Cats Working May be Haunted

July 30, 2021

By Karen

Yesterday was a big day here, but as in any suspense tale, I’m going to work backward to describe it.

Last night, after an afternoon under the bed (why in a minute), Tony must have been feeling his 31 days of fame waning as Mr. July on the Richmond Animal League’s calendar.

After dinner, he threw himself down on the living room floor to contemplate his next career move and wonder if he had peaked too soon…

“Could I really be a has-been at 2 years old?”

But with Tony’s looks, brains and charisma, he has nothing to worry about. I’m sure we’ll figure something out.

In the afternoon, a crew I’ve been waiting nearly two months for finally showed up to take down the dead tree in the front yard.

In the spring, I worried when that tree was a few weeks late putting out leaves, and its trunk looked paler than the others. Then when all the new leaves immediately began to die, I had to pull the plug on it or risk it taking out my office and the kitchen in a storm.

I never watch when I lose a tree, but I think it came down in sections because there was never a big crash. A lot of moss in the yard was torn up where I guess the pieces fell.

Nevertheless, it was a noisy business. Roc sat calmly in the living room with me through it all. Max stayed in the Man Cave and Tony went under the bed.

Grinding the stump turned out to be the worst of it. This is now our view from the big kitchen window. The red circle is where the tree was…

Now all is sawdust where once there was moss.

My yard guy isn’t returning my calls about cleaning up. Here’s the mess from the walk, facing the house. This isn’t a situation that’s just going to heal itself over time…

The rocks strewn about were the border of a patch of daffodils and azaleas, now a wasteland.

But the day began in my bedroom with something I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t seen it myself. This bookcase is one of six around the house and stands opposite my bed. It holds mostly New Age books from my 30s, as well as other prized volumes, like the copy of Little Women I got at Orchard House, Louisa May Alcott’s home in Concord, Massachusetts, where she wrote it…

The corner shelf holds some of my vast cats collection.

Notice the arrow pointing to a book I pulled out on the bottom shelf, just to show you where it came from. It was actually on the shelf in line with the rest. Since Roc refused to participate in a reenactment, the black stuffy cat on the floor is his stand-in, and a waterbowl is to its left.

Anyway, I was making the bed and Roc was getting a drink. He turned to walk past the bookcase when that book suddenly flew out and fell on the floor in front of him. Roc jumped back, but then calmly went around it and hunkered down in the opposite corner to watch ME.

Did he know or see who did that?

It was just like the poltergeist activity you see on Paranormal: Caught on Camera.

The cats never bother that bookcase, and I haven’t touched it myself in months. This is the book that flew out…

Why this book? Does the title have any significance?

It happens to be the last book I shelved there, unfinished because I didn’t like it. I felt a little tingly as I put it back.

There’s no way that book moved on its own. No book has EVER fallen off that shelf before. So, what was it? It couldn’t have been the spirit of the tree, because this happened hours before either of us knew it was going down that day.

BONUS: Cats Working reader Glamour Milk uncovered this (possibly) maiden interview with Anthony Bourdain in 1995. He was just 39, pre-thumb ring, pre-Les Halles, beginning his writing career as a novelist with Bone in the Throat)…

On “Connie Martinson Talks Books,” August 1995

He wrote a second novel, Gone Bamboo, before he hit it big with Kitchen Confidential. You have to download the interview here…

But it’s well worth it, especially in hindsight, for what he says about loyalty and betrayal.

Many thanks to Glamour Milk for her online sleuthing. Morgan Neville might have been interested in this for Roadrunner, had he uncovered it.

The same link includes another 2002 interview about A Cook’s Tour. Notice Tony’s marked increase in confidence, sophistication and gray hair. Also, the thumb ring.

Bourdain the Ubiquitous

December 17, 2013

By Karen

In late October, I traveled to Lisbon to make a 13-day transatlantic crossing to Miami on Royal Caribbean’s ship, Vision of the Seas. My plan was to get away from it ALL — job, litterboxes, useless Congress (and Obama), never-ending disasters, premature Christmas (that one didn’t work out at all, the Caribbean was already decorated). I just wanted to reboot.

But one thing I couldn’t leave behind — Anthony Bourdain. He was EVERYWHERE.

Not that I complain. Long-time readers know Cats Working has a history with Tony & Assoc. And other travelers with only a passing interest wouldn’t have even noticed how he dogged their every step (through no fault of his own, I must add — he has people for that now).

Bourdain has certainly hit critical mass, and then some. The Richmond, Newark, Miami, and Atlanta airports all had their big-screen TVs tuned to CNN.

They might as well have been showing the Cartoon Network, but let me not digress.

