Bourdain, Ray & Lee – Together Again

November 9, 2009

By Karen

Scripps Networks Interactive, owner of Anthony Bourdain’s first cruel TV master, the Food Network, bought a 65% controlling interest in the Travel Channel for $181 million, bringing Tony back into the fold. I hope all the FN butts of his jokes are kind to him.

Scripps also plans to launch a Cooking Channel, which Bourdain mocked in “Robo Chef,” the first episode of his Alternate Universe Web series.

Last week, Winnipeg Bob withheld one New York City photo from us. He snapped Tony on the wall of Katz’s Deli. Unfortunately, this was as close as they got.


(Photo - Winnipeg Bob)

On November 18, Bourdain is appearing in Denver, and Tony’s Market there is running a 50-word essay contest. The winner gets to make dinner for Bourdain and meet him face-to-face.

Confirming the opinion of Cats Working’s Finnish reader, Fanfromfaraway, here’s a bit about how Bourdain wows ‘em in Helsinki.

Domestica saw Tony in Des Moines on November 5, and her husband thinks Bourdain’s a misogynist. Could it be all those Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, and Alice Waters digs? Domestica also has something interesting to say about Andrew Zimmern.

The Michigan Daily caught up with Tony before his appearance in Ann Arbor on November 7 and had him suggest a resolution to the Pakistan/Afghanistan problem (it involves Chicken McNuggets) and name his favorite album (The Stooges’ Fun House).

Tubefilter considers Bourdain’s writing in Kitchen Confidential and Alternate Universeoverseasoned.” If it is, I like whatever spice Tony’s using.

January 14-18, 2010, marks the 3rd annual (Grand) Cayman Cookout. Tony will be there, hosting a beachside BBQ at Calico Jacks, which Eric Ripert calls, “the best dive bar in the world.” Seems fitting.

And of course, Cats Working readers Morgan and Cindy and yours truly are having our own brush with Bourdain on November 11 when he co-hosts the Capital Food Fight in Washington, DC. Stay tuned…

Anthony Bourdain Spawns Literary Trend

June 9, 2009

By Karen

The LA Times thinks Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential has inspired a new generation of chefs to try topping him with their own outrageous memoirs. Sadly, they only come off as lackluster imitations of the original. As all Bourdainiacs know, Tony’s book broke that mold.

Speaking of Kitchen Confidential, journalist Carl Bernstein (Remember him? Watergate?) gives the book a belated plug at The Daily Beast.

Angela at Foodicles not only attended Bourdain’s May 28 talk at De Anza Community College in Cupertino, CA, but had a chance encounter with him in the bar (are you surprised?) at his hotel afterward. See her photographic proof and find out what he was drinking.

Cats Working reader Bob found this clip at TMZ about yak penis during Bourdain and Batali’s visit to Seattle on May 30. I’m thinking these road trips and endless repetitive and/or stupid questions are wearing thin. Obviously, the questioner trying to be cute and shocking is unfamiliar with Tony’s alter-ego, Vic Chanko.

Here’s a full account of what Tony and Mario did after their joint appearance. It comes straight from Batali’s father, Armandino. It also answers the question of whether Tony dined at the Mexican restaurant where he was spotted earlier that day.

And Toronto Life is trying to start a rumor that Bourdain “hates” cupcakes because, when inanely asked about them during an interview with the Seattle Times, he answered, “Enough.”

I see no fire under that smoke. Tony’s just not into sweets.

Cats Working reader Ayala supplied this link to Slashfood, which reported on Bourdain’s list in the June issue of Men’s Health on the “13 Places to Eat Before You Die.”

Don’t forget to cast your vote for Tony in Yumsugar’s “Love Him or Leave Him” poll.

Paperback Writer calls Bourdain a “black-hearted thug,” but actually means it in a good way.

And Malaysian blogger Ellie, who now lives in Sydney with her Dutch husband, has the audacity to call her blog Almost Bourdain. She occasionally makes recipes from the Les Halles Cookbook. Check out her poulet roti.

I haven’t found any June engagements for Tony, so I hope the Bourdains are finally enjoying some family R&R.

Anthony Bourdain’s Doing Fame the Hard Way

April 7, 2009

By Karen

Rachael Ray’s fruit basket caper got me thinking about the relativity of fame. When Cats Working first rattled the blogosphere with several Bourdain posts, the reaction from almost everyone I told was, “Anthony Who?”

Nobody would have drawn a blank on Rachael Ray.

Bourdain may be king of the Travel Channel but, let’s face it, it’s cable. Ray’s on network AND cable AND a gazillion cookbooks AND products (including dog food). AND she knows Oprah.

Bourdain doesn’t come close to such recognition, and he readily admits it.

But I do think Tony has more fun because he’s himself most of the time. I could never see him standing in some stage kitchen, whipping up glop while chit-chatting with guests who bore him.

