Are You Up for Bourdain’s “Medium Raw” Challenge?

By Karen

Publisher HarperCollins has created a Web site called “Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw Challenge,” and has him asking for 500-word essays that answer the question, “What does it mean to cook food well?” Readers will be able to vote for their favorite, but Bourdain will select the winning piece, and it will be published in the paperback edition of Medium Raw.

Top Chef began its 7th season in Washington, DC, two kicked-off chefs ago, and Bourdain clearly shows up in a promo, seemingly with Buzz Aldrin, so it looks like fans’ prayers for his return have been answered, and the cheftestants will be feeling the sharp edge of his tongue again.

Medium Raw is sweeping the country. It sits at #4 on Publishers’ Weekly bestseller list, #2 with the NY Times, and #3 with the LA Times.

Tony got a nice write-up in the July 5 issue of People magazine. It includes a family portrait with Ottavia and 3-year-old Ariane. Ariane is adorable, but what happened to her curls? In the table of contents, there’s a picture of Tony in his kitchen, and I was blown away by how tiny it is.

Bourdain continues to do lots of interviews to promote the book, and the book is getting widely reviewed, but unless I come across some new or particularly entertaining slant, I’m not going to keep going there.

In the “Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery” department…

Food Network has launched a book club. Their first (and probably last) book is — Medium Raw. Now, if you’ve ever doubted Bourdain’s contention that FN’s dumbed-down programming may be beneath the intelligence of its viewer base, check out the comments and the forum. Cats Working readers kicked their ass when it came to discussing the book because we actually read it.

Maybe some day they’ll tear themselves away from watching Rachael, Sandra, Paula, and Guy to peruse a few pages and stop fixating on FN logo merchandise giveaways.

Seattle Weekly has a great 8-picture slideshow of Bourdain’s appearance there on June 22, revealing the playful side we don’t often see. Don’t miss FrankenTony in #3.

Jackie Writes did an excellent illustrated run-down of Bourdain’s Seattle appearance.

Diabetes Care would like Bourdain to add some disclaimers about unhealthy eating when he overindulges on No Reservations, and for Emeril to perhaps provide fat and calorie counts on his dishes. I can’t speak for Emeril’s audience, but I’m thinking NR viewers already get that Tony makes no claim to being health food’s poster boy.

Bourdain turned 54 on June 25, and The Village Voice thoughtfully supplied a list of 10 gift ideas, as well as the infamous “boner” picture of Tony in his birthday suit. Their #1 suggestion? “The street cred he pawned off in the last two seasons of No Reservations.” Ouch.

Cats Working reader Pegu in Canada provided a link to a radio interview Bourdain did on “Q” for CBC. Go to the June 16 broadcast.


17 Responses to Are You Up for Bourdain’s “Medium Raw” Challenge?

  1. Adele says:

    I can’t believe that Food Network is launching a book club, with Medium Raw as its first selection. It makes me wonder two things: has someone from FN been lurking among the Cats, and did anyone at FN actually read the book?

    If someone from FN actually read MR, he or she must have a masochistic bent; it’s not like Tony was complimentary to his former employers.

  2. Ridley says:

    Has anyone else seen this?
    Apparently CNN has started a food blog and Tony was interviewed for it. The interviewer shouts obnoxiously throughout. Oy.

  3. Jackie Baisa says:

    Hey, thanks for the linkage. Glad you enjoyed my recap of his Seattle stop. I notice you have a fascination with him on this blog. Love it! 😉 He’s one of my favorite (un)celebrities.

  4. catsworking says:

    My guess is that FN tasks somebody with tracking Bourdain, just to keep up with what he’s saying about them. And I’m thinking their sad attempt at a book club, COINCIDENTALLY with HIS book, was inspired by Cats Working. There’s no doubt in my mind. It’s too off the wall, even for them.

    The last time I looked over there, I wasn’t seeing any great insights, even from the FN moderators. Everybody was talking around the book, not ABOUT it.

    The fact that they’ve even embarked on such a daft project (I mean, why wouldn’t their book club be about their own stars’ COOKBOOKS? Readers could make the recipes and compare notes. That might make sense.) might indicate that they’d like to mend fences with him. Maybe they’re hatching some nefarious scheme to get him on the Cooking Channel.

  5. catsworking says:

    Ridley, thanks for that link! And I agree with you that his interviewer was totally obnoxoius, from her voice to her pedestrian questions. Bravo to Bourdain for trying to put an original spin on the fermented shark answer, just because she asked about the “strangest” thing he’d ever eaten instead of the “worst.” Of course, she followed right up with the worst and mentioned the warthog butt. Good old CNN and its in-depth research!

    Jackie, I don’t so much have a “fascination” with Bourdain (the cats are actually lukewarm to him — they just humor me here) as a serendipitous relationship. I innocently wrote a post about Ottavia about 2 years ago and the blog suddenly took off. I’d unwittingly tapped into a vein of curiosity about him, so I’ve been trying to give my readers what they want ever since and build a readership for myself. In doing that, I’m always pleased to find another blogger who does a good job of reporting on his doings, so thank you. So many posts are just empty, “Oh, Tony’s so wonderful. I want his job!”