During every commercial break (they’re numerous) were Parts Unknown commercials and outtakes, especially for the season finale in Detroit.

In United’s and Delta’s in-flight magazines, I found his caricature and mentions in several places.

I caught him on TV at my hotel in Lisbon.

In my cabin on the ship, in mid-freaking-ocean, I channel-surfed to a rerun of No Res on ship’s TV where he visited St. Vincent and Bequia in the Grenadines. This struck me as ironic, since Bourdain expresses only disdain for cruise travel.

So, I tell people I took this vacation alone, but Bourdain might as well have been in my suitcase.

In other news…

Thanks to my new DVR, I’ve been collecting all of A Cook’s Tour and I’m closing in on the last episode I need, “My Life as a Cook.” Sitting on the DVR yet to be watched is Tony’s first episode ever, “A Taste of Tokyo.”

I’m actually enjoying A Cook’s Tour more than Parts Unknown because it’s pre-jaded Tony. At times, he reacts to strange dishes like Andrew Zimmern used to, before Zimmern anointed himself mini-Bourdain.

Today, there seems to be nothing revolting enough to make Tony turn a hair. The thrill is gone.

If you follow Tony on Twitter, you know he’s taken up Brazilian jiu jitsu with his wife and daughter, and recently earned his first stripe on his white belt.

Personally, if I had a husband, and he were on the cusp of geezerhood, and he told me he was taking up wrestling, I’d brain him with a skillet.

In case you’re interested, Gothamist did a nice job of covering some new ground with Tony and his relationship with movies, before he appeared on Dec. 11 with filmmaker Albert Maysles at the Society for Ethical Culture in NYC.

And mark your calendar. Season 2 of Tony’s cooking competition, The Taste, begins Jan. 2. Nigella Lawson and Ludo Lefebvre are back, and they’ve replaced Brian Malarkey with Marcus Samuelsson as a judge.

I’m just relieved they didn’t recruit that bald bastard from Master Chef, so I’ll check it out, with fingers crossed that it’s improved.

Catching Up with Bourdain

December 9, 2011

By Karen

With three shows running simultaneously, it’s pretty hard to keep up with Anthony Bourdain these days.

The Layover seems to gain strength with each new episode. I haven’t seen Rome yet (taped it, but waiting for it On Demand — hint, hint Travel Channel! — so I don’t have to waste time skirting commercials), but if the one-liners quoted by are any indication, Tony let his snarky inner child out to play and it should be fun.

The No Reservations Christmas special is supposed to air Monday, December 12, at 10 p.m. ET on Travel Channel. Tony blogged about the cast, and it’s a smorgasbord.

The ZPZ team created a great short called, “A Krampas Carol,” written by Tony that, apparently, Travel Channel nixed. Thank God for YouTube:


Right before the special is a new Layover in Miami at 9 p.m. I’m really looking forward to this one because I’ve visited Miami many, many times.

But that’s only 2 shows. What gives?

The Cooking Channel is airing Tony’s first series, A Cook’s Tour, on random Tuesday nights at 9:30 p.m. You have to be vigilant to catch it, but it’s well worth it. Recently I caught Tony on his first trip to Cambodia, complete with earring, thumb ring, cigarettes, and less gray hair. He sampled his first durian and climbed up some temple wearing a camera around his neck — like a tourist — and it wasn’t meant to be sarcastic.

Seeing pre-jaded Bourdain reminds me why he first captured my attention.

Some other trinkets I’ve collected…

At the DC Food Fight in November, Tony was interviewed backstage by The Daily Caller. He seems a bit “under the influence” and gets drawn into Washington’s favorite topic — politics — giving his take on the Republican field and how he leans.

Tony appeared on Fox News with Thanksgiving travel tips. FOX??!!!

There was a really good article in The New York Observer about how Bourdain became a writer.

If you missed Tony’s recent cameo on The Simpsons, here it is.

AV Club got a candid interview (sans a lot of the usual canned stuff) with Tony.

Fans of Treme will be happy to hear that Season 3 is in production, and Tony talked to David Simon.

Before their appearance in Portland, Maine, on November 3, Tony and Eric Ripert drank champagne with two guys who have a local called FoodComaTV.

Tony answered a series of short questions for The Independent (UK), and summed up his life in six words: “He wasn’t such a bad bastard.” I learned from this article that he bought the first car of his life not too long ago — BMW.

There’s a very weird “addiction report card” on Bourdain at Psychology Today, written by someone assessing him only by his TV persona and Wikipedia entry.

