UnFoodie’s Take on “The Taste”

By Karen

It’s official: Anthony Bourdain is “the Mick Jagger of food.” Just ask Nigella Lawson, who anointed him on their new ABC cooking competition, The Taste.

Eat your heart out, Tom Colicchio.

The 2-hour premiere felt more like 8 after the 567th commercial. It featured many filmed-at-puree-speed montages of hopefuls flaming out and judges’ hands hovering over the NO button. And then judges Bourdain, Lawson, Ludo LeFebvre, and Brian Malarkey each FAILED to pick 4 contestants for their teams.

WTF? There are MORE scenes of soul-crushing rejection to come?

A good many of the hapless saps, thinking this was their shot at fame, said they’d been fired or quit jobs to compete. In fact, one of those cooks unfortunately told the judges she now runs a bakery. After everyone rejected her (Oh, horrors, a PASTRY CHEF!), Tony called her “bleeping delusional” to think she’s a cook.

If she saw her treatment last night, today she may be “bleeping suicidal.”

Another woman with the tragic backstory of a sick husband and a foreclosure made the fatal error of preparing kugel with adobo (whatever that is) and jalapenos. Bourdain shot her down by claiming she lost him because he’s a “traditionalist” on Jewish classics. Nobody else came to her rescue.

At the other end of the bizarro spectrum, Ludo offered a job to one reject. He couldn’t bring himself to mentor her for the brief span of the show, but he’d take her on as a PAID employee after one bite of her food.

Yeah, that makes sense.

One would assume there was much more logic to the judges’ decisions than we saw. Too often, they loved the food but rejected the cook, while claiming they’d kick themselves later.

WTF?

But someone (Ludo?) said something about there being so many more contestants to try, he didn’t want to pick hastily. So did cooks who went last have a better shot?

Bourdain’s team ended up with three women…

  • 26-year-old Mia, a home cook with a crush on him (Ottavia, keep an eye on that one)
  • Diane from NY whom Ludo rejected for putting too much tzatziki (whatever that is) on his spoon
  • 28-year-old Ninamarie, a Bourdain fan from California, who made sea bass with butterscotch (Tony’s penance for booting Dale off Top Chef over butterscotch scallops?)

The question next week is, will Tony pick a guy, or stick with women of his wife’s generation?

In addition to determining cooks’ fates based on blind one-bite tastings, the judges apparently are vying to beat each other by having the last cook standing.

The biggest mistake I saw was cooks (mostly the pros, it seemed) trying to squeeze meat, seafood, AND sides onto one spoon. When they got shot down for muddled or indistinguishable flavors, they had only themselves to blame.

You had to feel proud of that little trailer girl from Mississippi, Lauren, who made Nigella’s team with a flourless chocolate cake, the only one who dared to do a dessert.

And Nigella’s a breath of fresh air. Gratuitous cleavage notwithstanding, she’s not trying to swim with the sharks. I don’t think she descended once into foodie snobbism. Ludo was the worst for nitpicking, but he probably thinks it’s expected because he’s French and they have such high standards.

I’m sad to say Bourdain was a close second.

Kudos to the cool head in ABC makeup who kept Tony out of the hair gel for the separately-filmed talking spots. His hair looked great, compared to that spikey wet-dog-with-mange look he usually goes for.

In case you missed it, Grub Street boiled the show down to 91 seconds. I may tape the rest of the season so I can FF through all the Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Olive Garden commercials.

Here’s a review in Time.

The (UK) Telegraph also weighed in.

Digital Spy provided detailed recaps on most of the contestants.

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54 Responses to UnFoodie’s Take on “The Taste”

  1. Karen, I have nominated you for a liebster award! Check out my blog for details on the award :).

    I enjoyed your review on the “Taste” last night! It was an interesting show.

  2. adele says:

    Thank-you. I’ve now read the reviews and the contestant back stories and no longer have the need to re-watch The Taste. But I do look forward to next week to see how the cooking and mentoring goes. I still hate Brian Malarkey — I think he was on Top Chef season 3 or 4.

  3. sani panini says:

    Interesting take on The Taste. However, I do think that the judges bring a great variety.

  4. catsworking says:

    Welcome, Miss! I don’t know if I’ve just been insulted or not. ;-) I will definitely check out your blog.

    I’m hoping The Taste gets better once they get into the actual cooking. Although I still haven’t figured out how the judges can “mentor” the cooks and still have no idea what’s being cooked for the judging.

    Adele, I wasn’t watching Top Chef in the early seasons so I never saw Malarkey. Knowing nothing about any of the judges except Bourdain gives me a pretty clean slate in assessing how I like them (or not).

    But the flaw I see in the basic premise is that, unless the cooks are making just ONE thing, and not trying to put a whole balanced meal on a spoon, their chances of succeeding are nil.

    Imagine eating a meal of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and corn on the cob, and putting ALL OF THAT in your mouth with every bite. It just diminishes everything.

  5. catsworking says:

    Welcome, sani. I agree with you that the judges are a refreshing change from what we usually see on shows like Top Chef. They seemed to be pretty down-to-earth (except when they were nitpicking). And I’m chalking up all the inexplicable “I really liked your food but NO!” to bad editing. By the second hour, they were all looking pretty idiotic.

