He's the bad boy of the kitchen, the type of guy you'd never take home to meet your mother. Tall, rail thin and sporting a gold earring in his left ear, the native New Yorker is a self-confessed former heroin addict, smokes three packets of cigarettes a day and drinks like a fish. His mission in life is to find the perfect meal and he hates vegans - especially the ones from Berkeley, California. Anthony Bourdain is our current chef du jour at a time when celebrity cooks are lucky to last longer than it takes their proverbial souffles to deflate. He may lack the lisping, chirpy excitement of Jamie Oliver, the seriousness of Gary Rhodes and his seasonal specials or the brashness of Gordon Ramsey. And he is no match for the Food Goddess. But then again, it would be hard for anybody to compete with Nigella Lawson's pouting sexiness, especially when there's a bowl of whipped cream in sight. None of this appears to bother Bourdain because he's no fan of 'those celebrity chefs' across the Atlantic. In fact, he sneers, Oliver achieves the impossible and 'lies twice in three words' by calling himself The Naked Chef. Whether he likes it or not, Bourdain is part of the celebrity chef brat pack and will always be compared with Oliver et al. However, what sets him apart is his kamikaze approach to everything he does - and eats - and his wry, James Ellroy-type humour. Plus, he can write. Bourdain burst onto the scene in 2000 with the launch of his book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. A kiss-and-tell account spanning 25 years - drugs, sex and all - of his life as a line cook in New York, the book literally jumped from the frying pan and into the fire, setting the literary world alight with its no-holds-barred account of the underbelly of New York restaurants. So successful was Kitchen Confidential that the television rights have been snapped up by Darren Star Productions, producer of the now defunct Sex in the City, which plans to turn the book into a weekly series later this year. Bourdain is tight-lipped on the stars of the show. '[But] they are driving forward pretty quickly and I will likely be consulting for the show,' he says from his home in New York City. 'When I wrote Kitchen Confidential, I thought at best it would be a cult book. But now it's been translated into 23 languages. The prospect of turning on the television and seeing my life being played out is mind-blowing. 'I never expected this; to travel the world and hang out with chefs who I've admired. It has come as a surprise and I will go along for the ride as long as it lasts.' Proving he's no flash in the pan, Bourdain was keen to keep the momentum going and set off on a trip around world for his next book, A Cook's Tour. His aim? To find the perfect meal. And he was willing to try anything and everything to achieve that: sampling an assortment of crunchy bugs throughout Asia, choking down a leathery iguana (a former hotel mascot) in Mexico, and tossing back a still-beating cobra heart washed down with its warm blood and bile in Saigon. He's rocked the Kasbah in Morocco with roasted sheep testicles, matched vodka shot for vodka shot with Russian gangsters, lived life on the edge with fugu, the deadly puffer fish, in Japan, eaten kangaroo in Australia, tried his hand at an AK-47 at the Gun Club in Phnom Penh, taken us back to where he had his first oyster as a child in France and fallen in love with the food and people of Vietnam. A camera crew documented his adventures for a companion series, resulting in the executive chef of Les Halles restaurant becoming an unlikely household name via The Food Network, especially after the macabre cobra incident was aired. (Bourdain has since switched networks and can now been seen in Hong Kong on the Discovery Travel and Living channel.) Curiously, he's also written a few crime novels: Bone in the Throat, Gone Bamboo and The Bobby Goldsmith Stories as well as Typhoon Mary: An Urban Historical. And oddly, for a celebrity chef that is, he's only just released his first compilation of recipes: Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook. Do a search for Bourdain on the internet and you come up with tens of thousands of hits, some of them amusing, some downright stupid, but most of them repetitive. We play a game of 'true or false and why' with some of the gems. 'He's tall, dark and angry,' says one fan. 'And knows his way around organ meat.' 'True and false. I don't know if I'm angry but I do know my way around organ meat,' he responds. 'He is the Hunter S. Thompson of cooking.' 'I am flattered because obviously he was a huge influence on me as a kid. But I don't know if it's true.' '[Anthony] Bourdain is the James Ellroy of the kitchens: all dark, swaggering and full of stomach-churning aerobatics.' 'Very peppy prose,' he says of this description in Spike magazine. 'But I don't have a hard time with it because I like him [Ellroy]. Again, I'm flattered.' 'He's the Lou Reed of the culinary world.' 'I don't know what we have in common except we are both former heroin addicts. But it is painfully true in some ways.' Bourdain is planning to shoot a second series of A Cook's Tour later this year. Again, he'll be heading into the unknown, visiting countries he's never been to in his quest for the perfect meal. Two places he's keen to explore are Hong Kong and China. 'China is such a gigantic subject and so new to me,' he says. 'We will invariably head into the provinces. A lot of the decisions we [Bourdain and his crew] make while on the road are personal and based on the people we meet and connections we make ... so it could take us anywhere. 'I haven't been to Hong Kong before but I've heard it is a foodie wonderland and I am really looking forward to it. We will be there in the spring or shortly after. I don't know people in Hong Kong but I can reach out. I want to go to a wet market; I love that whole idea.' Bourdain will also take in Scandinavia, Peru, South Africa, Hungary and New Zealand in this series. Book tours, writing, the occasional vacation and travelling seven months of the year means Bourdain doesn't get into the kitchens of Les Halles much these days. He is still the executive chef of the Manhattan bistro, but says he is only the 'front man' these days. 'I don't serve any useful purpose there at the moment,' he admits. 'But I'd like to think I can get my old job back. I am still very close to the crew and the owner and I occasionally do a couple of vanity shifts there. I miss the camaderie of the kitchen and the crew.' When his busy schedule finally winds down, Bourdain has promised himself a sabbatical, and will head to Vietnam in December to live for a year, where he plans to kick back, clear his head and write another book. 'I love Asia and I am particularly goofy for Vietnam,' he says. 'I fell in love with the people and the country and the food [while filming the last Cook's Tour],' he says. 'The book will be non-fiction and about the experience in general, not just about food, although I will always look at the world from the perspective of a cook.' Bourdain says Nancy, his wife of nearly 20 years, will be staying in New York during his year off. 'I'd rather not talk about that,' he adds. '[But] I will be living near Hoi An [a Unesco world heritage town on the country's central coast]; we shot two shows there for our first season. 'I think I will stay in the one place for most of the time. I like that area and I imagine at first I will be a local curiosity. I don't speak the language, but I will pick it up while I am there. At the very least I will learn the language.' Ask Bourdain about his worst meal and he's unequivocal: a 12-course vegan 'feast' in Berkeley, California. 'I would like to think that given the choice of being a good guest that I'd eat what was being served. They had some terrible, awful substance they said was a substitute for cheese and cream ... the food was bad.' Take the topic further and mention the raw food movement and you can literally feel his hackles rise, sparking a long tirade against the 'inhuman' rules of this subculture. 'When I think of the raw food movement, I think of jackboots in the distance - and the worst of its sins is it's boring,' he says, warming up to the topic. 'It is abhorrent and makes me angry.' Mention his best meals and he's in heaven. But after racking up thousands of kilometres travelling around the world for A Cook's Tour, Bourdain has finally realised there is no one 'perfect meal'. 'It is a combination of things, he says, 'best white table, best French ...' He was humbled by the tasting menu at Thomas Keller's legendary French Laundry restaurant in California's Napa Valley, but in the same breath talks about a dumpling soup he had in Taipei 'that was as good as anything I've ever had', while in Vietnam 'there is something [delicious] to eat on every corner'. 'The criteria change and there is so much good food in the world,' he says simply.