For those who think Bourdain is all about Bourdain, he’s sky-driving to raise money for the Food Bank of NYC, luring tandem companions who will pay $10K a head to make the jump with him.

Tony’s occasional Russian sidekick, Zamir, recently opened a Twitter account at @ZamirGotta.

Coming up…

Tony’s 160-page graphic novel, Get Jiro!, is now supposed to be released in June 2012.

Travel Channel renewed No Res for an 8th season. From Tony’s tweets, it sounded as if they didn’t tell him directly, but he’s already filming anyway. But he’s the type who would say, “It’s always easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission.”

Rome + Bourdain = La Dolce Vita

August 16, 2010

By Karen

No Reservations is in Rome tonight. Don’t miss it. Period. It’s that good.

Yes, it is filmed in black and white with some subtitles, but they’re sprinkled like condiments, not the main course. The food gets hints of color.

Bourdain fears that fans will hate his foray into Federico Fellini’s style, but if you’ve ever enjoyed a Fellini film, you’ll get it. Tony is justifiably proud of the result and blogged at length about how they achieved it.

Rome is now on my short list of episodes, along with Venice and his very first one in Paris, that I could watch again and again. Bourdain, in suits and ties throughout, channels Marcello Mastroianni, and Ottavia appears in two scenes, the quintessentially earthy Italian. She deftly deflates his ego as only she can, even though she tweeted at the time that she was ill and off her game.

Travel Channel used one of the lamer moments for this promo which, for some reason, WordPress isn’t letting me post, even after repeated attempts, so here’s the link.

This show reminded me why I fell in love with NR in the beginning, and wiped away the ugly memories of Dubai and Kerala.

Australian blogger Lorraine Elliott at Not Quite Nigella did a phone interview with Bourdain that’s the best I’ve seen in a long time. She managed to cover new ground, and Tony confirmed that his next book is a crime novel.

Blogger Cooking for Assholes was thrilled to find himself “validated” by Bourdain during Lorraine’s interview. Look for his August 11 post; they don’t seem to have separate addresses.

Dallas Observer interviewed John Tesar, chef at Dallas Fish Market, and asked about Bourdain’s drinking habits. Calling Tony “Flaco,” Tesar said Tony never passes out, and throwing up is against his religion.

The Show Girl at TVSquad spoke to “Iron Chef” Michael Symon about Bourdain (she’s totally annoying, but it’s mercifully the first clip), and Symon good-naturedly said some catty things about our Tony.

Cats Working reader Morgan found a lengthy November 2002 Q&A with Bourdain in the Washington Post. I don’t remember ever seeing it, but it accompanied publication of A Cook’s Tour and is vintage Bourdain.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Bourdain

June 25, 2009

By Karen

It’s a good thing Anthony Bourdain quit smoking because he’s got 53 candles to blow out today. We’ll be getting even more relief from the heat soon with new episodes of No Reservations beginning July 13 in Chile.


On July 27, watch for Bourdain’s much-anticipated journey to the “Rust Belt” of Baltimore, Detroit, and Buffalo with his pal Zamir. I’ve been renting The Wire from Netflix to get up to speed on Tony’s favorite show so I can fully appreciate his reaction to Baltimore.

The Travel Channel is playing coy about the air dates of the other new episodes. Maybe Ingrid from Room241 will check in soon and give us some scoop.

Cats Working reader UrbanJoanna sent a link to another great photo of lovebirds Tony and Ottavia. Her effortless chic is so Sex and the City.

Time magazine just dubbed the culinary tell-all genre Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential inspired as “Chef Lit.”

Culture in Indonesia, who’s trying to learn food writing, compares My Life in France by Julia Child to A Cook’s Tour by Bourdain and reaches an astoundingly off-base conclusion about Tony’s attitude toward food.

Thanks to Bourdain, I just got sucked in to Facebook while innocently trying to get a handle on his upcoming personal appearances. I’m in way deeper than I ever intended, hearing from long-lost cousins I couldn’t pick out of a lineup. I’m even registered like a common loony as one of Bourdain’s fans. Oh, the shame!

But since I’ve yet to figure out how Facebook works, none of it is doing me any good. Somebody out there please give it to me straight: Is Facebook an infuriating maze of poorly designed and hard-to-find features, or am I going senile?

Will Gwyneth Paltrow Tangle with Anthony Bourdain?

June 18, 2009

By Karen

The blogosphere is itching for a feud between Anthony Bourdain and Gwyneth Paltrow. In Seattle on May 30, Bourdain ragged on Mario Batali for making Spain…On the Road Again for PBS with Paltrow as his sidekick when she wasn’t eating a Spanish staple — meat. Paltrow hasn’t yet taken the bait, and I’m predicting she won’t.

