Bravo, Bourdain!

July 26, 2013

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.


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