    But I’d say at least 75% of the credit for Cats Working goes to the cats. Typing is hard for them because they have no thumbs to hit the spacebar. 😉

  6. Jackie Baisa says:

    Hey, Kitty Kats… I’d love to know (and you can refuse to answer, or answer me offline, if this isn’t “public information”) but how do you get access to Bourdain and/or his wife?

    Let me be clear: I am not a groupie. Nor do I plan to see Bourdain again until the next time he’s in Seattle. But I like covering chefs, restaurants, and other food-related events in Seattle. I asked the Moore Theater for a press pass as a “freelance journalist” to do a story on Bourdain, and they turned me down.

    Any tips? There are lots of chefs and food writers I’d love to take closer photos of, and maybe even get a chance to talk with, or be a part of a more exclusive media-related audience. Any ideas for me? I noticed you seem to have good success. 🙂

  7. catsworking says:

    Jackie, I’m a member of the Cat Writers’ Association and have press credentials through them (weird as that may seem), so if I were trying to get access to Bourdain I would pull out that little card, wave it around, and mumble that I’m trying to get a story on Bourdain’s relationship with Lupetto (his cat).

    I’d check around and see if there’s any kind of food-related professional groups you can join that would provide a similar perk.

    How I actually met the Bourdains is all laid out here in the archives. First contact was in December 2008. First meeting, February 2009. Meeting Ottavia, November 2009.

  8. MorganLF says:

    The FN book club is a blatant rip off and shame on them. But flattered just the same. Lets just see whose commentary is more entrtaining…

  9. Adele says:

    Karen and Morgan, it is kind of flattering that there’s another Medium Raw book club, but ours can’t be beat for content (yeah, yeah, I know self praise is no praise). We even have some commenters, who seem to have had a history with Bourdain. I wish they’d check back in.

  10. catsworking says:

    Me, too, Adele. I hate those hit-and-run types who hint that they have inside knowledge, yet never tell us HOW and then vanish. You have to take anything they say with a big grain of salt. They’re unreliable sources.

    I’d be willing to bet a pile of money that there’s nobody on the FN site willing to put in as much work as I and a few of you guys did reading and critiquing Medium Raw. I haven’t slaved over a book that hard since I was an English major in college!

  11. C from Florida says:

    Hi Karen,I submitted 2 essays for the Medium Raw Challange. Just being read by AB would be a honor. What is the protocol for making a shameless request for votes? The titles are Nona and My Father’s Fork submitted under the name Carol T. I think the latter seems to be doing better. Sooo, please advise. Thanx

  12. catsworking says:

    Hi, Carol. Congratulations on taking the plunge. Thanks for giving us the word here a Cats Working reader has entered the competition. I’m sure some of us will be reading your essays and casting votes (including me). I’m taking a pass on that contest myself because I have absolutely nothing to say on the subject, so good luck!

  13. MorganLF says:

    I was not going to mention it, but I posted an essay as well and did not use “MorganLF” the nome de plume you guys know me as, but if anyone has the right to shill on this blog its me!

    My essay is called: THE HOME TRAINED COOK, by Jane P.
    I forgot about it and just went to the website its #50 of 62.

    OK cats & folks,you know what to do!

  14. catsworking says:

    I think it’s very exciting that we have some horses in this race. Good luck to both of you!

  15. MorganLF says:

    Ok guys I’m up to #4 please help me keep the momentum going! You are allowed to vote every day!

    Its called the : HOME TRAINED COOK.

    Thanks for your help!

  16. kimberly w says:

    Hello, Karen and all. I’m a frequent reader of Cats working and very occasional poster here. I, too, submitted an essay to the Medium Raw Challenge. Much to my chagrin, when I copied and pasted the essay and posted it, the paragraph breaks disappeared! I think I might repost the same essay if I can learn how to avoid that. Any helpful hints?

    Of course, I won’t be able to resist posting a different essay between now and September. I wonder how Mr. Bourdain is going to slog through all of those? Does Cats Working have any insights on the vetting process (beyond the votes of the web site readers)?

    I just checked, and my essay is ranked #122, for all that it is a huge lump of material without the paragraph breaks. It’s called “Hedonism Is Good for You.”

  17. catsworking says:

    Hi, kimberly! Morgan tells me that the same thing happened to her essay in the Medium Raw contest. All her paragraph breaks disappeared and turned her essay into a lump.

    I’ll have to read your entry. I really like the title! Unfortunately, I have no inside scoop on the contest, nor am I entering it. I considered it for about 5 seconds before realizing that food is probably the one thing I have absolutely ZERO interest in writing about. The cats even do a better job than I ever could in writing about CAT food.

    It’s for the best, because I think the world has enough nuts photographing their plates and trying to come up with new ways to say “delicious.”

    I also wondered about Bourdain slogging through all those entries, but I daresay HarperCollins has “people” who will do an initial screening for him. I think a lot of the essays can be eliminated on the first sentence. I also learned just yesterday that they’ve upped the ante after some of Bourdain’s favorite blogs accused him of exploiting writers by not paying for their work. There’s now a $10K prize for the winner, in addition to publication. That’s probably more than even HE has ever been paid for a short essay.

    Good luck to all the Cats Working readers who entered!

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