.

AMERICAN WAY: Did you have any idea the book would do so well?