  6. Bob says:

    I must agree with you Karen ‘the taste’ was painful to watch. Up here in Canada we didn’t get quite the commercial blast but still hard to watch. I didn’t see it on my radar and seeing it on the listings caught me totally by surprise.

    I hope this is a one off thing, as I much prefer Tony on Top Chef.

  7. Zappa's Mom says:

    Damn! Why did I watch “Braveheart” for the 300th time!! BTW,tzatziki is a DELICIOUS Greek dish,yogurt with garlic,cucumber and sometimes mint.It’s great with so many things.The best packaged brand I’ve ever had a is “Cava”,a local brand(DC/MD/VA) Check your Whole Foods.

  8. Trisha says:

    By the second hour it felt tedious to me – and apparently they still have some choosing left to do? I also didn’t get why the judges would reject someone, then after they met them say ‘wow, I made a mistake’. Did the food suddenly taste good to them after they swallowed it? So odd. And they praised some cooks for taking risks, while others like the woman who made the nontraditional jewish food were bashed for switching it up a bit. Most interesting to me is why the heck am I paying professionals to cook me meals in restaurants when clearly they are not any better than many home cooks out there?

    PS why would anyone choose to be on Ludo’s team? The man needs subtitles to be understood and is notoriously hot tempered. When you’re under pressure, the last thing you need is someone screaming unintelligably at you.

  9. Bacardi1 says:

    While I consider myself a “foodie”, I’m definitely not one of the frou-frou persuasion. Dislike fussy, stacked or pyramided, concoctions – much prefer, & love to cook, basic ethnic “peasanty” types of food. So that alone pretty much made all the “bites” automatically distasteful to me without even needing the benefit of the taste itself.
    Thus I doubt the food part of the show is going to interest me.

    I agree that Tony’s hair looked more natural than usual, & also couldn’t help but notice his deep tan vs. the 3 palefaces with him. I found him & Ludo the most vivacious of the group, with Nigella her usual Brit uppercrust self & not saying anything consisting of much intelligence. As far as Malarkey, who I’d never heard of before, I simply could not get past the fact that he’s the spitting image of the character “Kenny Bania” from “Seinfeld (http://seinfeld.wikia.com/wiki/Kenny_Bania). Nuff said.

    (Oh, & as Zappa’s Mom stated – Tzatziki is a yogurt-based Greek/Turkish condiment commonly served with everything from salad to meat & vegetable dishes, as it functions as dressing, dip, sauce, etc., etc. It’s Indian complement would be a cucumber Raita. As for “Adobo”, that’s a name used for both specific Latin & Mexican spicy wet & dry seasonings, as well as a Phillipino sauced meat dish. I can’t even remotely imagine using it in a kugel.)

  10. catsworking says:

    Welcome, Trisha! Yes, if I wasn’t delusional by the end of hour #2, they still have another team member to select. Why ABC didn’t think 2 hours of that crap was enough, I have no idea, unless they think viewers can’t get enough time sneering at losers, and other competitions drag out that phase well past tolerance.

    ZM and Bacardi, thank you for filling me in on Adobo and tzatziki (whose spelling I have to look up every time I type it). The latter sounds interesting and I will be on the lookout for it.

    Morgan, I’m also interested in how the mentoring will be done if the judges aren’t supposed to know anything about who’s cooking what. What’s Tony going to do, teach his team professional knife skills?

    He has said in interviews that he didn’t expect to get attached to the contestants (probably based on his past fly-throughs at Top Chef, where he didn’t hesitate to take a dump on them), but he claims all the judges got very involved in the outcome.

    I think Ludo and Malarkey have the greatest douchbag potential, hands-down.

    Since I sat through an entire season of America’s Next Great Restaurant and actually enjoyed it, I plan to stick with The Taste to the bitter end. (Naturally, I’m rooting for Tony to win!) And I will check out Nigella. She sounds like my kind of woman (except I can’t convert from metric for beans).

    Bob, count yourself fortunate that Canadian TV isn’t so shamelessly commercial. So far, this is a one-off, but if they get the ratings, they’ll probably be picked up for another season if the judges want to do it. I could be karma’s way of punishing Colicchio for tethering himself to a bimbo that he’s still toiling in cable while Bourdain prances into network primetime on his first cooking-competition try.

  11. adele says:

    Bacardi, the thought of adobo and jalapeno in a kugel makes me cringe as well. I was hoping that the woman,who made it would make something that could have gotten her picked though — I liked her story.

    Did anyone else notice the rather odd style of the women contestants” The kugel lady had a ridiculous hair ornament, and most of the young women were wearing sex-kitten outfits that you’d never wear in the kitchen.

    I also found it hard to believe that even one contestant left a job to be on The Taste –$100,000 and a car does not a future make, and somehow, I don’t think The Taste will produce food celebrities the way Top Chef did. The contestants are all cooking in teams, and the real stars will be the mentors.

  12. Bacardi1 says:

    Yup – I was astounded by that too. Quitting a job in this economy to go on what amounts to a stupid game show?? In addition, one would sort of think a company might give a contestant the time off (if possible) in exchange for some sort of mention.