As a novelist in the ’90s, Bourdain started conquering fame one reader at a time — until Kitchen Confidential put him on the map.

That led to TV, which spawned the demand for personal appearances, a time-consuming, arduous pursuit of fame that now keeps him away from home and family a lot.

It’s moot to ask if Bourdain could ever be as big as Rachael Ray because I don’t think he wants to be. In his special niche of food and travel, he hasn’t resorted to shilling for products he doesn’t use or believe in, although he probably could. You won’t see Anthony Bourdain cookware stacked beside Emeril’s at Bed, Bath & Beyond, or his face smirking from jars of his secret spice blends on grocery shelves.

That’s just not his style.

Bourdain’s main attractions — his persona and his thoughts — can’t be so easily packaged. But thank God he writes, so we’ll always have his books.

Latest Tidbits:

The Knoxville News Sentinel uncovered in an interview that Tony graduated from high school a year early and he takes a hard line toward addiction, saying:

“I see it as a character flaw, not an illness.”

At The Question Club, Bourdain beat Gordon Ramsay in a recent popularity contest.

Noodlepie has video of Tony talking about Vietnam, but what really got my attention was this fan e-mail from Bourdain, calling Noodlepie his “go-to” blogger on Vietnam.

Tony was in Tennessee on April 4, and Geography 2.0 had an interesting take on that.

Play Groups Are No Place For Children was there, too — and she got pictures.

OhNoTheyDidnt also had a recent up-close-and-personal Tony encounter when he visited her unspecified college campus.

So far I haven’t seen his reaction to Michelle Obama digging up part of the White House lawn for a vegetable and herb garden as if she’s working on orders from Alice Waters, but Alice was certainly pleased.

And finally, Cats Working reader Joanna provided a photo that appears to be Ottavia with the famous Bourdain knife on her right shoulder. Now we know why she had no problem with Tony getting that skull tattoo.


(Photo - Josh Ozersky - Grub Street: NY Mag)

And here’s a writeup and more photos of Tony and friends (including Rachael Ray) at the event in South Beach last year where this pic was captured.

A Bourdain Gallery

January 19, 2009

By Karen

After showing Zamir the frigid Rust Belt, Anthony Bourdain undoubtedly made the most of his weekend at the Cayman Cookout, where the festivities kicked off January 16 on beautiful, balmy Seven Mile Beach.

(Photo - Travel Channel)

(Photo - Travel Channel)

Tony’s event on Sunday afternoon was sold out. But when the guest chefs prepared a 7-course gala dinner for the attendees, I was surprised he wasn’t among them. He’s no shirker. Does he fear his kitchen skills are too rusty, after seeing buddy Eric Ripert tame the grill station at Les Halles?

Cats Working readers uncover Bourdain pics everywhere. The links are scattered throughout the comments, so I’m bringing some to the fore. Don’t want you to miss anything.

Bob provided a great peek into Tony’s youth, including the whole Bourdain family.

I found this interesting account of Bourdain in Seattle in June 2008. You’ve got to admire his ability to speak off the cuff to 1,400 people.

If you’re an author, Tony’s the man to write you a killer book blurb. That’s more than I can say for humorist Dave Barry, who pleaded being too famous and busy to blurb How to Work Like a CAT, even though it complements his own book, Claw Your Way to the Top.

Nickole found Ariane facing the camera for once, with Ottavia and proud papa Bourdain.

This album is huge, beautiful, and mostly irrelevant. I flipped through nearly 500 pics to find the best Bourdain. Here’s Ariane again on the left in a group shot, held by a stranger. What happened to Ottavia?

And a refreshing variation on “Tony posing with female fan” at the Florida Film Festival.

Tony with Ottavia on his left. Her hair looks a lighter and longer than usual.

And suave Tony — at a black-tie event in Charleston, South Carolina.

He’ll be in Santa Barbara, California, on February 27 to discuss Kitchen Confidential, which seems odd, since he’s written many other books since.

Top Chef must be feeling the absence of snark at the judges’ table in Season 5 because they added Toby Young to fill the void left by Bourdain — if he were short, bespectacled, bald, and British. Young seems to strain to be clever. He makes me wish for Tony to breeze through unannounced, lay a big wet one on Padma for shock value, drop a few verbal bombs, and leave Toby in his dust.

An Ariane Bourdain Sighting, at Last

November 29, 2008

By Karen

Nineteen-month-old Ariane accompanied her dad, Anthony Bourdain, on his recent visit to Miami. Unfortunately, the photographer only caught the back of her head, but it’s better than nothing.

Daddy's Little Girl (Photo - Lynne Sladky, AP)

Daddy's Little Girl (Photo - Lynne Sladky, AP)

During the interview, Bourdain said he’s not interested in writing a children’s cookbook nor hosting a children’s TV show.

