BOURDAIN: Absolutely not. Contrary to what the publisher told me, I had no clue it would be a bestseller. I had no idea it would sell beyond the New York area, let alone be published in 20-some-odd languages and be sold in bookstores around the world. I mean, I was a guy who had never paid his rent on time. Now I have success and a new career in writing and a TV show. It can be pretty overwhelming sometimes.

AMERICAN WAY: Last year's reality TV show The Restaurant seemed to be inspired by your book.
BOURDAIN: Before my book, what you saw on TV was nothing but happy chefs. What I did was write an Inside Baseball for the restaurant business. It tapped unexpectedly into a whole group of people who wanted to see what goes on behind the kitchen door.

AMERICAN WAY: Chefs are notorious for their egos, yet you write of sitting down to eat with other chefs all the time. What happens when you get together?
BOURDAIN: It's a love fest. We're all lucky guys who got where we got through hard work and luck. No one will believe it, but there's very little artifice. There are few chefs who aren't really modest in private. We're very driven and have to make quick decisions in the kitchen, which is how chefs get a reputation for ego. But I can't tell you how many times I've talked to a great chef and he's said, "I'm just a peasant." The sad truth is that at the end of a long day in the kitchen, if you get a bunch of chefs together, all we want to do is talk about cooking, about what to eat, and about food and drink.

AMERICAN WAY: Is there anyone among that bunch who stands out?
BOURDAIN: Mario Batali. He's the most positive example of the celebrity chef.

AMERICAN WAY: What's he like?