    Those who quit & now have nothing to go back to?? Bad, bad move.

  13. catsworking says:

    If you remember how totally RIDICULOUS the terms for auditioning for the show were (no means to heat or refrigerate, no water, no utensils or even plates provided), I wondered what the HELL those people made to even get picked.

    Isn’t kugel made with some kind of noodle? Is it a dessert?

    I think the draw for some of the women was Bourdain, and that’s who they dressed for. I predict Mia is going to have an embarrassing moment or two before she goes, because she said she has a crush on Tony. Whether they show it is another thing.

    How about Charlie Sheen’s personal chef? When she first came on, I honestly had no idea if I was seeing a man or a woman. And even after she said she was female, I think it’s only through the miracle of science. I think she ended up on Malarkey’s team, so we’ll see more of her(?).

    Adele, how will they cook as a team since they each get only a spoonful? Maybe each take a course of a meal?

    The one-bite rule seems more silly the more I think of it, but at least it does seem to limit the amount of petty kvetching the judges can do about the food.

    In fact, the food played a minimal role last in the first one. Unless the camera is a microscope, how are you going to make decent food porn out of a spoonful? I agree that the show will become all about the judges trying to screw each other using these schmucks.

  14. Trisha says:

    I’m not that surprised people would quit jobs to do the show, especially if they were crappy jobs like wait staff where they could easily get another one. Plus $100k is probably a lot more than many of them were making. After seeing how many reality show ‘stars’ go on to get lucrative, legit gigs (based on what, I’m not sure, as it definitely isn’t talent) – Malarky on this show; former Survivor contestant Elizabeth Hasselbeck on the View; and Carla, a loser from Top Chef, on ‘The Chew’ – I’m sure that’s top of mind for anyone trying out for a reality competition. Heck, who had heard of Piers Morgan till he did the Apprentice?

    As for Padma, she’s a former model/lousy actress. What qualified her to write a cook book let alone judge the food of real chefs is beyond me. She is clearly on TC to provide ratings/eye candy.

  15. catsworking says:

    Welcome, Trisha. I didn’t know Elizabeth Hasselbeck got her start on Survivor, nor where Piers Morgan came from.

    Carla Hall has certainly parlayed her Top Chef gig into a career, but she had such a big personality, I’m not surprised. I was recently in Bed, Bath & Beyond and saw that Fabio Viviani (one of my favorites) now has a line of pots and pans, and he’s been shilling for Bertolli.

    Padma will continue to exist as long as she looks f**kable. She started out as a literary leech, attaching herself to Salman Rushdie for a time. Now she’s a culinary leech stuck to Tom Colicchio. She adds nothing but bare skin to anything she does.

  16. adele says:

    You’ve got it about kugel, Karen; it’s a noodle dish that can be either sweet or savory, but in my mind, the principal taste is/should be kind of egg-y. It’s sort of like a bread pudding only made with noodles instead of bread. Actually you could probably make a pretty good savory kugel using tzatziki as the binder — the yogurt might make the calories a tinch less empty.

    Padma always manages to hook herself up with wealthy men — Richard Dell is the father of her daughter, and she spent some time with another very wealthy guy, whose name escapes me.

    I agree about the one-spoon thing, but I think that’s the format, and the judges will still be blind tasting, making the mentoring more puzzling. Still, I look forward to the repartee between Tony and Nigella.

  17. catsworking says:

    Padma had better latch her suckers onto another rich sugar daddy and get him to put a ring on it soon because she’s coming down the other side of the hill, if you get my drift.

    Well, the snow is coming down hard here and sticking to everything because it’s been below freezing for days. I’ve got a lean pork sirloin (??) roast in the crockpot stinking up the house with onions, garlic, and a new thing I’m trying with a little BBQ sauce and cider vinegar. Wish me luck!

  18. adele says:

    Chicago has had virtually no snow so far — we got about 1 and 1/2″ today, and people were driving like they’ve never seen snow before.

    In my humble opinion, onions and garlic cooking make a house smell good. I’m wishing for a bowl of pho, but maybe I’ll make some vegetable soup. Alice and Dorothy are cuddled up on a radiator, with their paws around each other.

  19. Bacardi1 says:

    Ground turkey & hot Italian turkey sausage meatloaf will be starring here this evening (in fact, I’m gonna start prepping for it in a little bit), along with buttered green peas & mashed potatoes on the side. Good cold-weather comfort food. Overcast, raw, & only in the mid-20′s here. A few flurries this afternoon, but so far that’s been it. Supposed to get a little more later.

  20. catsworking says:

    Adele, I love the onion/garlic smell myself. But it gets embarrassing when somebody comes over 2 days later and that’s what the house still smells like. Time to get out the Yankee Candles!

    Bacardi, that meatloaf sounds really good. I haven’t had meatloaf since I started Weight Watchers.

    It’s still coming down half-heartedly here. I’ve got a space heater going in my office, and Adele (the cat) is curled up in the kitty bed. I think Max is waiting by the deck to see if his squirrel drops by. Cole spends his days curled up on a furry body pillow at the head of my bed.

