A Case of Bourdain Burnout

By Karen

My waning interest in Bourdainia has been a long time coming. Travel Channel stomped on my last nerve with this one-and-a-half-page ad in Entertainment Weekly for the new Cuba episode of No Reservations, which airs tonight…

Season premiere? Season 8? What happened to Season 7, which disappeared after 8 episodes nearly 3 months ago? Was Tony’s trip to Haiti just filler?

And what’s suddenly so fucking special about Cuba? Andrew Zimmern was there for the first episode of Bizarre World — in 2009. Here’s the dramatic full page of Tony’s EW ad…


And there’s another one floating around, with Tony sitting on a curb in Havana.

Anyway, TC, you win. Figuring out when No Res will air is a game for your ideal demographic — young males who think road trips to BBQ competitions contitute “travel.”

The Bourdains themselves now run a slick PR machine on Twitter @NoReservations and @OttaviaBourdain, and most of Tony’s friends and crew tweet. Tony regularly tweets pictures and links to articles about himself. Eater.com does regular posts about him, with his cooperation.

I feel as if Cats Working’s job is done.

Several years ago, I asked Tony for a Cats Working interview. He declined, saying he didn’t want to endorse a blog that discussed his personal life.

That was long before he embraced the blogosphere, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, but I’ve never seen him utter “Cats Working” to a soul unless he was talking to me.

I’ve grown wary of much of his hyperbole. I thought chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter, was spottily disingenuous and certainly not a book Tony should have wished he had written.

I just watched both seasons of Treme, the HBO series about post-Katrina New Orleans that Tony has called one of the greatest shows ever, if not the greatest. In Season 2, he wrote the scenes for the chef character, Janette, who moved to New York and worked for Bourdain’s network of BFFs: Colicchio, Ripert, and Chang. They all had cameos.

Bourdain was asked to write for Treme so those marginally relevant scenes would be authentic.

Here’s a news flash: Only the tiny fraction of the population who actually works in restaurants knows (or cares). And if they’re as poorly paid as Tony says, it’s unlikely they get HBO anyway.

Sad to say, I found Tony’s work kind of lifeless, except for the scene where Janette tosses a drink in Alan Richman’s face. Some of his dialog was even retread.

If Bourdain writes for Season 3, I’m taking a miss. Not because of him, but because too many of the characters have such terrible diction, I’ve spent, literally, hours watching scenes where I caught one word in 10 with the volume maxed out, and had no idea what was happening.

Ditto for Top Chef, where Tony sometimes guest-judges. Watching hard-working chefs sabotaged so their dishes can be pooh-poohed by nitpicking snobs is not my idea of entertainment. Host Tom Colicchio seems like a nice guy, but I’ll never take his opinion seriously until he sheds the bimbo sidekick, Padma.

I knew my disaffection was complete when saw that Tony’s getting a new Travel Channel series, 24-Hour Layovers, and thought, “Now they’re sweeping the cutting-room floor.”

But apparently not. Tony tweeted he went to Singapore and Hong Kong for new shows.

If TC ever actually airs it, I’ll watch, just to see if Tony & ZPZ really can put Samantha Brown to shame. Poor Samantha. She’s like TC’s Rodney Dangerfield.

From now on, I’m letting Tony do his own thing and expanding our horizons here. If there are any interesting Bourdain developments that he doesn’t totally scoop me on, I’ll share them. But you can better get the latest news straight from him — and tweet him directly @NoReservations.

Bourdain fans, I hope you’ll still stick around, but if you don’t, the cats and I thank you for stopping by.

28 Responses to A Case of Bourdain Burnout

  1. Petunia says:

    For what it’s worth, I always came here for the entertaining comments from other posters, not really for the news on Tony. Like you, I have grown tired of the rehashing, the constant need for publicity while pretending to value his privacy, the enjoyment he seems to take in being part of exclusive groups other people are not privy to. I have found NR to be a bore since a couple of seasons back and I didn’t even buy the last book – I can’t even remember the title! I guess it’s like anything – eventually staleness sets in. I used to love Top Chef and now it barely grabs my interest, especially since the deck seems stacked against any woman ever winning (again). But I do wonder how mnay NR fans have fallen by the wayside (I bet it’s quite a few!)

  2. adele says:

    I’ll still be around, too. After all, I like talking to the cats.

    I liked most of the truncated season 7 of NR, and I’m looking forward to Cuba tonight, since I have a fondness for the music and actually spent a few hours there when I was 9 (we lived in Florida and had a friend, who captained a yacht). 24-Hour Layover worries me, because I think it will be all about food with none of the travelogue aspects of NR that I really like. Time will tell, I guess.I still think Tony has a couple of good books in him, and I look forward to his writing fiction again, this time hopefully using his travels as a backdrop.

