Tracking Tony: The Latest on Anthony Bourdain

By Karen

Anthony Bourdain spent at least 3 days last week on the West Coast, doing an appearance every night. His first stop was De Anza Community College in Cupertino, CA, and he did an advance phone interview with the San Jose Mercury from New York, revealing that a return to Beirut is definitely on tap for Season 6 of No Reservations, and his wish list includes Iran, the Congo, China, the highlands of Vietnam and Cambodia, Prague, and Rome.

Got Shares? saw Bourdain’s presentation and confirmed that Tony, so soon after his relatively cordial brush with Alice Waters, still didn’t hesitate to take his usual dump on the Queen of Organic Eating while standing virtually at her doorstep.

Blogger Brian Underwood at Bay Area Bites was also in the audience, and describes a fan who kept yelling during Tony’s talk, until Bourdain challenged him to come up on stage. The guy did, and revealed a tattoo of Bourdain’s face on his entire right thigh. Underwood said Bourdain seemed a combination of “flattered and mortified,” as he added his autograph to the young man’s leg.

I haven’t found anything noteworthy to share about Tony’s trek to Portland, OR, on May 29. Everyone must have behaved themselves.

UPDATE: I take that last paragraph back. Here’s a good account of his appearance in Portland. He gave that audience more time (2 hours total) than he usually does. And, again, he didn’t spare Alice Waters.

Tony was also interviewed by the Seattle Times by phone before his date with Mario Batali there on May 30.

And on the day of his Seattle appearance, he was seen hanging around outside a Mexican restaurant by someone who reported the sighting to My Ballard. No one seems to know if he lunched there or not.

Erin Crabb took forbidden photos in the auditorium in Seattle for Whrrl, and her punishment was that Bourdain and Batali came out as indistinguishable specks on stage. However, the poster outside the venue is definitely suitable for framing.

Aidan Brooks provides a clip of an early Bourdain special called Decoding Ferran Adrià and makes an interesting point about Tony’s writing process and how his eloquence seems to improve with time.

But the best news I heard all week was that new episodes of Season 5 of No Reservations will resume on the Travel Channel July 30.

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31 Responses to Tracking Tony: The Latest on Anthony Bourdain

  1. mike says:

    This is one of my favorite shows. I always watch it. Even the older episodes.

  2. Bob says:

    I have the entire Decoding Ferran Adria episode, I think it was filmed sometime in between Cooks tour and No Reservations but don’t quote me on that.

    It should be fairly easy to find still on Isohunt or The Pirate Bay for anyone that uses a Bit Torrent Program.

    Funny the more I read his interviews the more they stay the same.. I guess except for the odd nutbar with a tattoo on his body.

    Anyways its good to see that he is still chomping at the bit to get back to Beirut, unfinished business I guess, I hope he does make it into Iran but with all the craziness in the world today who knows.. But having said that he did make it into Cuba after all.

    Keep up the good posts, seems like we have our own version of “Wheres Waldo” going on with “Wheres Ottavia”!!!!

    Bob I

  3. catsworking says:

    Bob, I think you may be right about when he made the Ferran Adria episode, but I thought it was shown as an episode of NR. I’ve got it on DVD somewhere myself.

    Bourdain’s got to get up pretty early in the morning to say something this bunch hasn’t heard before, since we’ve seen just about all his shows, read just about all his books, and have been stalking him across the Internet for more than a year like… well… cats working.

    From the way he’s described be bloggers, he’s obviously got these personal appearances down to a science, repeating basically the same schtick, but staying loose enough to allow for some ad libbing, like confronting that nut job with the tattoo. When I saw him in Durham, I was impressed by the way he seemed tuned in to the audience, sometimes responding to what they yelled out. Up on stage, the lights make it hard to see past the first few rows, so it’s easy to feel like you’re delivering your lines in a vacuum unless you can accept you’re being stared at by several thousand people without freaking out.

    I would be worried about him going to Iran right now, although a visit from Bourdain is EXACTLY what that country needs.