  21. Bacardi1 says:

    Well, that meatloaf went down the tubes for today. Hubby called a little while ago & is in the mood for Italian sub sandwiches, so just phoned in an order for one Chicken Parm sandwich & one Italian Hoagie Combo sandwich. Meatloaf can wait until tomorrow or Sunday. And heck – won’t complain about not having to cook tonight – lol!!

    Just fed & walked my “hounds from hell”, & it’s brutal out. Icy cold & tiny dry icy snowflakes that stay where they land – no melting.

  22. catsworking says:

    Bacardi, my pork BBQ went down the tubes as well, except I actually cooked it. Came out drier than dust. Only way to choke it down is to drench it in BBQ sauce, which defeats the purpose of the lean cut of meat. But it IS tender and fell apart when I lifted it out of the crockpot. 4 lbs. of it. I’ll probably send most of it down the disposal.

  23. adele says:

    Still seemed to be an awful lot of Olive Garden and Hellman’s commercials last night. This one bite thing still baffles me, as did Tony’s strategy — he passed up some really good looking dishes that showed skill, and the team he’s got seems to have the most potential for conflict. Ludo, I think lucked into the team that’s most likely to pull together.

    I’d almost think the game is rigged for drama, but I absolutely don’t believe that AB would lend his name to such a show.

  24. catsworking says:

    Adele, I was out last night, so I taped the show and watched it later. Can’t tell you how satisfying it was to zip through the Hellmann’s (did I glimpse Malarkey shilling there?), Olive Garden, and car ads.

    I could have lived without ANOTHER hour of contestant-picking. After 3 hours of that shit, I can’t even begin to remember who ended up on anybody’s team but Tony’s (because I was most interested in his).

    And how pointless was it for judges who had filled their teams to hit the NO button? Instead of piling on more cruel rejection, they should have stepped away from the judges’ table when they no longer had a vote.

    And what was it with Bourdain being the final hold-out? Is he the supreme stickler for quality? I’m with you. He’s the de facto “star” of the show, narrating and serving as panel moderator, so I suspect the rest of the series (which I think has only 6 more episodes to run — are they kicking off 3 people a week? Doesn’t that have potential to almost wipe out entire teams?) will revolve around drama within Tony’s harem and him trying to stick it to his co-judges.

    Bourdain’s talking a good game to promote the show now, and I guess it has potential to run for multiple seasons, since Nigella is already talking about what she’ll do differently in season 2. But the basic premise of any TV cooking competition is absurd up because viewers can’t tell what’s REALLY going on with the food. And the way this show is edited, ABC is making the judges and their spoonful-based decisions look clueless.

  25. Bacardi1 says:

    I was SO impressed with last week’s show, that I totally forgot about this week’s, & somehow am not sorry at all that I missed it. Yawn.

  26. catsworking says:

    Bacardi, I have no idea what they hoped to gain by bogging the show’s first TWO episodes down in team-picking. You missed nothing.

    I read somewhere that the opening show won the ratings in its time slot. I can’t imagine that Nigella’s cleavage will keep them on top if they don’t knuckle down and get to the point next week.

  27. Chinagirl says:

    Mick Jagger!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OMG!! NOT!! Jagger has talent, Bourdain has nothing but a dirty mouth. How he got so far is beyond me.

  28. catsworking says:

    Welcome, Chinagirl. Yes, Bourdain is an acquired taste. I personally admire his writing. Watching him eat, not so much. I agree with you that calling him the Mick Jagger of food jumped the shark.

  29. Chinagirl says:

    Thank you Karen for the welcome. I don’t think Ottavia needs to watch out for Mia as I think he is to old to attract the young ones anymore and Ottavia and Tony seem to have their own interests which keep them apart. Do you know what I mean??

  30. Trisha says:

    Just watched the second epi of Taste online and got bored. I’m so tired (already!) of seeing Bourdain and the others like the food, yet vote no, with no real explanation for why they said no, and they when they see the person they express regret for not picking them. WTF?! Either you like the spoonful or you don’t.

    I’m also getting tired of Bourdain’s lame, immature, petulant-child, illogical, almost OCD-like obession with hating veggies and vegans, with no rational reason why he hates them. How are they hurting him, exactly? His ‘grandma rule’ makes no sense because unlike him, vegetarian travelers are not offered free meals, thus the rudeness argument is moot. If a vegetarian orders something veggie off a menu, they’re giving money to the place and the local economy, just as meat eaters are. How many of you out there get invited into strangers’ homes for free meals when you travel?

    It was ridiculous how they couldn’t kick those who made veg dishes off fast enough. Just because someone made a dish without meat doesn’t mean that’s all they can or would be willing to make. On the contrary, if you can make a good-tasting vegan dish, you certainly should be able to make something tasty out of pork. It’s a stupid prejudice that quite frankly is beneath Bourdain’s intelligence, especially given how much he has traveled.

    “he is to old to attract the young ones anymore ”

    Wealthy famous men will always attract young ones, because gold diggers don’t care how old a man is, only how much $$ he’s got. I was reading an article Ottavia wrote about her obsession with jujitsu and thought how nice it must be to have your days entirely free to engage in hobbies because your husband supports you.

