Why Anthony Bourdain Hated Johnny Rockets

Anthony Bourdain was a great many things, but chief among them was a man who didn't keep his opinions to himself. As anyone who read his books or watched shows like Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown or Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations knows very well, if the chef, author and TV star didn't like something or someone, the world was bound to find out sooner than later. This could easily be a problem, since Bourdain's putdowns were famously savage, and the man's high public profile meant that they were virtually guaranteed to make the news. Just ask Guy Fieri, who had to endure a long string of Bourdain's insults over the years.

Bourdain didn't exactly mince his words when it came to restaurants, either. Though he was essentially a TV show host for much of his life in the limelight, The Guardian reminds us that the man had more than paid his dues in various kitchens, holding virtually every position from dishwasher to chef over the years. As such, when he said that a restaurant wasn't worth his patronage, it came from a place of knowledge. 

One of the establishments that faced his verbal fury over the years was Johnny Rockets, the popular burger chain with a classic Americana twist. But what could have angered the late, great celebrity chef enough to badmouth the company? Did he simply hate the singing-and-dancing-employees gimmick, or could there be a deeper reason for his ire? Let's find out why Anthony Bourdain really hated Johnny Rockets.

Anthony Bourdain's Johnny Rockets-themed tweetstorm

The world found out about Bourdain's primal loathing of Johnny Rockets in 2013, when the chef tweeted his grievances about a particularly disappointing airport meal in 2013. "The cold, pre-cooked burger patties and old fries at otherwise empty airport #JohnnyRockets a nice touch," he wrote, complete with a characteristically expletive-laden hashtag that indicated he wasn't a fan of the franchise's lack of commitment. Because that apparently wasn't enough to express the full spectrum of his emotion, he immediately fired again, escalating his impromptu review into threats of physical harm. "If there's a real Mr Rockets, I'd like to hurt him. #JohnnyRockets #ProudlyInedible," Bourdain tweeted. A few minutes later, a third take on the subject followed: "Shameful, shameful basket of uncaring, unconscionable s***. #JohnnyRockets #noKindOfBurger."

This angry mini-tweetstorm made it seem that the Johnny Rockets location he'd visited had accidentally offered Bourdain a plate of garbage, and his Twitter followers soon started sharing their own negative experiences about the chain's fare. "What's more upsetting is what they charge for that crap burger," user @sigmaluv replied to Bourdain. "They got no respect for the food. Better off digging into the trash bins throughout the airport," @Holly_DelRey concurred, with the hashtag #plasticpatties to really drive the point home. 

Then again, some people pointed out that Bourdain's experience probably wasn't limited to Johnny Rockets, and could be applied to airport food in general. As @CWinetime put it: "Yeah, airport food gives a whole new meaning to 'parts unknown'." 

Anthony Bourdain hated Johnny Rockets because of the food and the staff's attitude

So, it's pretty clear that Bourdain didn't much care for Johnny Rockets. But exactly how bad could that burger have been to provoke such a reaction?

The thing is, it wasn't just about the food. Bourdain was a trained, professional chef, and as such, he also appreciated the art of cooking. Per EaterJohnny Rockets was indeed responsible for the single worst airport meal of his life, and the meal was evidently so bad that he was still actively complaining about it in 2016 — during his appearance on Conan, no less. "I've eaten a lot of really nasty things on my show, but nothing as soul-destroying as my airport Johnny Rockets experience," Bourdain stated (as posted on YouTube). 

Part of the problem was the sub-par quality of the food, sure. However, the thing that seems to have gotten to him the most was the complete and utter lack of dedication from the passive, robotic workers, who displayed an utter lack of enthusiasm. The whole experience was so awful that Bourdain insisted it temporarily broke him. "Such things, rightly or wrongly, send me into a spiral of misery and depression that lasted for three days, so it was really the most soul-destroying recent meal experience," he said. "Not a fan." 

Bourdain may or may not have been exaggerating the experience a tiny bit, but this "moment of perfect misery" was clearly not among his favorite memories.