    I’m telling you, I still have this feeling that Ottavia is working on producing another little Bourdain, and the next time we see her, it may show. Of course, I could be totally wrong, but I can’t shake the hunch.

  4. Cindy says:

    Somewhere I read that Ferran Adria program caused the breakup with Food Network. Tony got the chance to film it but FN kept dragging their feet not wanting to do it, so Tony and his crew pooled their own money and filmed it. The crew formed Zero Point Zero and they used it to sign up with Travel Channel.

  5. catsworking says:

    Cindy, I think you may be right on the money. I also remember him saying that he and his producers filmed something sort of freelance, and used it to sell his series idea to the Travel Channel. Ferran Adria was probably it. And it would also explain some of his bitterness toward the Food Network. It must have seemed beyond stupid to him for them not to be interested in a show about this phenomenal chef.

  6. Adele says:

    You guys share my recollections about “Decoding Feran Adria;” I,too, think that Food Network’s not showing it, led to the formation of Zero Point Zero Productions. I recall Tony also saying that after a fairly successful season (or was it 2) of A Cook’s Tour, the Food Network really wanted to dumb down the show, and he found that unacceptable.

    If there is another offspring in the works, I wonder what happens to the Year in Vietnam. I’m going through No Reservations withdrawal and can’t wait ’til July 30. Then Mad Men starts in August . . .

  7. catsworking says:

    Ooh, I love Mad Men! I thought Season 2 was kind of slow, so I hope things pick up. I’m so glad it got renewed.

    The year in Vietnam is exactly why I think, if they’re going to have a second child, they’re doing it now to give it a head start.

  8. Bob says:

    I loathe to be posting this but, if any of you watch TMZ
    apparently he is on TONIGHT, June 2 with Mario talking about Yak Penis….

    I can take the Yak Penis, but TMZ gives me the willies

    Bob

  9. catsworking says:

    Bob, DRAT! I didn’t see this until June 3. Maybe TMZ will put a clip of it on the Web.

    Seems Andrew Zimmern would know more about yak penis, though.

  10. Bob says:

    Here’s the link to the TMZ site.. Just a little blurb from the two of them when they hooked up in Seattle this week..

    http://www.tmz.com/2009/06/02/bourdain-and-batali-penis-soup-for-the-soul/

    I feel so dirty now, must get clean.. TMZ EWWWWW

  11. catsworking says:

    Tony didn’t look too thrilled with the guy asking the stupid questions, and I loved when he said the yak penis question was offensive.

    And even though he didn’t give Andrew Zimmern “one season” when he guested on Bizarre Foods, he’s been uncommonly gracious to the guy since then, giving him credit all the time for eating unspeakable things. I still can’t watch that show.

  12. drestione says:

    I was at that Seattle talk with Tony and Mario- and did a one on one interview with Mario the day before. I was a huge Tony fan, having been a line cook myself and got to hang out with him when he was touring with “Nasty Bits.” We smoked out in an alley by a dumpster- perfect, no? But his folks shot me down for an interview despite all kinds of pressure. Mario’s people were screwing me, but then Mario stepped in and gave me not just his time and a cool interview…but his home number. Mario scored serious cool points while Tony only did the local paper.
    At the event itself- Tony was great- but he was doing his familiar riffs- some of which I recognize now. Mario was funny too- but had more of a heart. He also obviously loves cooking in a way that Tony doesn’t.
    At the end of the day- Tony’s real talent is his wit- and I hate to say it…it feeling like it’s shading over into schtick. I wish he would write more fiction and take a break from being the “bad boy.”

  13. catsworking says:

    Drestione, thanks so much for checking in! Your insight is priceless.

    I feel your pain on getting shot down on that interview with Bourdain. From my own experience, I think he’s more comfortable talking to the press than all us loose cannons in the blogosphere because he’s afraid we’ll stray too far into his personal life, which he understandably prefers to keep separate. Unfortunately, when a man becomes a celebrity, people want the back story. Day to day, Cats Working gets more hits on searches about his first wife Nancy (even though I haven’t written anything about her in ages because she’s dropped out of sight), than about his current marriage. That could be because he dedicated ALL his books right up to No Reservations to Nancy.

    I’m with you that Bourdain could use a break from this hamster wheel he’s got himself on and let the well of his creativity refill. I was saying that last year. I’d also love to see more fiction from him, and I think he will turn to it in time because he has amassed such a wealth of exotic locales and characters through his travels. The only way he’ll be able to use them is in fiction because people will eventually tire of him if he keeps trying to rehash and milk this traveling chef thing as autobiography. But novels — no limit. He could become the next Somerset Maugham.

    Your point about the difference in attitude between Bourdain and Batali is very interesting, and I understand it completely. Tony cooked as a job. He even says he was never an inspired chef or an innovator. He was happy to prepare good food in a competent way.

    Batali seems more the food artist, so his passion comes through. Also, he’s a big jolly Italian, compared to the lanky ex-druggie cynic with French roots. Their personalities match their appearance. Night and day.

  14. Adele says:

    Drestione, is your interview with Batali available anywhere on-line? I’d really like to read it. I agree with Bourdain — short of Julia Child’s shows, I found Molto Mario to be the best how-to show on TV, and it certainly made me try to cook things I’d never have tried.

    Too bad about Tony, but he’s been on the road so much, he can probably barely stand to hear himself talk. I guess he’ll keep doing it until it’s no longer lucrative, but I’d like to see him settle down and start writing again. I’ve now read all of his fiction but Bone in the Throat, and I think he’s got possibilities as a fiction writer, but they’re not fully realized. Seasoned with some maturity and more travels, he could be very good. I’d happily read another travel book, if he could re-capture the enthusiasm of A Cook’s Tour.

    Thanks for posting. I like hanging in the blogosphere with people like Karen and you, who’ve actually met these folks.

  15. catsworking says:

    Adele, when Tony admitted he didn’t come close to making the $1.5 million someone claimed he did, it put it all in perspective.

    He’s undoubtedly on the road a lot only because he has to be. His books probably sell respectably, but they have a niche. I’d guess his book sales are in the hundreds of thousands, not millions, of copies. And if you knew what royalty splits are like, he can’t afford to be sitting back on those. Especially living in Manhattan.

    UPDATE: I take it back. I JUST read in an LA Times article that Kitchen Confidential has sold “well over 1 million copies.” But that takes me back to my comments on royalty splits, which I stand by.

    I suspect on these personal appearance gigs, some of his compensation comes in the form of travel expense payment, and that was probably fine with him while he was on his own.

    The more he gets his name out there, the more books he sells. As I’ve written before, he’s attaining fame the hard way. On cable, in a niche, writing non-fiction that’s got certain limitations in its audience potential.

    NOW, if he wrote a runaway bestselling NOVEL that hit the NY Times list and got made into a movie (unlike that piece of crap film No Reservations with Catherine Zeta-Jones that had nothing to do with his book), he might be able to put away the suitcase for a while.

  16. Ayala says:

    Hello! This is my first comment but I read this blog regularly and love all the juicy Bourdain news! I thought I’d share this with you – an article Tony wrote for Men’s Health magazine listing the Tony’s 13 Places to Eat Before You Die. A lot of his known favorites on the list (St. John, Le Bernardin) but there’s some interesting choices as well!

    http://www.slashfood.com/2009/06/03/anthony-bourdains-13-places-to-eat-before-you-die/

  17. catsworking says:

    Welcome to Cats Working, Ayala! And thanks for the link. His 13 places are like a track of crumbs he’s leaving so we can follow in his footsteps without ever catching him.

    Did you notice that Ches Panisse, Alice Waters’ restaurant, didn’t make the list?

  18. Adele says:

    Ayala, thanks for the link. I can say I’ve eaten at 2 out of the 13 places, neither of which would be called fine dining — Hot Dougs and Katz’s. As a Chicagoan, I’ve got to say that Hot Dougs puts out a fine dog (I get the char grilled Chicago dog), which is among the best I’ve had. And I’m not a huge corned beef or pastrami fan, but I tasted both at Katz’s and thought they were good.