  31. catsworking says:

    Welcome, Trisha! Glad to see you and Chinagirl (and others whose names I can’t see without leaving this page and losing what I just typed) joining this discussion.

    When I read about Ottavia’s constant lessons and MMA-related trips, the meter in my head goes Ka-CHING!! Her sport must be costing them a fortune. But it’s nice to be able to do it.

    And it’s good to have the distraction of spending her time beating on guys; otherwise, she’d sit at home stewing over Tony traipsing around Libya. I have no doubt her violent sport serves as a safety valve at times.

    She told me several years ago that she would like to work again when Ariane was older, but having to be available when he needs her around makes holding down any regular job damn-near impossible. It’s the classic dilemma of the Celebrity Wife. That she has been able to cultivate an unrelated fan base of her own is, I think, pretty impressive.

    After so many years of watching Bourdain, Zimmern, Adam Rich, all the goofs on Top Chef, etc., etc., eat and criticize (well, Rich never criticizes — he’s a garbage disposal), I’m baffled as to why such shows ever got a toe-hold in the first place. It’s all so subjective, and viewers can’t do anything but see the food. No smell, no taste, no touch. And you don’t learn anything from it (as you might from a cooking show), except maybe to identify some new foods.

    Bourdain invariably says everything is “good,” or he cleverly slams it. The ones who try to wax poetic (Zimmern) just sound pretentious.

    Trisha, you are so right to stand up for the vegetarians and vegans. Loving veggies is NOT a sin, and their money spends just as well as anybody’s. And Tony does dwell on a rarified plane in his travels. Having a network’s checkbook, fixers, and a camera crew in tow opens many doors.

    As The Taste unfolds, I think we’ll see Tony’s girls making their little plays for him. He’s famous, apparently pretty rich now, tall, trim, and has hair. I don’t think Nigella picked anybody who will want to be all up in her cleavage, and the other 2 bozos aren’t that compelling.

  32. Bacardi1 says:

    While I too find Tony’s constant railing against vegetarians boring, I will give the man credit for not only enjoying, but actually, praising a fair number of vegetable & vegetarian dishes prepared for him in other places/cultures that he visited during “No Reservations”. Several of the Asian & India episodes for example

  33. catsworking says:

    True, Bacardi. But if he went into societies that eat primarily veggies and dissed their cuisine, he’d only look like a douchebag.

    What I give him credit for is sucking it up and pretending to like things that are clearly gross, and there have been many. Zimmern used to go “Yuck!” and make faces and call food “weird” right in front of the locals. Haven’t watched him in ages, so I don’t know if he still does that, or if his new phase of being mini-Bourdain made him more diplomatic.

  34. Bacardi1 says:

    Yes – I’m definitely NOT a Zimmern fan for primarily that reason. If you’re going to host a show called “Bizarre Foods”, you shouldn’t be making faces at ANYTHING. One can only guess that he didn’t realize he’d have to eat things other than bugs, which he seems to enjoy.

  35. Trishia says:

    I’ve never liked Zimmern but then I don’t enjoy seeing someone eat vile things like cheese with maggots. At least on Bourdain’s shows you usually see some of the city/country, culture, etc. For example, bc of his Egypt show, I did a sojourn into the desert from Cairo bc his looked so awesome. I like getting travel ideas. I definitely don’t travel for the food.

    The only vegetarian meals I’ve seen Tony praise are ones in India, and he has said that if you’re a veggie because of religion, you get a pass. That to me is ridiculous. If you’re a veggie because you think an invisible man/woman in the sky wants you to be, he’s fine with it, but if you’re one because of a rational, logical, well-thought out decision based on fact, that’s horrible in his book. Makes no sense. And you’re right, if he started his tourettes-like veggie bashing in India he’d look like a fool. I once heard a radio debate he did with the author of ‘eating animals’ – an amazing book btw – and the only argument he could muster other than his silly ‘grandma rule’ was ‘what about pleasure?’ Well, people get pleasure from dog fighting, too, so that seemed really weak. At one point he said, ‘look, we’d all be better off if we ate less meat’. Odd.

    It’s also amazing to me that his cause celeb is making sure wealthy foody snobs have their foie gras, something that doesn’t even qualify technically as food since no one ever makes a meal of it; it’s simply a palate pleaser/delicacy. Given how much awfulness he’s seen (poverty, kids digging through landfills and stepping on needles for pennies a day) This is what gets him angry? This is what he chooses to speak out about, instead of trying to say, help children in some of the countries he’s visited.

    Question of the day: Totally unrelated, but I was struck by Tony saying in an interview that when he was dating Ottavia, he was living in a ‘crappy walkup’. Why on earth was he living in such a place when at that time, surely he was rich enough to afford a nice apt.??

  36. Chinagirl says:

    Karen I read somewhere that she followed an Irish rock star to America with $300 in her pocket and when that didn’t work she did restuarant jobs, so she has no skill and if she wanted to work she still could go back to that. With her needing to be home while her daughter is young what does he need her to be around for??? I think his marriage and child must have been a midlife crisis and he seldom speaks of her but make it sound like he invented fatherhood. Just sayin!!!