    Far as Treme goes, it’s not for everybody, and it doesn’t have a huge audience. I really liked it the first season and thought this season was even better, though flawed in many ways. Bourdain’s involvement has nothing to do with my fondness for the show; I just love New Orleans and all the music and history there. I’ve been to Jazz Fest three times, and the first time I got off the train in NOLA (first trip down,we actually took a train), the city had me — not that I’d like to live there or spend any time there in the summer, but there’s just no place like it in this country.

    And I think I may be done with Top Chef as well. Top Chef Allstars really did me in — I think the diving for conch may have finally put the nail in its coffin for me.

    Fortunately, you have no lack of current events to keep you and the cats as busy as you want to be.

  3. MorganLF says:

    You read my mind! I have grown bored with the overexposure of Tony too. Twitter put it over the top. At first it was amusing, especially since we found out how funny his wife really is.

    This blog was never a treacly fawining “fan” club, rather it was a warts and all attempt decode someone we all found unique and fascinating and hot. With a few notable exceptions the fawning was kept at bay. The internet is a big place and weirdos will out and they are free to Twitter the Bourdains all day with simpering inanity.

    Petunia you nailed it. Since he is living in such a world of fabulosity, I got bored.

    I became suspect when he started flogging that awful Treme, (it is awful despite those that slaver after him with compliments for the worst show on HBO) .

    I agree unless CW gets an interview with Nancy, it looks like this chapter may have closed. I will never lose my admiration for the guy and enjoyed meeting him and Ottavia, but I think all the interesting facts have been covered.

  4. Anne says:

    Agreed – the sheen is begining to dull. He’s still a great showman with patter that cannot be duplicated, but sometimes enough is enough—already!

  5. Petunia says:

    Also forgot to mention, if you ever feel like giving Treme another try, use the close-captioned feature on your tv. I did this for The Wire (a tremendous show) and it really helped with all the accents and throw-away lines. Though I love The Wire (the only show I bought all the DVDs for), I saw part of Treme once and couldn’t get into it at all – maybe another time. So I kind of get your reaction to it. I had the same problem with Boardwalk Empire – it just didn’t grab me, unlike Breaking Bad, another great series..

  6. catsworking says:

    Wow, you guys. Just wow. I didn’t know how you’d take this. I’ve been contemplating this burnout post for weeks, but was afraid to come right out and say how bored I’ve become with Bourdain. I was having much more fun when he was playing Road Runner to my Wile E. Coyote. Now that he’s plastered himself all over the ‘Net, the challenge is gone. Plus, he isn’t doing/saying much anywhere that isn’t well-worn ground for us long-time fans.

    Petunia, that’s a great suggestion for Treme, but I doubt I’ll ever watch it again. Maybe the trials of disadvantaged black people have a certain charm if you don’t live in the South. And after about the 75th scene of jazz clubs and dancing in the streets, it finally sinks in that PEOPLE IN NEW ORLEANS LOVE THEIR MUSIC. The whole restaurant plot seemed like a throwaway, just another vehicle for Bourdain’s posse to do yet another TV show together, playing themselves, no less.

    As you know, I’ve never been able to embrace the foodie scene. David Chang’s new magazine, Lucky Peach, with well over 100 pages devoted to RAMEN? Puleez!

    I still admire the hell out of Bourdain as a traveler and a writer, and I’ll definitely read any future books. I just hope he can transcend the foodie ranting and turn to fiction, which he’s barely tapped.

    I’ll be watching No Res Cuba tonight because I have no doubt his insights will be worthwhile.

  7. marilyn says:

    Am hoping you are feeling much better and glad you wrote this! I have become disenchanted with Tony for some time. He has matured and evolved since he married and had a child. In so doing, he did leave behind some of his charisma and personality but that is not a bad thing. When I compare the very old shows to the more current ones, they sparkle where the newer ones are not as sharp and seem dull. I still love Tony but will move on. Thanks for the post…it affirms my perceptions of things.

  8. Zappa's mom says:

    I have no problem with AB growing up and having a kid,but I kinda feel like he’s a cool bar that I discovered and don’t want to go back to now that it’s always crowded.
    I can’t take my eyes off of Eric Ripert! Sexy,elegant,and that accent! His show on PBS is a fantasy on many levels for me…..sigh…
    Karen,my new favorite word is “Sasquatchennial” (sp??)


  9. adele says:

    NoRes Cuba was a good show, a little baseball-centric for me, but I loved all the elegant decay of Havana. It reminded me of living in Florida in the ’50’s and seeing all the ads for Cuban Vacations.

    You know, when you think about it, Medium Raw answered just about the last of the burning Bourdain questions.

    Your new approach should free up your weekends; just tell those cats they have more space to fill.

