MILO, Maine — He has traveled the world over and tasted the local delicacies, but he had never before been to Maine to enjoy a plate of bright red hot dogs, baked beans, biscuits, brown bread, fiddleheads and whoopie pies, until now.
As part of a Maine tour this month, Anthony Bourdain, author, chef and host of the Travel Channel’s “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations,” and his film crew stopped in Milo where they had a community baked bean supper.
“Good, really good, world-class, it was a good meal in general,” Bourdain said after consuming all on his plate but three-quarters of a whoopie pie. “I eat and drink for a living. If I ate all my dessert every time you’d need a block and tackle to get me out of the car.”
Bourdain said he decided to visit Milo because it’s the hometown of Zach Zamboni, his Emmy Award-winning cinematographer and cameraman. “He’s been singing the praises of Maine and his hometown for a long time, and I figured it was time to put up or shut up, so we came and decided to make a show,” Bourdain said.
The episode, which will air at 10 p.m. Monday, April 12, on the Travel Channel, is a “very personal” show, Bourdain said, because he got to meet Zamboni’s family and see where he comes from. “I spend more time with Zach than I do with my family, I mean we travel all over the world together.”
Zach, a Penquis Valley High School and University of Maine graduate, said the job has taken him all over the world many times.
“It’s weird to be working at home,” he said. “When I was preparing for [tonight’s show] I was packing all my gear at my parents’ house and that was really strange. You never work at home; it’s always somewhere far away.”
Among the 100 or so who attended the meal, many did not recognize Bourdain and simply ate their meal while ignoring the cameras. Several attendees who did, however, took the opportunity to get his autograph and a photo with him.
“It was really impressive to see someone as successful and famous as him in our small community,” said Matthew Pinkham, of Sangerville.
Dexter teacher Rick Whitney said he didn’t have a clue who the special guest was. Whitney was there with members of the Dexter Regional High School Key Club to support members of the Penquis Valley High School Key Club who were helping with the dinner.
Before Milo, Bourdain, Zamboni and the TV crew traveled to Portland and Rockland, visiting popular eateries along the way, including J’s Oyster, Street and Co., and Conte’s 1984 Restaurant. “Awesome Conte’s,” Bourdain remarked. “That is one of the great unsung heroes, that’s a scholar, a poet and a cook, that’s not a restaurant, that should be a national monument,” he said of the Rockland restaurant.
He also heaped praise on the baked bean meal in Milo sponsored by the Three Rivers Kiwanis Club and headed up by member Val Robertson and her crew. The $1,100 in proceeds from the meal will be donated to a local family whose daughter, a student at Penquis Valley High School, died this week.
“‘I’ve had beans, I’ve had baked beans and pork and beans, but these are some pretty damn good beans,” Bourdain said. “It’s the first time I’ve been to a bean supper, I can tell you.”
Of Maine in general, Bourdain said the first thing that struck him was until he arrived in Milo, he had yet to meet a single person who was actually from Maine. “Portland, Rockland, everyone we met was a displaced person from someplace else,” he said.
Bourdain, who films next in Cuba, said he enjoyed the humor of real Mainers. “It’s dry, real dry,” he said.
“As a New Yorker, when I go to someplace very different from where I live, I treat every place as if I were in a far away exotic land, and this is a pretty exotic place for me,” Bourdain said. “It sure is a hell a lot different from where I’m from. You know, I don’t live this way at all. I don’t know my next door neighbor’s name and I’ve lived next to them for years.”