  37. Bacardi1 says:

    Well, while I’m certainly not an old fuddy-duddy, I will say that I found it rather odd that the two of them (or maybe it was just ONE of them) decided to wait until well after the baby was born before tying the knot. When I hear that, I always wonder what that’s about.

  38. Chinagirl says:

    OMG!! So watched last nights episode and while the other chefs mentored their team Bordain seemed to watch from afar. Little contact or support given by him to his team. At the blind tasting Bordain tasted Mia’s rice pudding and retold the story of him being caught in Beruit and how after he got out went right home and made a baby, you could see he was uncomfortable telling the story as the other chefs had this WTF look on their faces and tried as I did to figure out what it had to do with rice pudding!!!!!!!!!! It seemed like he is trying to get everyone to understand why he became a father at 50!!! Can’t believe “rice pudding” brings these thoughts to him. He needs help as does the show. End of my rant!!

  39. catsworking says:

    Chinagirl, I’m working on a post about last night’s show, so I’m saving my discussion for that. I, too, found the way Tony blurted out about conceiving Ariane to be very weird.

    Trishia, I agree with you on every point you’re making about vegetarians. I guess when you throw out as many opinions as Bourdain does, it’s inevitable you’ll get your wires crossed. And although we see him eat plenty of junk food, I do think he often comes off as a foodie snob.

    Now, to the historical questions. Everybody, if you poke around the archives here a bit, you will find the whole story, but I’ll give you a quick run-down of things as I’ve read them or been told by the Bourdains themselves…

    Tony was married for many years to his high school sweetheart, Nancy, but they split around 2005-06 because she wasn’t into exotic eating and globe-trotting and they grew apart. In his book, Medium Raw, Tony said he was frustrated with Nancy because, during their many years living hand to mouth, she never held down a job. It seems that he took their split very hard, and he bounced around with several women before Eric Ripert’s wife set up a blind date with Ottavia (who had once worked for Ripert, but was now working as a manager at Geisha in NYC).

    Bourdain was certainly not rich in those days. Apparently, cable doesn’t pay that great and he wasn’t a celebrity yet. Yes, Kitchen Confidential did well, but he was still starting out. I don’t know where he was living, but a rathole wouldn’t surprise me, since he gave Nancy their apartment (and probably everything in it).

    He fell hard for Ottavia, and they did eventually move in together and decide to have a baby, but marriage wasn’t originally the plan. I don’t think Tony had divorced Nancy, so he wasn’t free.

    One night while Ottavia was pregnant and watching TV, Tony walked in and proposed. Ariane was born April 9, 2007, and they were married April 20. My opinion is that, for all his tough talk, the thought of fatherhood made Tony grow up fast. Maybe they knew Ottavia was having a girl, and he didn’t want her growing up a “bastard” without a “real” father. He has a free-spirit persona, but at heart I think he’s a conventional family type of guy. And I think finalizing his divorce from Nancy (and Ottavia’s due date) may have determined the wedding date.

    And you really have to meet Ottavia to get this, but she’s a very nurturing person. When I met her several years ago (before her current MMA obsession), she was warm, understanding, and supportive of him far beyond her years. She grew up in a nice, large, close Italian family, so she’s very self-assured. We talked one-on-one for 2-3 hours at an event while he was up on stage. They were clearly ga-ga for each other.

    Morgan is the other witness who can vouch for what I’m saying. She was there. The whole experience of meeting the Bourdains threw us for such a loop that we went back to the hotel and knocked back several martinis to calm down.

    Chinagirl, I think Tony’s “midlife crisis” boiled down to finding a woman willing to go with the flow of his crazy life, who enjoys eating all kinds of food and loves foreign travel (even when Ariane was an infant), so it’s not surprising she’s a lot younger. Nancy is my age, a bit older than Tony, so I think she’s 58 now. He’ll be 57 in June.

  40. Chinagirl says:

    There is a lot of “stuff” out there about the two of them. I read an interview with him where he said he went out with Ottavia because he wanted to have sex and someone to hang out with – how romantic. I am sure that he is in love with the idea of having a young wife more than the idea of being married. IMO.

  41. catsworking says:

    Chinagirl, the way Ottavia told it to me, they stayed out really late their first night (because I think it was after she got off work) and drank a lot. She felt really bad the next morning, and then he called and asked her out for that night, but she said no. Then she didn’t hear from him for a few months. (He was probably off on his travels.) But when he got back and called again, they clicked and were together from then on.

    Ottavia was aware he had a TV show, but she wasn’t a big fan. And she was looking for someone to hang out with as well. It was Ripert’s wife who connected the dots and thought Ottavia might hit it off with Tony.

    I don’t believe he purposely set out to snag a much younger woman, but as it shook out, it was younger women who were into his lifestyle. And, of course, what guy DOESN’T want the young things as opposed to some woman pushing 60?

    Also, an age-appropriate woman would be much more settled, possibly own a house and lot of stuff, and not be as easy to uproot and integrate into his life as a younger woman who only gave up an apartment. And since Ottavia hadn’t been in this country too many years, I doubt she had a lot of stuff. She did have a cat (still does), and he told her the cat was welcome to move in as well.

