If celebrity chefs are the new rock stars, what to make of a rock star who hosts a food show? Steven Page, former vocalist for the Barenaked Ladies, is the host of "The Illegal Eater," a new TV program about underground restaurants, black market ingredients and other food items of clandestine or controversial origin.
Premiering October 22 at 9 p.m. EST, 10 p.m. PST on the Travel+Escape channel, "The Illegal Eater" sends Page on the road across Canada and the United States to eat things he's not supposed to. The show's title seems a little cheeky considering Page's well-publicized arrest in 2008 for drug possession, but the singer says he's in on the joke.
"It is a bit of a wink, sure. It was the producers' idea and they wanted to make sure I was comfortable with it. But I get it. I've always been known for being self-aware."
Page describes himself as a food lover ("foodie is a bad word, apparently") and an avid home cook who first became interested in seeking out unique local cuisine while touring with the band. And while he admits to a period of infatuation with famous chefs, he also says he's done with the typical restaurant experience.
"Part of me is over restaurant eating. Sometimes I think, 'that was three hours I could have spent at home, cooking.' I don't need to always be seeking out the best spot in town like it's a notch on my belt.
Interview continues after slideshow
New York City-based chef Eddie Huang has been controversial since he first gained acclaim for his bao eatery, BaoHaus. The marijuana-loving, fouth-mouthed chef has slagged fellow toques the likes of <a href="http://eater.com/archives/2012/06/25/eddie-huang-calls-marcus-samuelssons-new-memoir-an-embarrassing-exercise-in-condescension.php">Marcus Samuelsson</a> and <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/24/fashion/eddie-huang-defies-description.html?_r=0">David Chang</a>, and his recent book, "Fresh Off the Boat," is <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/24/fashion/eddie-huang-defies-description.html">already turning heads</a>. On the positive side, at least Huang can <a href="http://blogs.villagevoice.com/forkintheroad/2010/10/eddie_huang_res.php">take a bad review</a> from Sam Sifton, even if he did say reading it <a href="http://blogs.villagevoice.com/forkintheroad/2010/10/eddie_huang_che.php">felt like being yelled at by his dad</a>.
Everything we could say about Anthony Bourdain, you've likely heard already. The drug-addict-turned-executive-chef-turned-television-star has a sharp tongue when it comes to his likes and dislikes, the latter which often include <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/26/anthony-bourdain-paula-deen_n_937908.html">other celebrity chefs</a>. His antics have gained him a fervent following, but a good share of criticism, as well -- some people are <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2012/10/anthony-bourdain-food-too-macho.html">getting tired of his shtick</a>.
Oh, Gordon Ramsay. These days, you're the chef everyone loves to hate. Ramsay's <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2173601/Gordon-Ramsay-screamed-f----black-b----claims-US-chef-Controversial-claim-racist-phone-rant-published-major-new-autobiography.html">in-your-face and often controversial personality</a> is the prime appeal of television programs in which he stars, "Hell's Kitchen" and "Kitchen Nightmares," and has earned Ramsay a fearsome reputation worldwide.
Need we remind you of New York Times critic <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/14/dining/reviews/restaurant-review-guys-american-kitchen-bar-in-times-square.html">Pete Wells's epic takedown of Guy Fieri's recently opened restaurant</a> in Times Square? We thought not. Fieri is a popular target of scorn for foodies, but his restaurant is still in business -- you do the math. He still landed on <a href="http://www.gq.com/entertainment/celebrities/201212/least-influential-people-2012#slide=11">GQ's list of least influential people for 2012</a>, though.
Rachael Ray's cutesy catchphrases like "yum-o!" and "delish!" are ripe for mockery -- <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/anthony-bourdain-stirs-trouble-rachael-ray-article-1.368815">Anthony Bourdain knows what we're talking about</a> -- but the Food Network star remains one of the channel's most popular draws.
Paula Deen needs no introduction. The butter-loving Southern cook stirred up controversy when she announced her diagnosis of diabetes -- just as she revealed an <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/17/paula-deen-diabetes_n_1210049.html#s617801&title=7_Ribs_Casserole">endorsement deal for a diabetes drug</a>. Throw in a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/05/paula-deen-brother-sued-sexual-harassment_n_1321679.html">sexual harassment lawsuit</a>, and you've got one polarizing chef. Despite all, she still has a devoted fan base.
Marco Pierre White
Marco Pierre White was once called the first <em>enfant terrible</em> of the food world -- in his first moments of celebrity chefdom, White developed a reputation for <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/3334070/Marco-Pierre-White-I-will-never-speak-to-Gordon-Ramsay-again.html">ejecting customers from his restaurants when they asked for salt or pepper</a>. Granted, he's calmed down quite a bit in recent years -- he even shells for <a href="http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/restaurants/knorr-stock-cube-is-secret-to-marcos-success-7220156.html">Knorr boullion</a> now.