  10. Mary Austin says:

    I still love A.B., but then I find myself watching his old shows in the afternoon on my days off! They were great. Anyway, Bourdain or not, I will always come to Catsworking, the only blog I read. I even found the whole refidgerator thing interesting! Keep up on all the great posts.

  11. catsworking says:

    Recently, I managed to recapture the Madrid and Rome (Yippee!!! Love Rome!) episodes of No Res that my DVD recorder destroyed (Dubai is the only one I’m still missing). So last night I rewatched Madrid to zap out 18 minutes of commercials as I dubbed it over to DVD. Then Cuba came on. Within 5 minutes, I’d dozed off and didn’t wake up for 40 minutes. Fortunately, I was taping it so I can watch it this week. But what does it say when a super-hyped visit to a place Tony has always wanted to go puts me to sleep?

    I haven’t mentioned this, but I’m worried about Ottavia. The all-protein diet seems to be working for her in the short run and she looks fabulous, but let’s face it. People don’t have a cat’s digestive system and we need fiber. The whole MMA thing is starting to seem a little Zelda Fitzgerald, but at least with Zelda it was ballet, which was harmless compared to getting the stuffing beat out of her.

    Coincidentally, this morning the Today Show had a segement about little girls kick-boxing in Australia, and they showed a fight where, I think, a 7- and 8-year-old were duking it out for real in a ring. All I could think about was Ariane. At what point does learning sensible self-defense moves go overboard?

  12. Zappa's mom says:

    and what does “Treme” mean?

  13. catsworking says:

    ZM, it’s pronounced “Tremm-AY” and it’s the name of some neighborhood or district in New Orleans where everybody plays an instrument and they dance around in the street wearing masks a lot. If the word has any meaning, I’m not aware of it. Maybe Adele (the human) knows. She’s the New Orleans expert here.

  14. adele says:

    ZM, Karen’s right, Treme, pronounced as she says,is a neighborhood in New Orleans, located just outside the French Quarter. It gets its name from the family, who owned the plantation, which used to be there. At some point the Treme family freed their slaves, and Treme was supposedly one of the first and largest communities of free people of color prior to the Civil War. New Orleanians also view Treme as the birthplace of jazz. Buddy Bolden, who some credit with creating jazz, is from Treme, as is Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong. Because Treme is on relatively high ground, it didn’t suffer really devastating damage from Katrina.

    I’ll bet that’s more than you ever wanted to know.

    Karen, I know what you mean about MMA obsession and very low carbs. My brother-in-law, nephew and niece-in-law order every big fight; in fact, I was invited out to watch the fight that the Bourdains attended in Las Vegas. I declined. But several younger people I know are very into MMA, and I actually have a friend, whose son manages a UFC fighter.I used to like to watch Mohammed Ali box, but look how well he’s done from those repeated blows to the head. I think the MMA fighters wear helmets, but I’m not sure.

    I know high protein diets are supposed to build muscle, and we know from her tweets, that Ottavia loves her meat, both fresh and tinned, but an Italian who doesn’t eat pasta? I’ve always heard that very high protein diets are rough on the kidneys in the long term. She did tweet once that her diet was devised for her by an MD, but again, no pasta, no salad?

    I was pleased when I saw Ariane in her purple wig last night, and I’m always pleased to hear about her tiaras. She still has a girlie side, even if she” be able to beat dad to a pulp in a few years.

  15. Carrie says:

    Say it ain’t so … But, seriously, my mad-crush for AB has dulled and after his endoursement of the Hamilton “memoir” – PUHlease … I got the feeling if he endorses this book, which was so scattered and the top layer of the onion so-to speak, than he’ll endourse whatever comes down the pike next. Regarding TC, I really didn’t understand where he went off to. One day he is a judge, the next he’s vanished (not even there for the finale’). As if.. I come to this blog for your writing and humor. I relate to your recent health struggles, as well as your Mother …

  16. catsworking says:

    Thank you, Carrie. It’s interesting that so many of us seem to be jaded by Bourdain, just as he thinks he’s getting jaded about food. Too much of a good thing, I suppose.

    I believe his over-the-top endorsement of Gabrielle Hamilton’s book was just chefs sticking together. For whatever reason (she seems like a bitch and a whiny pain in the ass to me), he wants her in his club. They seem to think if they stay tight and do PR for each other, they all benefit. It only makes me respect Emeril Lagasse more. He took the plunge into TV long before this bunch, and he built his empire on his own, totally outside of the “you wash my back, I’ll wash yours” clique. And even though Tony has softened his opinion of Emeril, you don’t see them hanging out together anywhere.

    The only one who hasn’t worn thin on me is Eric Ripert. That man is a class act all the way.

    Tony has always been sort of fly-by-night on Top Chef because of his travel schedule. They’re happy when he can stop by (although he’s been almost a non-presence even when he was there the past year or so), but they don’t shoot the episodes to accommodate his availability.