Well, DUH! What a silly question. Anyone who’s seen even one episode of No Reservations with its parental warning and glaring absence of children would know Bourdain’s not inclined to “Go Kiddie” in this lifetime.

A few other tidbits…

Tony has written the introduction to Pino Luongo’s memoir, Dirty Dishes, to be published in January. Tony first wrote about Luongo as his ruthless boss in Kitchen Confidential, and has admiringly dubbed him “the Dark Prince of Italian fine dining.”

It’s got me wondering if Ottavia agrees that Luongo knows good Italian, or if she thinks his cooking is also “disgusting?”

At Brave New Traveler, Rebecca Lang wrote an interesting article, Deconstructing the Cynicism of Anthony Bourdain, that went so far as to compare him to Samantha Brown.

On a personal note, I’m one step closer to fulfilling my dream of seeing Bourdain in person. A friend in North Carolina has offered to put me up for the night when he appears in Durham, North Carolina, in February 2009.

My Personal Bourdain Dilemma

November 26, 2008

By Karen

But first, Cats Working’s latest tidbits about our favorite bad boy chef:

Les Halles in Washington, DC, has closed and news reports were calling it the “brainchild” of Anthony Bourdain, which must amuse him. I thought he just worked in the New York branch, which remains open.

No Reservations’ producers have apparently abandoned all attempts at censorship because here’s another highly detailed account of one of Tony’s stops in the Philippines.

Speaking of censorship, I just learned that his failed special, At the Table, was quickly yanked from YouTube. Were they trying to cleanse the ‘Net of the stench of failure?

I came across a forgotten answer to this burning question: If Tony had still been with Nancy instead of Ottavia, would he have gotten that skull tattoo on his right shoulder for Miami Ink? He answers it himself at the end of Kitchen Confidential:

“My wife, blessedly, has stayed with me through all of it, the late nights, the coming home drunk, my less than charming tendency not to pay any attention at all to her…. A few months back, in a moment of admittedly misguided solidarity with my heavily decorated kitchen crew, I got a tattoo, a reasonably tasteful headhunter’s band around my upper arm. Nancy, however, was on record as finding skin art about as attractive as ringworm; she took it, not unreasonably, as a personal affront. She was mightily pissed off, and still is, for that matter…but she still wakes up next to me every morning, laughs at my jokes on occasion and helpfully points out when I’m being an asshole.”

And now, my personal Bourdain dilemma: There’s An Evening with Anthony Bourdain in Durham, North Carolina, on February 19, 2009. I’m afraid it’s as close as he’ll ever come to Richmond, Virginia. It would involve many hours of driving over possibly treacherous winter roads, taking 2 days off because I’d have to spend the night, and getting someone to feed the cats. Tickets are available. Dare I go?

P.S. For all you Bourdainiacs who can’t get enough, the Travel Channel is running a No Reservations marathon from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (ET) Friday, November 28.

Has Anthony Bourdain Had a Facelift?

August 13, 2008

By Karen

Cats Working reader, Merrida, has suggested that Anthony Bourdain had some “work” done to minimize the 20+ year spread in age between him and his wife Ottavia. Could it be true?

He could certainly afford it. Forbes just revealed that Bourdain is the 10th highest paid celebrity chef, pulling in $1.5 million a year. That’s quite a feat, since he hasn’t even been a chef since his book, Kitchen Confidential, hit the bestseller list in 2000.

I’ve been watching the new episodes of No Reservations closely and, frankly, he doesn’t look any better (or worse) to me.

See for yourself: Here’s a close-up that Drive-Thru blogger Cinnamon Cooper snapped of Bourdain just last week while he was filming NR in Chicago.

Bourdain at Hot Doug's - Photo by Cinnamon Cooper

Bourdain at Hot Doug's - Photo by Cinnamon Cooper

I see a wrinkled forehead, crow’s feet, puffiness under the eyes, a bit of sag in the jowls. If some plastic surgeon did any of that, he needs to be sued for malpractice.

I’d be disappointed if Bourdain resorted to such artifice to hang on to the shreds of his youth. He strikes me as a man who’d see his wrinkles and bags as trophies won after too many hours under the blazing suns of exotic places, and proof of a life lived well – and hard.

But if Tony’s even contemplating plastic surgery, I suggest he check out the once-sexy Peter O’Toole, who has been rendered a sad, smooth caricature of himself:

Did Anthony Bourdain Have a ‘Top Chef’ Tryst?

July 23, 2008

By Karen

Reader Nickole sent a provocative possibly-Bourdain tidbit from, which received a blind item/question to the Top Chef tip line from the friend of a cheftestant in the upcoming 5th season, now being filmed in New York City. It said:

“Say a certain contestant had had a little tryst with a rakish new york rock star chef who is known to be a guest judge on the show. How does this affect his/her decision making ability when the celeb chef has to judge[d] the contestant’s food?”