Sandra Lee may be the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/03/sandra-lee-food-network-s_n_778273.html">first girlfriend of New York state</a> and a Food Network star to boot, but not everyone is a fan of Lee's semi-homemade brand of cookery. Anthony Bourdain once called her Kwanzaa cake -- a frosted angel food cake with a can of apple-pie filling in the center garnished with corn nuts and pumpkin seeds -- a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/magazine/you-cant-ruffle-sandra-lee.html">“crime against humanity.”</a> We won't go that far, but one does have to wonder what she was thinking.
Nadia Giosia, the namesake and host of "Nadia G's Bitchin' Kitchen," takes a punk approach to cooking -- but not everyone is on board. Nadia boasts a rabid fan base, but some are <a href="http://foodnetworkhumor.com/2011/12/nadia-gs-christmas-video/">turned off by her pseudo hardcore shtick</a>.
Todd English has enjoyed celebrity chef status since arriving on the scene in the late 1980s. He's been lauded for several of his restaurants -- and named in <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/09/todd-english-lawsuit_n_2101390.html">numerous lawsuits</a>. He's also landed in the tabloids thanks to his <a href="http://gawker.com/5379312/todd-englishs-cold-feet-wedding-scandal-prenups-press-plays-and-domestic-abuse">rocky personal life</a>, and he recently was accused of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/15/tully-wilson-chef-wanted-todd-english_n_2131917.html">failing to deliver on a promise to a reality show contestant on Food Network program "Chef Wanted."</a>
Jamie Oliver's bid for healthier school lunches has <a href="http://www.caterersearch.com/Articles/01/07/2010/334134/jamie-oliver-regains-top-spot-in-the-caterersearch.com-100.htm">earned him praise</a> as well as <a href="http://eater.com/archives/2012/12/21/gordon-ramsay-slams-jamie-oliver-says-he-needs-a-fucking-good-wash.php">criticism</a>. At least he has a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/22/epic-meal-time-kidnaps-jamie-oliver_n_2528483.html">sense of humor</a> about it.
"There was a time in the '90s and early 2000s when I idealized Alice Waters and Mario Batali — bumping into him was like meeting Paul McCartney for a minute. I remember years ago going to the now-closed Alain Ducasse restaurant in New York — it was so over the top. For the squab course they would bring you a selection of handmade knives and you could choose which knife you wanted to use; when the cheque came there was a selection of 10 different pens to sign your name. It was ridiculous.
"Sitting next to me was a table of dot-com people who were listings off the places they had been, it didn't sound very fun, it sounded like stamp collecting. What's more important to me now is an appreciation of what makes a town unique and what is the purpose of serving this food. I think that's why I was comfortable with this show.”
The illegal eateries of the show's title range from unlicensed markets to private homes to secret distilleries. Page calls what they are doing "a legal grey area," citing the battle for food trucks in Toronto, or the right to consume raw milk products.
"There are all these rules for things that aren't necessarily unsafe," he says. "Sometimes they are banned for other reasons, primarily trade reasons."
While the show doesn't dwell on the "ick" factor of far-out-there food or extreme eating challenges Page did have to put some weird things in his mouth, such as the balut egg, a Filipino specialty.
"It's a fertilized duck egg," he explains. "There is actually a fully developed embryo in the egg. I'm not squeamish, but feeling the little bird's feathers in my mouth, and its head…it's big. You have to bite it. I couldn't do it, and then I thought, 'Am I a cultural snob?'
"I don't want to offend someone. Meanwhile the chef is laughing her head off. She admitted she hated them."
The video for "Lovers In A Dangerous Time" from the 1991 Bruce Cockburn tribute album "Kick at the Darkness."
Cover of the Ladies' first album, "Gordon", released in 1992. Their debut included now well-known tracks like "Enid", "If I Had $1,000,000", "Brian Wilson" and "Be My Yoko Ono."
From the official music video for "Brian Wilson", from 1992's "Gordon".
From the beginning of the "One Week" music video from "Born On A Pirate Ship", released in 1996.
Barenaked Ladies, photographed in West Palm Beach, Fla., in December 2000, while on the road promoting their new album, Maroon.
Steve Page, left, and Ed Robertson of The Barenaked Ladies arrive at the MuchMusic Video Awards in Toronto Thursday, Sept. 21, 2000.