Socialite Life also reveals that Bourdain and Batali may be cooking up a new show for the Travel Channel. Oh, please, let that rumor be true.

Mission Mission was speculating back in March on Bourdain’s still-to-be-aired San Francisco episode, which he was filming then. The comments on this post contain 2 personal encounters (as well as a link back to Cats Working, thank you), and someone mentions spotting Tony with his “Asian ‘girlfriend.” I bet that was Ottavia.

There’s a shipwreck of a Bourdain fan blog that hasn’t been updated since January. I wonder what ended the honeymoon? I didn’t sift through the old comments looking for buried treasure, but you Bourdainiacs might want to.

Sadly, I know Tony won’t be popping out of my birthday cake this year. He’ll be at the New York Wine and Food Festival October 8-11.

I still haven’t found any personal appearances for June, so I’m guessing he’s either ramping up for Season 6 of No Reservations or taking some well-deserved R&R.

Here’s an interesting online Q&A between Bourdain and fans from 2002, when A Cook’s Tour had been published, and he was still on the Food Network. He mentioned that first wife Nancy’s idea of “extreme cuisine” was meatloaf, but defended it as a good thing.

If you’d like to see a replay of Bourdain’s staged Kung Fu fighting (Can’t recall the NR episode. Hong Kong perhaps?), here’s the clip. He was still wearing the ubiquitous earring and leather jacket. It’s vintage.

And here’s Tony dissing Paris Hilton with Mario Batali, with more links to other topics they covered during that gab-fest.

Bourdain Gets Snarky on Sandra Lee

September 16, 2008

By Karen

Answering an off-beat question from Cory Streeter of The Kansas City Star, Anthony Bourdain side-swiped Sandra Lee. Here’s the exchange:

Streeter: You have differing opinions on a lot of celebrity chefs. Here’s a different twist on it: If Britney Spears became a chef, would you ever try her food?

Bourdain: So you’re talking someone that’s as stupid and talentless and messed up as Britney Spears cooking? Hasn’t it happened already? (Laughs.) I think we have a pretty good idea what that creature would look like if that happened. It would be called “Semi-Homemade,” and she has a show on Food Network already.

Read the rest of his wit and wisdom here.

I did feel warm and fuzzy when he said he wouldn’t scoff at someone who fails with chopsticks – if they’re enthusiastic about trying. I study his technique every time I see him eat with them, but his dexterity still escapes me.

Bourdain’s in Kansas City presenting, “A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Conditions” tonight. Interesting that he’s using his old Food Network title again, since it really fits him best. He’s probably still trying to buff the tarnish off No Reservations after somebody slapped it on a so-so “chef” movie to lend Catherine Zeta-Jones credibility in front of a stove.

Bourdain in NYC, Sept. 14, 2008

Bourdain in NYC, Sept. 14, 2008

A day earlier, Tony was in New York City at the Star Chefs International Chefs’ Congress having a discussion with Marco Pierre White moderated by Michael Ruhlman. He had kind words for Emeril Lagasse and others, and praised the late Julia Child as lovingly as he’d soon be disparaging Sandra Lee:

She [Julia] struck the ideal balance between chef and chef personality, plus her recipes still work today. She could have been the Martha Stewart of her day with a huge multimedia enterprise.

Anthony Bourdain’s Ex-Wife Nancy: Found

June 15, 2008

By Karen

Nancy Putkoski Bourdain isn’t a vampire. She’s been visible to Tony’s fans since A Cook’s Tour, if we only knew where to look. On this particular occasion, the camera happened to catch her after dusk, but it’s purely coincidental.

I apologize for these shots looking so Loch-Ness-Monsterish – blurry and grainy. I took them from my TV during the San Sebastian, Spain, episode, but I’m 99.9% certain it’s Nancy.

A reader named Barb gave me the lead. (Thanks!) I’d be 100% sure it’s Nancy if I only had the Portugal episode (she’s supposed to be in that one, too), but that will have to wait until the Food Network cooperates and shows it again.

Tony wrote about this nocturnal crawl through tapas bars with a group of women in his companion book. About his wife, he says, … I’d compounded the danger factor by bringing along my wife, Nancy, a woman with her own limitless potential for causing mayhem…. I was keeping a sharp, worried eye on Nancy, who hated the idea of making a television show, hated being near a camera, and had already taken a serious dislike to the producer for keeping me busy most of the day shooting ‘B-roll,’ meaning scenery, shots of me walking around and pretending I was thinking deep thoughts, while she stewed, neglected, in a hotel room.

Here’s our first glimpse of Nancy, talking to Tony at the bar.

