AMERICAN WAY: Shifting gears a bit, what, in your opinion, makes a restaurant successful?
BOURDAIN: Total focus. Somebody has to be in charge. The restaurant should have an identity and consistency. You can't be brilliant two days out of the week and not so good the rest of the week. People need to know that if they don't come in for six months, the food is still going to be what they remembered from their last visit. Authenticity is important, too. If you're gonna do Mexican, do it right. Don't cut corners. Use real ingredients and prepare the meals properly.

AMERICAN WAY: A common refrain in restaurants is of employees wanting to quit the business and get a "real" job. Was there ever a time you thought about doing something else?
BOURDAIN: Never. I always recognized that the restaurant business saved my life. I can't think of any other subculture where I've felt as comfortable. The kitchen was the first place I ever learned to respect someone else's point of view. In the kitchen, I gained strength and a work ethic.

AMERICAN WAY: Is it that work ethic that allows you to write books, tape a TV show, and serve as executive chef at Les Halles?
BOURDAIN: Actually, I can't balance all three. I'm not at the restaurant much anymore. I travel seven months a year. I'm still executive chef, but the fact is I'm gone for weeks at a time. Anyone who goes to the restaurant will still see the creative base of what I built there, but the last thing the cooks and sous-chef want to see is a chef with an outside life. I would hemorrhage credibility in their eyes if I tried to walk in and pretend I was still there on a daily basis.

AMERICAN WAY: What else do you have on your plate?
BOURDAIN: I'm doing a cookbook.

AMERICAN WAY: What kind of cookbook?