Barenaked Ladies' Steven Page performs during the Music Without Borders Live in Toronto Sunday October 21, 2001. The Barenaked Ladies have been around for 13 years now and they say it’s high time they compiled a career retrospective.
Kevin Hearn left, of the Barenaked Ladies speaks about having had cancer as Ed Robertson listens during a news conference prior to a benefit concert to raise money for cancer research in Vancouver Thursday Oct. 10, 2002.
Kevin Hearn musician and member of the Canadian band "Barenaked Ladies". He plays Keyboards amongst several other instruments including the guitar. Jan. 8, 2002
Premiere After-Party For A Mighty Wind
LOS ANGELES - APRIL 14: (U.S TABS AND HOLLYWOOD REPORTER OUT) Singer Jack Black (3rd L) and actor Michael Hitchcock (2nd R) pose with rock band Barenaked Ladies at the party after the premiere of 'A Mighty Wind' at the Directors Guild on April 14, 2003 in los Angeles, California.
2004 Juno Awards - Show
EDMONTON - APRIL 4: The Barenaked Ladies perform onstage at the 2004 Juno Awards at Rexall Place on April 4, 2004 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The Junos celebrate excellence in Canadian music.
2004 Toyota Concert Series On The Today Show With Barenaked Ladies
NEW YORK - JULY 9: Lead singer and guitarist Ed Robertson of the band Barenaked Ladies performs at the 2004 Toyota Concert Series On The Today Show July 9, 2004 in New York City.
Ontario NDP Leader Howard Hampton, left behind, waves to supporters as he walks with local candidates Gene Lara, left, Marylin Churley at a campaign stop in Toronto Monday, Sept . 29, 2003. Steve Page of the rock group Barenaked Ladies is at right. Ontario voters are going to the polls on Oct. 2.
Canadian NDP Leader Jack Layton Campaigns In Ontario
TORONTO, ON - JUNE 10: New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton (L) stands on stage with Stephen Page of the Barenaked Ladiesgives before giving a speech at a campaign rally in the race to elect the next prime minister of Canada on June 10, 2004 in Toronto, Canada. Layton's New Democrats could form a coalition government with the stumbling Liberals under current prime minister Paul Martin.
UK: Barenaked Ladies Play Carling Apollo
LONDON - APRIL 29: The Barenaked Ladies perform at the London stop of their UK tour at the Carling Apollo Hammersmith on April 29, 2004 in London. Their new album, 'Everything To Everyone,' was released April 19.
Hockey For Heroes 3 On 3 Hockey Tournament
UNIONDALE, NY - APRIL 16: Tyler Stewart #18 of the drummer from the rock group Bare Naked Ladies participates in the Hockey for Heroes 3 on 3 Hockey Tournament on April 16, 2005 at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.
Live 8 Concert in Canada
BARRIE, CANADA - JULY 2: Stephen Page of the Barenaked Ladies performs during the Live 8 concert on July 2, 2005 in Barrie, Canada. The goal of the Live 8 series is to raise awareness of poverty and debt relief for third world countries.
Live 8 Concert in Canada
BARRIE, CANADA - JULY 2: Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies performs during the Live 8 concert on July 2, 2005 in Barrie, Canada. The goal of the Live 8 series is to raise awareness of poverty and debt relief for third world countries.
Barenaked Ladies singer Steven Page, left, Ron Sexsmith, middle, and Leonard Cohen sing to thousands of people on Saturday, May. 13, 2006 in Toronto, Ont.
The New York police mugshot of BNL frontman Steven Page and his then-girlfriend, 27-year-old Christine Benedicto, after the two were arrested in New York and charged with cocaine possession in 2008. Page admitted to smoking cocaine, according to the <a href="http://www.nationalpost.com/most_popular/story.html?id=661817" target="_blank">National Post</a>. Supporters of the band rallied around him after his arrest, but the charges were eventually dropped after Page complied with bail conditions.
Kevin Hearn, Ed Robertson, Jim Creeggan, and Tyler Stewart of the Canadian alternative rock band Barenaked Ladies arrive on the red carpet of the 2011 Juno Awards at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on March 27, 2011. The
TORONTO, CANADA - MARCH 23: Canadian band Barenaked Ladies perform the national anthems prior to NHL game action between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins March 23, 2013 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Barenaked Ladies' Ed Robertson (left) and Tyler Stewart pose for a photo in Toronto as they promote their new album, Grinning Streak, on Monday May 27, 2013
Members of Canadian music group Barenaked Ladies Ed Robertson, left, and Jim Creeggan unveil the new Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavour "If I Had 1,000,000 Flavours" during a press conference in Toronto on Tuesday, May 12, 2009. The band was forced to recover after Steven Page decided to leave the group in February of that year.