  42. Bacardi1 says:

    In addition, I somehow feel that Bourdain wouldn’t just marry to “have sex and someone to hang out with”. Honestly, there are thousands of delightful women he could do that with without having to marry them. I definitely believe that he’d only tie the knot if he really meant it to mean what it’s supposed to mean.

    Whatever “interview” you’re talking about Chinagirl, I’m sure that comment was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, not taken seriously.

  43. Trisha says:

    Chinagrl you are too funny! I totally agree: “her needing to be home while her daughter is young what does he need her to be around for??? ” Tony is away far more than he’s home so Ottavia could work if she chose to. How often does he ‘need her around’ when he’s out of the country? I dont blame her – if I had a sugar daddy husband I wouldn’t work either, work sucks. But the feminist side of me would feel bad and I’d hate that the $ was really ‘his’ money at the end of the day. I read she’s exec producer on a show about restaurant employees that she’s trying to find a network for. Hmm wonder how that happened? Clearly anyone can be an exec producer with the right connections, no experience needed.

    Technically the kid was born a ‘bastard’ bc they weren’t married when she came into the world. A few days later doesn’t ‘count’ on that front lol. I also find it odd Bourdain keeps mentioning that he made a baby the first night he got back to the US from Beirut. I guess he thinks it’s mystical or something, and im sure he wants to make sure everyone knows his old-man sperm still works, but still, like his veggie obsession, it’s tiresome.

    My take on Tony is he’s basically shy and that the brash in your face testosterone persona that comes through on tv and in his writing is more an act, that in person he’s much more low key, as he said last night, he’s not into the chest beating like the other men. And when ive seen him on talk shows like bill maher or colbert, he seems a tad ill at ease and very polite, nothing like his writer/tv persona. I think he’s prob more comfy around women than men, too. He’s not ted nugent, lets put it that way.

    Karen, no offense but I am kind of surprised Ottavia would be so nice to you in person after reading some of the stuff that was said about her on here. I mean if it were me I’d probably hate you, lol, so that does say something about her character.

    PS I’ve never lived in a crappy walk-up and I know Tony HAD to be making more $ than I make, even back when he met Ottavia with more than 1 successful book out and a tv show. I’m thinking at least half a mil a year. Hell even 150k a year you can afford better than a walkup in manhattan. I should know I’ve been here for 17 yrs.

  44. adele says:

    In other interviews, (I think in a series called Married to a Chef), Ottavia has said that when she met Tony, he was not yet truly famous, and they could walk down the street un-noticed. She said it was unsettling at first to have people come up to him on the street,

    I met Tony at a show in Chicago, as I had an almost antique children’s book about pigs for their daughter. Obviously we didn’t discuss anything deep, but the way he talked about Ottavia and Ariane left no doubt that he was pretty smitten.

    It is true that after he and Nancy separated, he dated younger and often beautiful (Asha Gill) women, but as Karen says, what guy wouldn’t?

  45. catsworking says:

    Trisha, I wouldn’t have been surprised if Ottavia had slapped my face, but it was SHE who saw ME and dragged Tony over to meet me and some of the Cats Working readers. Our initial reaction to her was catty and mean, and she forgave us. She said the video we saw of Miami Ink was edited to make her look like a “grinning idiot.” The whole evening, both of them couldn’t have been nicer. We were all utterly charmed.

    And I do think you have pegged Tony as a basically shy guy who puts himself out there for his job. What amazes me about Ariane is the miracle of her coming out totally normal after Tony’s years of smoking, drinking, and drug use. Says something about the strength of Ottavia’s genes. And as Ariane gets older and more interesting, he’s probably still pinching himself that he created her. She certainly seems to have Daddy right where she wants him.

    I can’t really speak on Bourdain’s financial status. He has said the shows didn’t pay a lot, book royalty splits typically suck, his advance for KC was probably peanuts, you have to sell millions of copies to get rich as a writer, and he may have been paying Nancy support.

    I’m feeling a sense of deja vu here. We seem to be back covering ground from the good old days.

    Adele, BB&B wasn’t that confessional. She glossed over her life in strange ways. I think this was the first time I’d ever seen her, and I couldn’t believe how little she added. And what kind of mentoring she gave Nigella’s team to have 2 of them end up on the bottom?

    On the other hand, I do think the editing on the show is terrible. They could at least include a few little clips to make the judges’ decisions make SOME sense. Everything seems so arbitrary, it’s giving me a new appreciation for the judging on Dancing with the Stars.

  46. Chinagirl says:

    Thanks Trisha for the support. I totally agree with you and you said what I wanted to say but much better.

  47. Chinagirl says:

    Trish, maybe when “The Taste” goes south Tony will put up the money for Ottavia to produce her show. The right connections are everything in that industry.

  48. Chinagirl says:

    Karen, Adele listed Asha Gill as someone Tony dated. I read something about her dating him and then having a child. The article suggested that it may have been Tony’s but she didn’t want him in her life or admit that the child was his. Can you dig around and find anything out or even if there is such gossip out there.

  49. Peaches says:

    I’m adding my 2 cents here. I had to turn off The Taste during the very first episode. Unwatchable. Also, does anyone else get a Zelda Fitzgerald vibe from O’s obsession with MMA? I can understand wanting to be fit or even proficient in a sport but training so obsessively when you are too old to really accomplish anything in what you are doing is weird to me. Like Zelda’s ballet lessons.
    It is usually the case that when two people spend so much time apart, marriages die. I really have my doubts about this one.

