The Rise of the Bad Boy Chef

Chefs are rock stars these days. (No, we’re not talking about Guy Fieri). They travel the world, performing nightly in front of packed houses for adoring fans, and have growing media empires. Sporting tats, beards and attitudes, these bad boys curse, drink and smash things in pursuit of the perfect souffle. Sounds fun, right? The life as a chef is no joke though. Insane hours, unmerciful pressure, and intensity that would make Wall Street blush, you can see why this pursuit breeds loose cannons, artists, rogues, and scoundrels. Times are good though, from OG Gawds like Bourdain to new school kids with food trucks and alginate, they’re influencing not only cooking, but pop culture and entertainment in more ways than ever. Bow down to these OGs.

Marco Pierre White
Bad Boy Alter-Ego: Keith Richards
The Rep: The OG bad boy chef
Greatest Hits: Three Michelin stars, The Devil In The Kitchen memoir
Indulgence of choice: models, bottles, feuding with other chefs
Signature Diss: “To know how to eat well, one must first know how to wait.”

The first celebrity chef is an unknown in America compared to his one-time protege, Gordon Ramsay (who he once made cry), but in the culinary world, White is the equivalent of Kurt Cobain. The Leeds-born Brit was known equally for his prodigious talent as his epic meltdowns, tearing down the conventions of the traditional button-down chef with a rock star attitude and Rolling Stone cover boy looks. His best-selling memoir about about sex, drugs and truffles launched the careers of thousands of alienated youths (such as Bourdain and Mario Batali) who were looking for a calling and now had a blueprint with White’s work hard, play hard ethos. Not only was White the youngest chef to ever win three Michelin stars, but he was the only one ever to give them back after admitting that he was no longer directly cooking the food he was being praised for. Like Cobain, his star burned brightly, albeit briefly, retiring at 38 because of physical and emotional burnout. Now, in his 50’s, he’s a hack restaurateur, lending his name out to dining franchises (including a cruise ship dining room) in the same way the Rolling Stone’s “Satisfaction” shows up in a Snickers commercial. As the older, wiser, and yes softer, White recently said, “At the end of the day it's just food, isn't it? Just food.”

Anthony Bourdain
Bad Boy Alter-Ego: Iggy Pop
The Rep: The Food Porn Poet Laureate
Greatest Hits: Parts Unknown (CNN), The Taste (ABC), Kitchen Confidential
Indulgence of choice: wanderlust, swallowing more gross things than porn star Lisa Ann
Signature Diss: “Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, and an affront to all I stand for -- the pure enjoyment of food.”

Whether you call Bourdain’s testosterone-fueled eating and drinking explorations across the seven seas “cultural exploitation” or “no-holds barred entertainment,” you can’t deny the egotistical, globe-trotting, rebel-with-a-causes has had incredible success. The two-time Emmy-Award winner has more TV shows than Shonda Rhimes and his best-selling memoir, Kitchen Confidential, detailed the shady underbelly of the New York fine dining scene and set the standard for the celebrity chef tell-all. Having gone from line cook and heroin junkie to the Che Guevara of the foodie revolution, to now a well-respected elder statesmen, he is that rare breed, like Ernest Hemingway and Norman Mailer, who has actually lived the life he’s waxing poetic about. You might not agree with what he says, but you will stop and listen, especially if he’s doing it in-between bites of roasted sheep testicles in quicksand with a band of Ak-47-wielding Congo freedom fighters.

Eddie Huang
Bad Boy Alter-Ego: Kanye West
The Rep: B-boy of Bao
Greatest Hits: BaoHaus, Fresh Off The Boat
Indulgence of choice: weed, bathrobes, late night Twitter rants
Signature Diss: “I don’t do coupons or Reeboks. Life is too short to half-step.”

As documented in Fresh off the Boat, the ABC sitcom-inspired by his life, Huang grew up as an outsider in the Orlando ‘burbs as the “token Asian kid,” finding refuge in hip-hop and basketball. The “real Huang” went on to earn a law degree, moonlighted as a stand-up comic and sold weed before following in his family’s footsteps by opening BaoHaus, a trendy Taiwanese bun shop in the East Village. Known for his irreverent wit and unapologetic candor, he parlayed his initial success on Vice’s Munchies into a book deal that was adapted into a TV show at ABC. Instead of cashing Disney’s checks, he used the broadcast television platform to speak out against the show’s “Panda Express-version of his childhood.” Although the sitcom has gone onto become a hit, Huang went off on epic Twitter rants, disowning his own life story. Now, that’s gangsta! He doubled-down with a scathing editorial in NY MAG that would make Kanye blush, tackling issues of race, power and the emasculation of the Asian male. You can now find the food-centric provocateur hosting Huang’s World, think Bourdain, but with snapback hats, on Vice (where else?).

Ludo Lefebvre
Bad Boy Alter-Ego: Axl Rose
The Rep: The King of Pop (Ups)
Greatest Hits: Ludo Bites, Trois Mec (Esquire, GQ’s Best New Restaurant list)
Indulgence of choice: Ducati’s, tats, foie gras
Signature Diss: “English is not my first language and unfortunately you learn the bad, swear words first. I am going to find a new word, maybe fudge.”

With roguish good looks made for television and a thick accent made for Closed Caption, this dashing culinary artist defies the the stereotype of the portly French chef. After training at some of the finest kitchens in France and as LA’s French l’enfant terrible, he truly found success stateside with an out-of-box concept (Ludo Bites) that validated the pop-up restaurant (reservations crashed Open Table twice), while also making French food less “frou-frou.” You can take the boy out of Burgundy, but you can’t take Burgundy out of the boy, as Ludo might not look like the master chefs he trained under, but he sure knows how to break a plate like one. Known equally for his colorful and complex dishes as his perfectionism and boiling temper, he runs his kitchen like a Foreign Legion drill sergeant and curses like one too. Scary stuff, if we ever knew what the hell he was yelling about. Having mellowed slightly with time, he now runs an incredibly successful family of restaurants with equally-successful LA restaurant gods, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotlo.