Bourdain Food Fight Pan Scrapings

By Karen

The last tidbits I picked up from my evening with Anthony and Ottavia Bourdain at the Capital Food Fight in Washington, DC, on November 11:

Bourdain’s next book…

The manuscript is due in December for June 2010 publication, so Tony must be putting the finishing touches on it now. There will be a book tour. Ottavia told me the title may not be Cooks. She hasn’t read it. He only lets her see his finished work because she said her criticism is “too brutal.”


Ottavia showed me a picture of Ariane in a full-length white gown for Halloween, saying proudly that she looked like “a beautiful little bride.” Mama took Ariane trick-or-treating and she loved it. Tony was traveling and upset to miss it, but he already has next Halloween blocked off on his schedule. According to Ottavia, Ariane has her mother’s good appetite, eyes, and the strawberry blonde hair Ottavia had as a child, as well as Dad’s mouth and height. The height should serve her well because she’s studying ballet.

Ariane was with them in DC, staying at the hotel with her nanny. From there, they were flying to Miami for Tony’s appearance on November 13 with Jacques Pepin and Eric Ripert. He was due to speak in Schenectady, NY, on November 15, which regrettably didn’t leave much time for Miami R&R.


Ottavia is “really excited” about moving to Vietnam, but doesn’t see it happening for a few years because of Tony’s many other commitments. However, he’s returning there in 2010 to, I assume, shoot another No Reservations.

Social life…

In New York, the Bourdain’s don’t go out much. Tony is recognized everywhere, and when he’s not traveling, he’d rather relax at home — and not in the kitchen. Ottavia said it’s not because she doesn’t like his cooking, as he claims. With a laugh she told me, “When I married a chef, I thought good… but no, he doesn’t cook much.”

After their early drinking dates, starting very late after her restaurant closed, they drink little at home. Ottavia said, “Mainly, Anthony drinks for the show and socially, but not in airports at 10 in the morning.”

Bourdain’s Alternate Universe…

I asked Tony if casting himself as the mad scientist for the “Cooking Channel” in his new animated Web series was deliberate, since Travel Channel’s new owners will be launching a channel by that name. He said with some irony, “No, it was serendipitous.”

Life imitating his art. Sometimes the snark is purely unintentional.

He also mentioned that this “Web freebie” turned out to be a lot more work than he envisioned. Ottavia said it was the brainchild of one of the producers’ relatives, a graphic designer.

Ottavia’s fans…

After the Food Fight, Ottavia asked me to accompany her up on stage, where Tony gave her a big kiss. Then he noticed me, and I said jokingly, “She and I are new best friends.”

He answered, “I was afraid of that.”


For all his misgivings about allowing me access to his wife, Bourdain placed his hand on my shoulder, not on my throat. Remarkable restraint.

People were clamoring to meet him on stage, so Ottavia and I returned to the floor, where two young Asian women shyly approached Ottavia. They recognizing her from No Res in Sardinia and told her they loved it. Ottavia seemed touched and surprised, and obligingly posed for a photo with them.

They left, and when I observed, “You have your own fans now,” she giggled.

Final thoughts…

Tony and Ottavia seem like a perfect fit. They’re attentive to each other, but she’s comfortable stepping back to share him with fans. Her self-confidence and maturity must help to ground him, but she also has a youthful ebullience that he probably needs to keep himself going at times.

When the night was over, we walked outside for another soaking by Hurricane Ida and ran in to none other than Tony, Ottavia, and Eric Ripert on the empty street. Tony bounded away to hail a cab and off they went.

26 Responses to Bourdain Food Fight Pan Scrapings

  1. Adele says:

    I forgot about DC being hit by the remnants of Hurricaine Ida, good thing it was so warm and sunny inside the Capital Food fight. You got your Christmas present early this year, Karen, and you did a fine job with it. I’d love to have seen that picture of Ariane. I’m sure Lupetto speaks Italian; I wonder if Ariane does as well.

  2. Cindy says:

    I don’t think you mentioned that Ottavia did confirm that their daughter was named after Ariane Daguin, like everyone was speculating.

  3. catsworking says:

    Cindy, you’re right. I think Tony said something about where Ariane got her name on his show once, and he mentioned it again on stage at the Food Fight. I asked Ottavia if it were true, and she said yes, they both love Ariane Daguin and she’s been a very good friend. In fact, she was going to their hotel later that night because she hadn’t seen their daughter Ariane in a while.

    Adele, the weather in DC was absolutely miserable every minute we were there, cold, windy, raining. And when I came home to Virginia, it was even WORSE. They never explained why, but the train crept in to Richmond for about the last 30 miles, making us more than 30 minutes late arriving. Hurricane Ida couldn’t have hit at a worse time for all of us to be traveling.

  4. MorganLF says:

    May I add, at the conclusion of the evening “the” Ariane was right in front of us while we were all milling around & chatting and Ottavia pointed her out to us. She said they were both very fond of her.

    After a bit of gathering ourselves together to leave, Ottavia came over and said, “Girls do you have everything you need? Do you want any more pictures?” I said yes of course and she gently guided him over to us again to pose for more pics.

    Realize that he is a ROCK STAR at these events so there was a throng around him, but he generously posed with us again. There is a great one of him Karen & I that I treasure.

    Karen has done a wonderful job recapturing the events of the night (despite our multi-martini postmortem).

    Tony looked like he always does on camera. Very tall slim and yes, handsome. I noticed no sign of post cig habit paunch. I did notice his hair is still short and slightly spiked in front (channeling his inner Fieri?)

    Anyway I was thrilled to shake his hand and was oddly tongue-tied. He had a ready smile for us girls and a kiss for Karen. She does not exaggerate, they literally spied her and came right over.

    At the end of the night I commented to Ottavia that I thought it had been a fun event and I was glad I came all the way from New Jersey and she said, “I know, I read”.

  5. kimw says:

    A very enjoyable series of posts for Anthony Bourdain fans. Ottavia Bourdain sounds refreshingly unaffected and perhaps wise beyond her years. In the Sardinia episode she regarded her husband with a clear-eyed sense of humor that would warn him against taking himself too seriously (although perhaps Anthony Bourdain takes himself less seriously than any other celebrity, an integral part of his charm). Your talk with her confirmed the impression I received of her on the No Res episode. Of course, no one really wants to see Bourdain tamed, but if it has to happen, at least it will be in part because of a very classy lady.

    I wonder why he was making the “buttoning” motion during your conversation? Apparently, it was not meant seriously. Another thing I like about Anthony Bourdain is that I have never seen him on No Reservations make a wrong step regarding his approach to females. Never any hint of drunken frat-boy or locker-room mentatlity regarding any of the young guides or women he met in his travels, not even any seemingly innocuous side-comments, which would have been inappropriate in the context, although another male probably would have slipped up and misspoke somewhere along the line. The women have always been fellow humans in his show. He also has shown great respect for older women, be they a poor grandmother in Cambodia or a restaurant owner in Vietnam. His mother must be one heck of a lady, too.

    Do you have more information about his upcoming book? I became a Tony Bourdain fan when I was in the emergency room with my daughter in the morning a few years ago, captive for hours, but all of things, for one of those hours the Travel Channel was airing a repeat of the Romania episode. Such perfect and deserved snark! Despite the unpleasant circumstances, I was smiling. Then I checked out Kitchen Confidential and became a fan of his writing. Gonzo at its finest, but he also has an evocative, unique voice. For all that he has portrayed himself as a hard-partyer, he also must have an iron core of discipline to sit down and put out a book while working killer hours at Les Halles. That in itself is a lesson for would-be writers. Just do it! Write, instead of endlessly talking about writing, which seems to be Mr. Bourdain’s way, as I seldom hear him in interviews discuss his writing.

    I hope his newest book has a lot less pictures and more of his writing. For all that the No Reservations book had gorgeous photos, I bought it for his writing voice, and was disappointed that there wasn’t more of it. Nasty Bits II would be wonderful. It seems the Bourdains do read your blog. Mr. Bourdain, the camera provides us with the visuals (sometimes amazing) in No Res. In your next book, however, more print, your writing voice, please.

    What a coup, Karen!

  6. Luisa says:

    Un grosso grosso saluto a Anthony e Ottavia dall’Italia, visto che legge questo blog e potrà tradurre!!!

    p.s. un caro saluto naturalmente anche a Karen!

    ciao ciao Luisa

  7. catsworking says:

    Luisa, for Cats Working American readers, Google Translator says you said:

    A big big salute to Anthony and Octavia brightly sparkling €Italy, given that reads this blog and you can translate!
    P.S. a fond hello to Karen of course!
    Hello Hello Luisa

    Many thanks, Luisa!

  8. catsworking says:

    Morgan, the Malaysia episode reran last night, the one that seemed to mark a turning point in Bourdain’s life. At the end he said something like, “I don’t think I belong here, but I don’t know if I can ever fit back into life in New York again,” and I thought, “Oh Tony, you have no idea what’s coming up next.”

    Also, I noticed how thick and curly his hair was. Maybe these recent gel ‘dos he’s wearing are the result of bad haircuts (I know the feeling). He’s getting it cut too short (maybe to extend them because he’s on the road so much), but he thinks it looks too flat so he tries to poof it up with the spikey look. Just a guess.

    Kim, you hit on a couple of points I didn’t mention that I don’t think would be talking out of school. I asked Ottavia about Zamir, and she said she’d never met him, but he and Tony had been friends for many years. There was a little cooling off after they did the Romania episode because Tony wasn’t too thrilled with Zamir’s behavior or the way the Romanian government tried to control the shoot (which was obvious in the episode), but he got over it and had Zamir here for the Rust Belt episode.

    I agree with you on the last book. The photography was wonderful, but I found myself wanting more Bourdain.

    As for his writing, from what little he’s said about the next book (i.e., it will be part continuation of Kitchen Confidential, part memoir), I think it’s going to be a good read. Ottavia said he’s very disciplined about writing and gets up at 6 every morning and writes until 10 or 11. He loves it. We were sitting right under a speaker, so I had a hard time hearing her sometimes, which accounts for my uncertainty on some of the facts, but I think she said he’s strictly a morning writer, and if he doesn’t do it then, it doesn’t get done. Years ago, Nancy said virtually the same thing about his writing habits.

    That’s good news for us because it bodes more books to come.

    I asked Ottavia if he’s dedicating the next book to her, since No Reservations was dedicated to Ariane, but she said she doesn’t know. His mother may also be on the short list for a dedication.

    When he came over to us on stage and signaled Ottavia to “button it,” I thought he was being serious. On the other hand, it wouldn’t surprise me if they had agreed in advance on what she’d tell me. I have no problem with that. Cats Working is really the only place she could safely get her side of the story out there. If she talked to a reporter for a print publication, there’s no telling how her words would be edited. Bourdain knows how that goes.

    Yesterday, Morgan tipped me off to the “brutal” comments on YouTube attached to the Miami Ink video that got all our knickers in a knot, so I checked them out. What amazed me was the sheer volume of misinformation. Someone even concluded Ottavia was his daughter because he said something like, “Mom won’t like this.”

    Last, I have never read or seen him be anything less that chivalrous toward women. Not one mean word about any woman he’s ever known, his jabs at Rachael, Sandra, Paula, Giada, etc., notwithstanding. I think he views those as just part of his schtick. At heart, he genuinely seems to respect women, which is a good thing, now that he’s outnumbered.

    What amazed me about the Food Fight was how “normal” and unpretentious they both are. That they both approached me as friends who have known me for a long time simply amazed me. I guess we’ve been learning so much about each other through this blog, when we met face-to-face, we had a history together. At least, that’s how I think Ottavia saw it.

  9. Bob says:

    Well Glad that its all out in the open for everyone to see in black and white. Setting the record straight!!

    I had a sneaking suspision about Ariane being named after well Ariane.. It just seemed natural knowing Tony’s love of fatty goose bits.

    Glad that they did indeed turn out to be “Normal” and not glory hogs, as some had surmised.

    Once again Great Score!!!!


  10. Adele says:

    I wondered about Zamir, too, and if Ottavia had ever met him. Zamir seemed like extra baggage in the Rust Belt No Res, and I found him truly offensive in the Romania episode, but I saw a re-run of the Russia No Res show, and I remembered that I’d initially found him likeable and funny. I was hoping that Ottavia had met him, because she seems very good at giving one-sentence descriptions.

    I’m glad that Tony is so disciplined when he writes and that he still loves it. I look forward to the relase of the new book, and as I’ve said before, I really wonder what his fiction will be like, now that his life is more stable he’s more mature. Speaking of fiction — the main female characters in all of his books are tough and capable. I never doubted that he respected women. As far as Sandra Lee goes, she has the outward trappings of a human female (two in particular), but I’m willing to assign her to another species. Did Ottavia have anything to say about their meeting with Aunt Sandy?

  11. catsworking says:

    Adele, “Aunt Sandy” was never mentioned by anybody. In hindsight, I’ve been thinking of things I would have liked to get Ottavia’s opinion on, but I never dreamed I’d spend any time with her so I was just soaking in whatever she wanted to discuss. I thought our meeting would be a handshake, a photo, and a “nice to meet you.”

    At the end of the evening, Bourdain said, I don’t think to anybody in particular, “Well, nobody has asked THE question yet.”

    I had no idea what he was talking about, but Morgan said he was referring to the sale of the Travel Channel.

    I didn’t hear him ever answer it, but Ottavia told me he’s just waiting for the other shoe to drop, anticipating that it could be bad. But nobody knows yet.

    Oh, and one more thing just came to me. Top Chef. Ottavia told me there is absolutely no discord, and that they keep calling, but Bourdain’s always too busy to guest judge.

  12. catsworking says:

    Bob, In 1988 I spent a week on a ship with an actor named Jonathan Frid who was HUGE in the late ’60s-early ’70s for playing a vampire named Barnabas Collins on a daytime soap called Dark Shadows. After that, he dropped out of sight except for playing Shelley Winters’ mute chauffeur in a TV movie and some touring stage work.

    Since Frid was my first close brush with fame, I judge all other encounters by him.

    He was a prima donna. Difficult, demanding, and stand-offish unless he’d been drinking. He didn’t want to be photographed, wouldn’t mingle with most of the people who paid for a week’s cruise cruise just to meet him unless it was a scheduled event. He had a small clique of groupies he knew from other places that he always kept around him as a buffer, include the president of his NY fan club, who probably still lived in her parents’ basement.

    I got to talk to him a few times by collaring him around the ship, and came away actually feeling sorry for him.

    Oh, and I’d just completed a novel that had a character I’d based on him, a once-famous actor who finds love and new success as a writer. I gave him a copy of the manuscript on the ship, and he never mentioned it, probably dropped it right into the trash, although it would have been published if the publisher hadn’t gone inconveniently bankrupt on me.

    The sad thing was, nobody recognized Frid. But whenever I’d tell someone the star from Dark Shadows was on board, they’d always say, “Barnabas Collins! Really? I used to watch him when I was a kid!”

    So after playing cat-and-mouse for a week with that damn vampire, having Anthony Bourdain actually walk over to ME to say hello was unreal. He’s a real gentleman.

  13. Adele says:

    Considering how deadly dull the last 2 seasons of Top Chef have been, the Glad Family of Products should be offering Tony lots of money to guest judge. Did you or Cindy or Morgan notice how he got along with Carla Hall? Carla’s just loopy enough that they could have been fun to watch.

  14. Cindy says:

    Late in the program, there was a special “fight”. Carla with Tony as her sous chef and a DC Kitchen chef with Jose Andres as his sous.
    Carla was acting crazy the whole time and they were having fun with their battle.
    Pears was the mystery ingredient and Carla/Tony fixed them with foie gras and won.

  15. catsworking says:

    They acted like Carla thought of the impromptu “fight” on the spur of the moment, but it was apparently planned, so Tony and Carla managed to have some foie gras on hand. The main ingredient was supposed to be PEARS, for God’s sake. The other team did a cold fruit/veggie salad. Carla and Tony actually cooked. They got along very well. Carla is a large personality, and certainly not star-struck by anybody she’s appearing with these days. Cindy got a really good close-up photo of Carla. When did you get that close to her, Cindy?

  16. Bob says:

    Karen one thing just popped into my little brain.
    We have known that the Bourdains have been reading this blog for some time now. Apparently quite a lot as it turns out.. did Ottavia mention anything about why they never chose to correct things with you personally or on the blog when there was an obvious error???

    Did she feel like it would be out of place?? Or cause a stir??

    Just wondering if it came up in topic..

    And I remember you talking about Barnabas a little while back, sounds like he had no time for the little people..

  17. catsworking says:

    Bob, the truly sad thing about Barnabas was, he WAS “little people” by 1988, but just hadn’t realized it yet.

    At the Food Fight, Ottavia did joke that when she wants to get Tony’s goat, she threatens to post comments on Cats Working. I know he has not wanted to legitimize our existence by participating in our discussions in any way (don’t ask me how I know, you’ll have to trust me on that). Whether he will ever soften his stance, who knows?

    One misgiving I have if Bourdain himself were to check in is that I’d start getting a lot of those “Ooh, Tony, you’re so fine!” fan comments like he gets on his own blog, and I’d have to delete them. That’s not what we’re about here. I want this to be where he can come for the true buzz, expressed with some balance.

  18. Cindy says:

    We were onstage at the same time. I tried repeatedly to get a good picture of Eric Ripert but he was standing with his back to the stage lights so I had no luck.
    My picture of Ted Allen was okay, but Carla actually stopped and posed for me.

  19. Bob says:

    Very true, lets leave the giggly fans to Robert Pattinson.. OHHH Edward is SOOOO Dreamy 🙂

    I like balanced and fair just fine.

  20. Zappa says:

    hi Adele1
    please bring AB back to Top Chef! It has become a bit stale and that Brit judge is a waste of a chair.Plus my mom likes to look at Tony Bourdain every chance she can get.Was the Nov 11 event at the Ritz Carlton West End? We live right next door.It’s nice to see your mom’s picture.I think you guys got pretty lucky,Human-wise!


  21. catsworking says:

    Zappa, funny you should mention Toby Young, the Brit judge. My aunt, who was born in Liverpool, recently came for a visit and mentioned how much she LOVES Toby. Thinks he’s “witty.”

    Just goes to show the different in the senses of humor on each side of the pond. I’d like to see Bourdain judging with Young so viewers could see how it’s really done and Toby could take notes.

  22. catsworking says:

    Morgan, you click the links at your own risk…

  23. catsworking says:

    Remember when we were talking about Ottavia’s parents in the Sardinia episode and you were saying the woman with the longish blonde hair was her aunt? Not so. I rewatched the episode last night, and Ottavia’s aunt (on her father’s side) is named Adriana, and she has a short grayish bob. She was in a lot more scenes than Ottavia’s mother because she planned or cooked most of the meals. She has a son (Ottavia’s cousin) named Fabio or Favio. (Sorry, I wasn’t taking notes!)

    Ottavia’s parents are easiest to pick out in two table scenes, at the beginning and end. In the beginning, her father is sitting to Tony’s left, with Ottavia opposite and her mother to her left (longish blonde hair). At the end, Tony is seated between them with Ottavia opposite.

  24. Adele says:

    Hey Bob,

    I had 14 people over for the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame concert, and I did scan the crowd, but I couldn’t see you. It really must have been great to see the 2 nights. The TV show had some great moments (although I did not like Sting’s rendition of “People Get Ready;” I’d just as soon have heard Jeff Beck’s guitar and nothing else.) If you watched the show, were there any acts that were missed? All of us were shocked at how much we loved hearing Simon and Garfunkel sing “Sounds of Silence.” It’s a song that wore surprisingly well. And Mick Jagger dancing with Fergie — 66 years old and the old letch still has it (and a great hair colorist as well). I’d give the HBO show 3 stars — a little too much Springsteen and U2, but I have a feeling that if I’d been there, I would have been completely enthralled. As it was, 14 old people were on their feet for both “Chain of Fools” and “Born to Run.”

  25. Bob says:

    Adele, do yourself a favor and pick up the latest issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, its got a bang up review of the show with a little dirt from backstage thrown in for good measure.

    I am just by coincidence watching Jeff Beck and Sting right now!! I haven’t had a lot of time to watch the whole concert yet, just bits and pieces. But one thing is for sure it was 6 hours the first night and 5 the second. So there is a bunch that didn’t make the cut.

    U2 actually closed the second night, and what its doing in the middle of the program I have no idea.
    Bruce was there both nights as was Jeff Beck, and Sting. The closer of the HBO show was Bruce and Billy Joel, which was the end of the first night.
    It was a more dramatic ending with everyone on stage singing so I figure they thought it would wrap up the TV show nicely.

    I am rambling here though, if you want to know more look me ask Karen for my e-mail. I don’t want to get Morgan started again……


  26. catsworking says:

    Olcay, in case you’re still reading I have deleted all your comments and every comment that was directed to you by others, including myself (at least, I think I did — I didn’t read every word carefully).

    Bob and Morgan, just an FYI that some of your comments got wiped, whether supportive or not, because without Olcay’s they make no sense. So let’s just drop it, OK?

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