Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain expects vegetarians to stand up at his guest appearances and return the ribbing he routinely dishes out to them; but none ever show up.

It's because they haven't had enough animal protein, he told a delighted audience at yesterday's New Zealand Herald Dymocks literary lunch at Langham Hotel, Auckland, where he was promoting his latest book, The Les Halles Cookbook.

"They get out of bed planning to go and stick it to that Bourdain, but then they don't feel well and can't go out," he said, pretending to collapse into the podium.

In a smooth delivery worthy of a stand-up comedian, and dressed in jeans, jacket and T-shirt, Bourdain entertained the crowd of 350 with tales from the restaurant trade, a job he says people once did between arrest and conviction.

The author of the bestseller Kitchen Confidential which exposed the underbelly of the New York restaurant scene, he ridiculed pretentiously-formal dining - "you shouldn't have to behave for your waiter" - and dishes that take longer to describe than to eat.

But his most acerbic comments were reserved for fellow celebrity chef Jamie Oliver: "A fat-tongued twat," followed closely by Americans abroad who refuse to eat the local cuisine.

Wealth, he says is the enemy of good eating. It's the poor nations that produce the best food.

Escargot, he says, was not inspired by some great chef but by a starving peasant who saw the snails sliding across his path and thought:

"What can I do with that?"

He considers it bad manners to decline food that may be considered disdainful in your culture: "If they bring me the plate of steaming puppy heads, I'm eating them."

Asked what his preferred last meal would be he had no hesitation: the bone marrow from roasted veal, smeared over toast and sprinkled with sea salt.