  17. adele says:

    Ah Ripert, to quote Carrie Bradshaw, “He’s a classic, like a Chanel suit; he never goes out of style.”

  18. Bob says:

    I would be absent if I didn’t say something here. You and I helped track down Tony’s ex at the very start of things. Yes we had hard times, but I must agree with you on this.

    The bloggers time with Tony is pretty much done, he does it all himself now. His own tweets and own promotion. Gone are the days when you and I would track down every little movement.

    I wish you well my friend.

  19. catsworking says:

    Can’t say I remember the evolution of the Bourdain posts quite the same way, but I am surprised, Bob, that you have not been waiting in the wings to pick up the torch and run with it. If you change your mind and decide to do so, I wish you rotsa ruck.

    (Yes, long-time readers, it is a comment from THAT Bob.)

  20. Zappa's mom says:


  21. catsworking says:

    ZM, yeah, I know. Weird. After all this time, he’s still trying to flog Cats Working for some semblance of a connection. I heard it through the grapevine that he even tweeted Bourdain directly and alluded to this post, like Bourdain cares or would know what he’s talking about. Really pathetic.

  22. MorganLF says:

    Oh fucking spare me! We know who the grapevine source is, overt flatterer and turn coat. How odd to be all on the bash-wagon while speaking out the other side of one’s mouth. I for one have THAT number.

    As for the Blahhhb, what hubris HE tracked down every little movement? As I recall he had nothing to add to the mix except bad grammar, vapid, treacly, cloying praise for Tony and a non-stop one note whine about all things Winnipeg which NO ONE cared about.

    Since you are not a faux-hooker writing about self-pleasuring why he deigned to pay attention to this post is beyond me. Wait oh yeah I know. He just HAD to take credit!

  23. MorganLF says:

    One more thing, direct tweeting Bourdain? How stalker delusional is that?

  24. catsworking says:

    Hi, Morgan, I was wondering when you’d show up. Now why don’t you tell us how you REALLY feel? 😉

    I was tempted to delete our friend from the Great White North’s comment, but I knew your response would be well worth the price of admission, and you didn’t disappoint.

  25. kamonycole says:

    Hi, I read your posts every once in a while because I used to be a great fan of AB, but as so many of you grew disenchanted. Too much of a good thing gets boring after some time, particularly if you feel that some of it is faked or untrue. I decided that I would just borrow MR from the library and see if it really is worth buying.
    Karen, I hope you are doing fine. Although I know that what you went thru is no joke at all, you made me laugh so hard. These torture machines and contraptions invented by men that hate women, for sure. If any one of them would be subject to 10% of that pain, the machine would disappear in a nano second.

  26. catsworking says:

    Welcome, kamonycole! Check back and let us know how you liked Medium Raw. When it came out in paperback, it didn’t soar to the top of the bestseller lists like the hardcover did for a while.

    I wonder why Travel Channel thinks anyone needs another hour-long series of Bourdain revisiting places and stuffing food in his face.

    I’m doing fine after the whole breast cancer scare, thanks for asking. But I think my boob is still having bad flashbacks. I get these little stabbing pains, mostly at the site of the stereotactic biopsy, which involved drilling into it while I was conscious and screaming. The scar from the surgery is healing nicely, although I think there may be a stitch sticking out through the skin that hasn’t dissolved yet. I try not to look.

  27. kim says:

    Karen, I’m coming late to this post of yours. I will miss your Bourdain links and commentary: you knew when a Bourdain event or link was worth following or ho-hum, and your opinions and manner of phrasing could be as entertaining as the link.

    I’ve enjoyed much of what Bourdain tried to do this summer with a new, more openly expressed social conscience. The Haiti episode was superb. But the “season” closed last night with a fabulous New Orleans episode featuring Cajun food culture. I miss your take on that, but thanks for your work these past few years!

  28. catsworking says:

    Hi, Kim. I did decide to take a break from the weekly Bourdain posts because he and his crew now tweet so much, and Grub Street has been frantically playing catch-up with me on Bourdain-watching with Tony’s cooperation, I felt what I was doing had become superfluous.

    But that’s not to say I have stopped paying attention. Aside from his latest dust-up with Paula Deen, which he is carefully backing away from, saying he didn’t mean to come off sounding so “crass,” and his recent 2-week vacation with the family in Italy, it’s been pretty much the same-old, same-old. Oh, and he flitted around the world like a maniac to film the 10 episodes of his new show, The Layover.

    Whenever he does something I feel the urge to spout off about, I will. I haven’t seen the New Orleans episode yet, but I taped it. For some reason, I prefer to watch his shows on Sunday night, so that’s what I usually do.

    So if you stick around, there will be more on Bourdain. Just not on a regular basis.

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