  50. catsworking says:

    Peaches, ooh, you have given me chills. Yes, I have thought of the Zelda Fitzgerald parallel. I just hope Ottavia knows when it’s seriously time to quit and she doesn’t just become a wiry old punching bag who’s going to pay in spades for all the injuries she’s getting now when she’s a bit older.

    As for the constant separations, it seems to work for them. When you have 2 strong personalities, sometimes the best thing is not to spend too much time together. His travel may be some of the glue that keeps them together.

  51. Peaches says:

    Yes, I always thought it was funny that she picked the one area – physical fitness – that he couldn’t possibly compete in to go over the top with. I mean, it’s fine to do MMA or to keep fit, but why not explore other areas while you have the time, areas where you could really accomplish something? It just strikes me as a weird competitiveness between them or maybe her feeling totally lost amidst his celebrity…
    And statistically, I think time spent apart is a huge factor in people splitting up – isn’t that why his first marriage broke up, or so he claims? I just don’t see them having much in common, besides a child – altho, granted, this is an outsider view. But he is into films and reads a great deal, while it seems as if she never picks up a book. She is immersed in a physical world while I bet he has hardly ever exercised in his life…I guess time will tell.

  52. catsworking says:

    Peaches, they say opposites attract, so maybe that’s part of it. And I think it was smart of her to find her own niche that’s totally separate from what he does. To further the Zelda comparison, she was an aspiring writer and must have known she’d never escape her husband’s shadow by writing.

    I can’t claim that I know Ottavia well, but I did spend a few hours with her and she comes across as surprisingly mature and comfortable in her skin. I don’t know what drew her to MMA in the first place, and she would never be crazy enough to admit publicly that it’s a substitute for beating the tar out of him for being gone so much. Or for leaving his socks on the floor. Or whatever bugs her.

    I think she’s much more educated and well read than she talks about because her English is almost perfect and she comes out with a lot of references to things on Twitter that surprise me. And Bourdain never would have married some dumb arm candy. If there’s one thing I will say for him, he does seem to respect women and wants them to be his equals.

    They certainly don’t fit the mold of the ordinary married couple, but they’ve got this strange and wonderful dynamic that seems to work for them. And of course, they both dote on Ariane.

    Crazy as the MMA is, I think Ottavia has kept Bourdain grounded and prevented him from prematurely self-destructing, which his job could make all too easy.

  53. Trishia says:

    I’m afraid I dont know who ZF is but I always find it odd when someone tries something once, other than heroin, and then becomes obessessed/addicted quickly. Clearly with a rich husband she doesn’t have to work like normal people, but this begs the question, if she has enough time to train a zillion times a day, why doesn’t she have enough time to work or do something philanthropic? Who is watching the kid while she is off training? The typical ‘Im not working bc I’m a full-time mom’ reason doesn’t fit here.

    Some people can handle separations; some even thrive on it. And who knows, maybe they have an ‘understanding’. I mean you have to wonder about couples who are apart so long, what they each do for sex? Bourdain has said he wouldn’t want some doting fan-like partner; that he likes strong women, but given that she wansn’t into MMA when they met, does he deep down wish she wasn’t so involved? If for no other reason than she could get seriously hurt?

    I also don’t get her ignorance regarding her training diet. She may as well be on Atkins. She’s really $&*#@-ing up her health with this crazy eating. You would think she’d do some research and figure out what modern endurance athletes are eating. What she’s doing is like using diesel in your car instead of a cleaner burning fuel, but it’s her health, her business. Bourdain doesn’t seem to even understand the concept of health so that’s something else they have in common. I’d love to know what a cardio evaluation on him would show.

  54. catsworking says:

    Trishia, when Ariane was a baby, they did have a nanny for her, but you could probably count on one hand how many times Ottavia would leave her with the nanny.

    Now that Ariane is in school, things must have loosened up quite a bit. I don’t know about childcare, but assume there’s still a third party involved.

    At first, Ottavia was all about the protein diet, but she tweeted that one of her MMA mentors turned her on to fruits, veggies, or both. (Adele, the human, may remember this and check in. She seems to monitor OB’s tweets very closely.) I think the bottom line is that starchy carbs are out.

    The Atkins Diet has also loosened up to include veggies. And Weight Watchers isn’t that different. WW says you can eat anything, but if you want potatoes, rice, or anything with white flour, you can pretty much kiss eating anything else that day (but plant matter) goodbye.

    Bourdain would have to be a moron not to worry about her getting hurt, and I’m sure he does. But what’s he going to do? Make her quit? As long as MMA makes her happy, he’s along for the ride.

    At the risk of sounding like the doctor Chris Christie told to “just shut up,” I do worry about Tony. I’m sure he gets checked, and he’s mentioned taking Lipitor, but his diet sucks and he gets no exercise. Not to mention all those long plane rides (deep-vein thrombosis?). I keep my fingers crossed that I don’t open the newspaper one day to read that he’s in the hospital.

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