Bravo, Bourdain!

By Karen

I’ve been engrossed in a Dexter catch-up marathon, so I was watching people getting hacked to bits in the hours leading up to Anthony Bourdain’s debut as a talk show host, subbing for Piers Morgan.

Yet I was feeling a weird, elated anticipation at seeing Tony take on a new venue.

I don’t watch Morgan, and I was surprised to see a studio audience. But Tony’s personal appearance experience served him well and he didn’t let all those eyes in such close proximity rattle him. OK, his teleprompter reading seemed a tad stiff, but that’s a skill he’s never needed much.

I think I detected some underlying nervousness, and it was gratifying to watch him power through it.

First guests were David Carr from the New York Times and David Simon, whom Tony introduced only as creator of The Wire. Then I think he mumbled Simon was his boss on Treme, and Simon added he was Tony’s boss “too briefly.”

Somebody, tell me. Has the Treme gig ended? I don’t get HBO.

As they discussed legalizing drugs, I really appreciated Bourdain’s uncanny ability to know when to shut up and just listen.

He’s the Anti-Lauer.

Next topic was the NSA scandal and Edward Snowden. Tony neatly tied it to travel by asking, “Where would you rather spend the rest of your life? Venezuela or Russia?”

Simon said he’d never been to either country, so Tony offered, “Venezuela. You’ll eat much better there.”

That segment seemed a little uptight, with Tony reading pre-written questions, but at least he got the hard part out of the way first.

Then on came Tony’s besties, chefs Mario Batali and Eric Ripert. You could almost feel the room thaw.

I thought their assessment of whether the “hostile work environment” Paula Deen allegedly created in her restaurants was any worse than Gordon Ramsay’s behavior toward his staffs on TV (complete with video clip) took an excellent slant on that story.

Tony was totally in his element now, with no cue cards needed.

They also discussed Justin Bieber’s recent peeing into a restaurant kitchen mop bucket that had Tony up in arms on Twitter. Batali said he would “kick (Bieber’s) ass,” and Ripert pronounced it “drunk and stupid.”

Then they had a negroni, a concoction of Bombay gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari. Sounds disgusting to me, but I think of gin as liquefied Christmas tree.

Unfortunately, Batali and Ripert weren’t invited to the great cronut tasting. Tony brought out some guy from Grub Street and the cronut’s inventor, Dominique Ansel.

The audience got to taste a cronut and a DKA.

(Just Googled DKA. It’s “Dominique’s Kouign Amann,” a version of a Breton pastry that’s sort of a caramelized croissant. And Ansel’s website text has so many embarrassing mechanical errors, it SCREAMS for my day-job proofreading services.)

But anyway, Tony, who’s on record for hating sweets, had never tasted a cronut. He LOVED it, and the DKA. The audience was split, so no clear preference was established.

I’ve been thinking writing is his only fall-back for later career, but now I can see Bourdain hosting a talk show about travel and food (in that order). But not like The Chew. More sophisticated, geared to well-traveled viewers.

He’s got a quick, dry wit, and you never know what’s coming out of his mouth next. And he can harness the profanity. I don’t think he had to be bleeped once. He’s also got the inventiveness to take a done-to-death story like Paula Deen and turn it on its ear. Not to mention he’s not exactly hard on the eyes.

Bourdain, congratulations! Cats Working gives you 12 paws up. You hit this one out of the park, and we hope more opportunities like it start rolling in.

10 Responses to Bravo, Bourdain!

  1. Imabear says:

    Haven’t seen it but it sounds great. Glad he took to it so well. Thanks for the excellent review!

  2. Chinagirl says:

    Were we watching the same show?? I thought he was stiff out of his element and knew little about the issues all the while bringing it back to NR and Parts Unknown. He is a one trick pony, time to give it up.

  3. catsworking says:

    Chinagirl, I’d have to look back because I don’t dwell on comments, but aren’t you the one who doesn’t like Bourdain? So why did you watch?

    All I can say is, we view him through different filters.

  4. Zappa's Mom says:

    I liked it very much,and I think he should replace Piers Morgan when his contract is up.I like PM and think he does a good interview,but I seem to be in the minority.He doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to taking America to task ( I think we need to hear what fuck-ups we are,but the Brit accent might be the biggest turn off for most). BTW, I really need a cronut

  5. catsworking says:

    My favorite Brit right now is John Oliver. I hope he gets his own show when Stewart comes back. He’s great at providing the outsider’s perspective of America. His segment on the Zimmerman verdict was absolutely priceless.

  6. dellachiara says:

    I enjoyed it very much. But then I love Bourdain! It was something totally new for him, but he shows definite signs of having a future in that arena. And for the record, I did not like Taste (only watched one and a bit), so I’m not a blinded he-can-do-no-wrong fan. I liked his questions, his opinions, and his choice of guests. Well done, B!

  7. adele says:

    I liked Bourdain on the show, but felt that the format (I don’t watch CNN much, so I don’t know if Piers Morgan tries to cram so much in an hour) was limiting. You can’t say much about the drug war or the NSA in 5 minute segments. Bourdain and the buddies were fine, however. I have a friend, who loves Negronis, so I make them, but I don’t like them much; with the Campari and the sweet vermouth, I find them kind of syrupy, but they are strong.

    Eric Ripert tweeted a link to David Simon’s blog, The Audacity of Despair, in which Simon said that he did the show because he felt he owed Tony but also because he was promised cronuts. He pretty amusingly excoriated Tony, because when the dust settled, he and David Carr only got about an eighth of a cronut apiece — they’d run out. I hate to admit it, and I’m glad that they haven’t hit Chicago (as far as I know) but they did look good.

    Treme was only renewed for another half-season, and that airs on HBo in December. It never had much viewership, but out of respect for Simon’s work, HBO gave him five more episodes to tie up all the story lines.

    IKaren, I can easily picture AB doing a talk show about travel, food and even the arts — he has wide-ranging tastes, and as far as books go, I thank him for leading me back to Graham Greene, George Orwell and even getting me to read Joan Didion.

  8. Chinagirl says:

    Your wrong about me not liking him, I’m calling a spade a spade and hope he improves with each new thing he tries. Where are you getting that I don’t like him???????????

  9. catsworking says:

    Welcome, dellachiara! Always glad to have a new Bourdain fan reading.

    chinagirl, if I’ve got you mixed up with someone else who has commented here, I apologize. My bad for not reading back through the comments, but life’s too short. I know there was somebody commenting who got Morgan’s panties in a twist not too long ago. I honestly don’t remember any particulars unless you’ve been around here a very long time. My brainpan is overworked trying to keep the ideas flowing.

    Adele, I saw that list of books Bourdain recommended and was surprised by the Didion book. My favorite Graham Greene book is The End of the Affair, which has nothing to do with adventure or travel.

    Yes, I agree that he could also talk books and the arts. Just as he’s done with the travel TV genre, he definitely has the chops to kick the talk show format up a few big notches. It would be a much better use of his time and experience than that idiotic cooking competition.

  10. catsworking says:

    PS to chinagirl: I forgot to mention that I see where you’re coming from. I think he was a little uneasy with the audience and seemed to be trying to ignore their presence, particularly in the first segment. I felt it was like watching the first episode of any new TV show, where the chemistry of the players hasn’t gelled yet. With practice, I think he’d find his sea legs and be exceptional.

    But first-time jitters aside, I think he nailed it. He held my attention, even though I have zero interest in whether or not drugs are legalized. I found those guests, whom I’d never seen before, very intriguing.

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