    Karen, if the financial gods smile upon both of us, I’ll meet you at Le Bernardin. I’m a seafood lover and an Eric Ripert lover, and it’s a restaurant I’ve always wanted to visit.

  19. catsworking says:

    Adele, it’s a date!

    The new guy is about 3 years old and he’s had a rough life. Yesterday he was very sick for a few hours (non-stop vomiting and diarrhea although he’d eaten next to nothing all day), and I still don’t know if he’s going to adapt, or be happier back at the shelter. I’m holding off on giving all the details until he gives me a sign that he’s ready to join Cats Working. I hope he does, but these things can’t be forced. From the way he responded to me at the shelter, I really didn’t expect this much resistance.

  20. MorganLF says:

    Guys I’ll meet you at Le Bernadin…Adele I agree Eric fascinates me and his touch with seafood seems ethereal.Tony has settled into rote when I saw him 90% of what he said I had read or heard before but that is because we are so obsessive here and follow every tidbit. My friend had never heard any of his “shtick” and was genuinely amused. Face it I’m so ga-ga over him he could have stood there and cursed for an hour and I would not care. As Karen and anyone else who’s seen him up close can attest to, he is just so f’n handsome.
    I read Gone Bamboo..not all that impressed, it was not horrible but he needs to let the funny in. I would love his next effort to be a full on satire skewering that what he knows so well the pretense of haute cuisine and all the frauds that inhabit the “scene” in New York. His take on “sassiety”, politics and celebs from his brainy, sharp-witted yet low down ex-junkie, Jersey boy perspective would amuse me.
    I actually found the clip about Yak penis pretty funny. Not the yak penis part (ho-hum) But when the guy posed the question about Elton John, Paris Hilton or Pam Anderson I thought he had..BALLS..(ok, ok cheap one but I HAD to!)

  21. adele says:

    Hey Morgan, Le Bernardin for sure, and while we’re at it, let’s toast Tony in some kind of a dive bar. The only NYC bar I’ve been in that comes close to meeting that description was Puffy’s in Tribeca. Now I have to come up with some extra $$. I felt pretty much the same about Gone Bamboo as you did. There was a germ of a good book in there, but character development was a problem, and I think Tony didn’t recognize his true strength as a writer, at that time. He specializes in satire and irony, and more life experience could only create better characters.

    BTW, I saw Paula Froelich on Bill Mahr last night. I thought she looked better on TV than she does in photos, and she did show some wit, although she didn’t add much to the panel — not a very coherent political philosophy, but as I said to Karen, it’s pretty clear Tony likes his women with some chutzpah. And more power to him.

  22. MorganLF says:

    Adele,
    Saw the Froelich thing too, sorry but she’s uglier than a bag full of cat’s assholes…(sorry Cats Working that’s not meant to offend but it was one of my mom’s bon mots and it is fitting).

    She has some wit to her and she’s ballsy I’ll give her that. I’m gonna read her new book and see if we can spot our boy.

    Le Bernadin or bust!! Would it not be a cool thing if the whole Cats Working gang went there? Bob, Nancy (not that Nancy) Ottavia, et al.?

  23. Adele says:

    Okay,maybe I’m being kind, but I did think Paula looked better than she had in any photos I’ve seen (and remember, I’m old, and she has youth on her side). Morgan, did you think she was flirting with Bill? I sort of did. Loved your mother’s salty bon mot. My mother was good at turning a phrase as well. For instance in the Froelich instance, I would have said, “She didn’t look so bad,” and Mother would have said, “Not bad? She could use my ass for a Sunday face.”

    You must do a book report if you do read the book. I wasn’t planning on reading it, but it might be fun to see if we recognize anyone.

    I think a Cats Working gathering at Le Bernardin would be most excellent. Great food and great conversation.

  24. Bob says:

    Well thanks for the Invite, as it turns out I am in the process of reading Eric Ripert’s book “On the Line” its a pretty decent read about a day in the life of Le Bernardin..