Next, I caught her in the background, the middle woman behind Tony:

And as the sequence wraps, Tony thanks his “posse” of women standing around him, numbering them, “1, 2, 3, 4.” Then he hesitates while looking off-camera to his right before saying, “5,” and they briefly widen the frame to include Nancy:

If she hated his TV antics that much back then, her attitude probably didn’t improve when he hopped to The Travel Channel and his shooting schedule doubled to an hour-long format with No Reservations.

But now curious fans can say they’ve seen her at last and another of life’s great mysteries has been solved.

Was Anthony Bourdain’s First Wife a Vampire?

June 6, 2008

By Karen

The former Mrs. Bourdain, Nancy Putkoski, may be one of the undead because her image doesn’t show up on film. When Tony first hit the big time with his book, Kitchen Confidential, you’d think there’d be at least one shot online of him stepping out with his lady, but no.

Perhaps he cleverly camouflaged her as an extra – as he did Ottavia – in an early episode of No Reservations or A Cook’s Tour. You’d think Nancy would have wanted to accompany him to Paris.

But since no one knows what she looks like, she’s still invisible.

I just spent more time than I should have trying to find Nancy, but turned up only postings of other people hunting, too. However, I did find this sexy shot of Tony being compared to the late hunky actor, Victor Mature. It would turn Cats Working into a porn site to show it here, so you’ll have to look for yourself.

I also found (but couldn’t verify) that Tony and Nancy were married September 5, 1985, which was 7 years after they graduated from college. Since they were high school sweethearts, I wondered why the long wait to tie the knot.

Their divorce was final on April 5, 2007, and Ariane was born on April 9. So it’s understandable why Tony and Ottavia didn’t commit a block of time to nuptials during the 4 days he was free before she gave birth. They were married on April 20.

I found Nancy on at Vassar from 1974-78, which means she has a 30-year class reunion coming up. Tony left Vassar in 1975 to attend culinary school.

My next stop was Vassar’s Web site, where there might be a pocket of information, but I couldn’t access it because it’s not my alma mater.

So, if you’re a Bourdain-loving Vassar alum with member’s access to the site or old yearbooks, check out the class of 1978. If you find a photo of Nancy, please report back here. If her photo is a blank gray square, don’t tell me. I’d like to keep believing vampires are mythical.

Asha Gill has an amusing interview with Tony on her site, along with a cute photo of them together that a reader graciously contributed. Asha’s a bright, young, perky brunette who, except for her vegetarianism, seems like Tony’s kind of woman.

So the hunt for Nancy’s image continues, and I hope it doesn’t seem too weird. It’s not like anyone’s out to stake her. It’s just that in a culture overflowing with data and images, it’s eerie for someone to reach Bourdain’s celebrity status and have a phantom wife, ex or not. It’s probably too much to hope he’ll ever write an autobiography to fill in the blanks for his fans.

Has Success Spoiled Anthony Bourdain?

May 23, 2008

By Karen

Anthony Bourdain’s turn as head judge in the “Restaurant Wars” episode of Top Chef left me scratching my head.

I first noticed a difference in him on David Letterman in March. He was there with Ottavia, and his interview and demeanor seemed so subdued, I wondered if they’d been fighting.

Now after Top Chef, I’m sure he’s off his game. Describing Lisa’s Mango Sticky Rice as “baby vomit garnished with potpourri” was classic, but the best he could do with Dale’s Butterscotch Miso Scallops was that the plate looked like a “melted candy bar?”

Dale and Lisa had the poor judgment to go with an Asian theme, knowing Tony, an expert on Asian cuisine, could rip them to shreds. But Tony really didn’t take the bait, even though all their dishes were bad. And then he sent Dale packing, even though Lisa’s shown at least twice that’s she incapable of cooking rice but always blames it on sabotage.

What was he thinking?

To answer my own question, I don’t think success has spoiled Anthony Bourdain. I think it’s his new, kinder, gentler lifestyle. Becoming the patriarch of a very young family may be killing him – on several levels.

People have written nasty comments here about Tony’s former wife, Nancy. But I wish she were still around. Married to Nancy, he wrote the scintillating, hilarious Kitchen Confidential, A Cook’s Tour, and several novels, and earned his reputation as a snarky adventurer on TV.

Post-Nancy, he wrote The Nasty Bits, which wasn’t as well received. And with Ottavia, he basically produced photo captions for No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach, a book that would have greatly benefited from more text.

For better or worse, something about his relationship with Nancy seemed to give him the edge that made him famous. Now I’m wondering if he has – deliberately or not – put his best days behind him.

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