Speculation immediately began that the “rock star” chef in question is Anthony Bourdain. Said hookup was in the past, so it could have happened when Tony was trolling between Nancy, Paula, and Ottavia (2005-2007). And it seems doubtful he could have known the woman would ever end up on Top Chef.

But I don’t think it’s him, merely because with a new wife and baby and his kinder, gentler persona, he’s anything but “rock star” material now, and he never really was. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think Les Halles was a must-taste NY eatery when he ran the kitchen, and he admits himself that his cooking was never top-tier. Its fame came with his fame – as an author.

It’s been 8 years since Kitchen Confidential was published, and Tony’s been out of the restaurant business nearly that long. His claim even to the title “chef” has become tenuous – occasional forays in front of a stove to fill TV time notwithstanding. If anything, he’s morphed into a professional diner.

Speaking of which, there’s also some speculation on Bourdain’s future with Top Chef, but more on that to come after some research…

[Note: To find the item on, scroll down to Top Chef Questions: Can Judging Be Fair in NYC? from July 22, 2008.]

Anthony Bourdain & Nancy: Happier Times

June 30, 2008

By Karen

Life seemed rosy for Tony and Nancy Bourdain when his book, Kitchen Confidential, became a best-seller and earned him an interview in the August 14, 2000, issue of People.

The article, “Reality Bites,” by Peter Ames Carlin and Debbie Seaman, covered ground very familiar to Bourdain fans today so I won’t repeat it, but Nancy was also quoted and here, at last, is a good photo of her:

The photo caption reads: “The stuff we eat is awful,” said Nancy (at home with Bourdain). “But if we’re having a family gathering, I can press him into service.”

Here’s what Nancy said in the article:

Though Bourdain likes to project a freewheeling image, the demands of full-time cooking and a thriving writing career don’t give him much time to waste. “He’s really disciplined,” says Nancy, 45, who helps research Bourdain’s books. “I can’t remember the last time he’s had eight hours’ sleep.”

Now working on a travelogue about exotic foods (“I’ll be looking for monkey brains and poisonous blowfish gizzards”), Bourdain, who lives with Nancy in a spacious one-bedroom apartment in uptown Manhattan, is usually too tired to cook at home. “I thought I’d be eating well,” Nancy says with a chuckle. “I do – if we go out.”

(My thanks to reader Chris who sent me the original article.)

Was Anthony Bourdain’s First Wife a Vampire?

June 6, 2008

By Karen

The former Mrs. Bourdain, Nancy Putkoski, may be one of the undead because her image doesn’t show up on film. When Tony first hit the big time with his book, Kitchen Confidential, you’d think there’d be at least one shot online of him stepping out with his lady, but no.

Perhaps he cleverly camouflaged her as an extra – as he did Ottavia – in an early episode of No Reservations or A Cook’s Tour. You’d think Nancy would have wanted to accompany him to Paris.

But since no one knows what she looks like, she’s still invisible.

I just spent more time than I should have trying to find Nancy, but turned up only postings of other people hunting, too. However, I did find this sexy shot of Tony being compared to the late hunky actor, Victor Mature. It would turn Cats Working into a porn site to show it here, so you’ll have to look for yourself.

I also found (but couldn’t verify) that Tony and Nancy were married September 5, 1985, which was 7 years after they graduated from college. Since they were high school sweethearts, I wondered why the long wait to tie the knot.

Their divorce was final on April 5, 2007, and Ariane was born on April 9. So it’s understandable why Tony and Ottavia didn’t commit a block of time to nuptials during the 4 days he was free before she gave birth. They were married on April 20.

I found Nancy on at Vassar from 1974-78, which means she has a 30-year class reunion coming up. Tony left Vassar in 1975 to attend culinary school.

My next stop was Vassar’s Web site, where there might be a pocket of information, but I couldn’t access it because it’s not my alma mater.

So, if you’re a Bourdain-loving Vassar alum with member’s access to the site or old yearbooks, check out the class of 1978. If you find a photo of Nancy, please report back here. If her photo is a blank gray square, don’t tell me. I’d like to keep believing vampires are mythical.

Asha Gill has an amusing interview with Tony on her site, along with a cute photo of them together that a reader graciously contributed. Asha’s a bright, young, perky brunette who, except for her vegetarianism, seems like Tony’s kind of woman.

So the hunt for Nancy’s image continues, and I hope it doesn’t seem too weird. It’s not like anyone’s out to stake her. It’s just that in a culture overflowing with data and images, it’s eerie for someone to reach Bourdain’s celebrity status and have a phantom wife, ex or not. It’s probably too much to hope he’ll ever write an autobiography to fill in the blanks for his fans.


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