    If we go for lunch there though I think we should have Eric comp us for having a “Working Lunch” at his humble little roadside grill….

    If I win the Lotto I would be there in a heartbeat, Les Halles for Lunch and Le Bernardin for a late supper.

    So for those of you following my injury get this, I went to the Dr on Wed Past. He spent a grand total of 2 min assessing my ankle, strangely without actually having me put weight on it???? So he starts filling out forms for my return to work.

    Long story short, in consultation with Work, and Workers Compensation. My manager feels that I should not even try walking across the parking lot to get into work…So looks like I am sidelined another week at least… I am going to drive Dar nuts!!!!

    Cest la vie..

    Bob

  25. MorganLF says:

    Ass for a Sunday face…LOL! It’s in my repertoire!

  26. catsworking says:

    Morgan, that’s a great idea for a book plot! I hope Tony is reading. He could work his usual crime/mystery angle into it, too.

  27. catsworking says:

    Boy, I must not have read the same book. I loved Gone Bamboo. I’m going to have to go back to it to see what you’re all talking about. I will admit I was in a “devour everything Bourdain has ever written” phase, after discovering A Cook’s Tour, and probably wasn’t too discerning.

    So Paula has become a novelist herself. Interesting. Adele, what you’re saying about her does explain the initial attraction. But what she said about him after their breakup made her come off as a real witch. On the other hand, she met him when he was on the rebound and he probably wasn’t so delightful to be with.

  28. catsworking says:

    Bob, it sounds like you’ve got a real quacker of a doctor, but I think I can top you.

    I’ve been volunteering as an “Elder Friend” to this gentleman who has a recurrence of prostate cancer. His daughter found this “doctor” in Charlottesville who apparently cured himself and is now helping others. But he charges $700 an hour for consultations (2-hour minimum) and won’t accept insurance.

    As it turns out, he doesn’t accept insurance because insurance doesn’t recognize him. He’s a PhD in CHEMISTRY (NOT an MD) and used to teach. Now I guess his racket is bilking the desperate. He did no tests on my friend (because he can’t), but yakked for 2 hours about diet and vitamins. No red meat or pork, no peanuts or pecans, fruit is good, some veggies are better than others. Take fish oil capsules. Eat salmon and tuna.

    I didn’t hear anything worth $700/hour. But my friend said he came away feeling “hope.”

  29. Bob says:

    In Medicine, food and Sex… Hope can be a very dangerous thing indeed.

  30. Adele says:

    Bob, sorry to hear about your ankle. I guess there are inattentive doctors everywhere; it seems like your guy was either really frazzled or just an idiot. Sounds like the charm of being off work is wearing kind of thin, and if you’re still in pain, even if the pain has lessened, the whole thing is beginning to suck. “In medicine, food and sex . . .Hope can be a very dangerous thing.” The Bhuddists say to achieve Nirvana you must have no expectations.

    Karen, I just read Gone Bamboo a few months ago. I think if I’d read it when I knew very little about Bourdain, I would have liked it better. I imagine it’s more difficult to write fiction when one is a personality; most people write about themselves in one way or another, and a book can suffer if the main character is easily recognizable as the author. Maybe Sam Spade was exactly like Dashiel Hammett, but I didn’t know much about Hammett, except that I liked his politics; he lived with Lillian Hellman, and he refused to cooperate with the McCarthy era Blacklist.

  31. JOAN KOFF says:

    THE MOST ENTERTAINING FOOD AND TRAVEL SHOW EVER.
    GET RID OF THE JUNK LIKE ADAM RICHMAN WHO STUFFS
    HIS FAT BELLY AND WHO CARES WHAT ZIMMERN EATS ANYMORE
    HE IS DISGUSTING AND MAKES FOOD REVOLTING,
    TONY IS NOT ONLY SEXY TO WATCH BUT HE IS BRIGHT
    ALERT..HUMOROUS AND AMAZINGLY CLEVER AT WHAT HE
    DOES..LOVE THAT PROGRAM,..PUT IT OUT THERE

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