Bourdain Slurps Noodles with Obama

September 23, 2016

By Karen

Anthony Bourdain’s CNN series Parts Unknown is worth watching Sunday, September 25, 9 p.m. ET. He’s in Hanoi, Vietnam, and shares noodles and beer with President Obama in a small local joint.

Obama’s approval rating is at about 58%, so having a beer with a popular guy like Bourdain can only reflect well on Hillary. In fact, it’s a shame it’s not Hillary.

The intended contrast with Donald Trump is unmistakable. Not only would Trump never be caught dead in such humble surroundings, but you know he can’t use chopsticks and he’s incapable of small talk.

Luckily for Bourdain, Angelina Jolie’s divorce from Brad Pitt immediately eclipsed the Bourdain breakup announcement. The Bourdains can’t hope to have drama that remotely compares to allegations of Pitt being a substance- and child-abuser.

Today I read this Washington Post article where Tony mentions being in London during the Brexit vote (Parts Unknown to air Oct. 23) and did a double-take at the undated CNN photo of Nigella Lawson making Tony breakfast in her home.

Breakfast?!

As I’ve pondered Bourdain’s post-Ottavia life, the woman who sprang to mind as his next potential companion was Nigella. They’ve known each other for years, and he was there for her when her marriage fell apart while they were filming The Taste together.

I am absolutely NOT implying any illicit behavior, but if Tony does end up on his own, he could do a lot worse than Nigella. In fact, he DID do a lot worse before he met Ottavia.

On Parts Unknown last season, Bourdain wore no wedding ring. I should have mentioned months ago that it was his best ever, winning his 4th straight Outstanding Series Emmy. I’ve forgotten details, but every episode touched me in some way — tears, laughter, sheer wonder at the amazing cinematography.

Ottavia published an article in August on Lena Dunham’s site Lenny about how she got into MMA. Her byline included her maiden name and mentioned only her daughter, as if she’s a single mother.

So hints about the breakup were out there, even before the big announcement.

Bourdain has a new home-cooking book coming out on October 25 called Appetites. And he revealed in a recent interview with Uproxx that he’s about to start another book. I wonder what happened to the novel he’s been working on for years?

BONUS: Bourdain’s Russian sidekick Zamir Gotta has permanently defected to Buffalo, New York, to launch Zamir Vodka. And Trump’s worried about Mexicans.

DOUBLE BONUS: Here’s Bourdain’s latest episode of Raw Craft, a series he does for Balvenie Distillery featuring expert craftspeople. This one is in North Carolina with a pearl-wearing metalsmith named Elizabeth Brim.


Page Six Reports the Bourdains Have Separated

September 20, 2016

By Karen

Late yesterday afternoon I got one of those shocks that feels like an elevator going into a sudden plunge when I read this Page Six article announcing that Anthony Bourdain and his wife Ottavia have been separated for some time.

I’d noticed Ottavia seemed scarce on Twitter. And Tony didn’t wear his wedding ring through most of Parts Unknown last season, but I told myself it was all jiu-jitsu-related.

Today, their separation is all over the media. MSN, E! Online, Us Weekly, even the Daily Mail in the UK. But they all just repeat Page Six without additional detail.

Thinking back, I don’t know the exact date I first discovered Anthony Bourdain, but I stumbled upon an early No Reservations on Travel Channel one night and was instantly charmed by his looks and wit.

I had no clue he was a writer until I found A Cook’s Tour at a remaindered book sale. On its cover I learned Kitchen Confidential had been a bestseller. I’ve been in hot pursuit of every book he’s published and have read them all to date. And seen every episode of his four travel series (A Cook’s Tour, No Reservations, The Layover, Parts Unknown). And his lamentable cooking competition, The Taste.

My first dedicated post in Cats Working on him was about his 2007 No Res Christmas special. It’s apparent I knew quite a bit by then, and Ottavia was intriguing me. I finally found her in February 2008. Thus began my regular chronicle of the Bourdains, which led to several personal encounters, most recently when he came to Richmond in 2013.

But sites like Eater and Grub Street began stealing my thunder and getting all the best scoop straight from Bourdain himself, so I stepped back. But I never lost interest.

I will declare with no reservations that Cats Working pioneered coverage of Anthony Bourdain before anyone else was paying much attention. If you search the archives, you’ll find a ton of his history, professional and personal.

I will try to learn more on this unfortunate development, but this post will give any Cats Working die-hard Bourdainiacs a place to comment. Tony has written about being at loose ends before he met Ottavia. This split, real or not, is no picnic for them, so please be kind.

Tony did appear to be alone on the red carpet at the recent Creative Arts Emmy Awards, where Parts Unknown won its fourth consecutive Emmy for Outstanding Informational Series or Special.

bourdain-creativeartsemmys

The show was also nominated for Cinematography (Cuba), Sound Editing (Okinawa), and Sound Mixing (Ethiopia).

Bourdain was nominated once again for Outstanding Writing for a Nonfiction Program (Borneo), but lost to a Netflix show, Making a Murderer.


UnFoodie’s Secret Crush on Jacques Pepin

August 25, 2016

By Karen

Before Anthony Bourdain’s new cookbook, Appetites, comes out on October 25, I must confess une affaire du tube with Jacques Pépin. Ironically, Bourdain introduced us with a No Reservations segment where Jacques demonstrated proper egg-cracking technique. At the time, I thought he was cracked.

Then everything changed.

PBS has been rerunning three Pépin series: Essential Pepin, More Fast Food My Way, and Heart & Soul. After just a few episodes, I became obsessed and bought the DVDs and companion cookbooks for the latter two series, and all summer I’ve been studying Jacques like a culinary school groupie.

(Essential Pépin is good, but uses more mis en place and time-skipping, which minimize all that’s really involved. In the other two series, Jacques’ cooking is more down-to-earth. Heart & Soul is my favorite. Alas, it’s said to be his last for PBS.)

On weekends, my mother becomes my sous chef. I send her the recipe so she can shop, then I go over and we watch Jacques make it on DVD before we try it.

So far, every dish has turned out well and my parents enjoyed them.

Every time I see Jacques chop an onion, “poetry in motion” pops into my head. I even bought a good chef’s knife and keep it sharp, but I’ll never come close to his dexterity.

Also thanks to Jacques, I now use herbs de Provence.

Unfortunately, no photos, but here are a few dishes I’ve done. Many recipes are available online.

Poulet à la Crème (chicken thighs elevated)

Gloria’s Linguine with Clam Sauce (loved it!)

Corn Soufflé (practicing for a Thanksgiving side)

Asparagus Fans with Mustard Sauce (finally, green sticks get some personality)

Soda Bread (so quick and easy, I’ve made it perfectly twice)

Not only does Jacques explain what he’s doing, but tells how he economizes, appreciates ordinary ingredients (white button mushrooms, for example), and even uses canned goods without getting snarky about it.

Years ago I learned Chinese cooking from Wok with Yan with Stephen Yan (no, not Martin). I also liked Emeril, but can’t say I soaked up any technique or made his dishes.

And then there’s Bourdain. He was never a celebrity chef, though they keep calling him one. He wasn’t famous at Les Halles, and he quit that job when Kitchen Confidential took off. I’ve seen him cook only a handful of times.

That said, he remains my biggest culinary influence. Just watching what he eats and says about food has opened new worlds. I know what mis en place means. I cook more creatively. I ate squid with ink in Lisbon. And now I appreciate top-tier chefs like Eric Ripert and Jacques Pépin and learn technique from them.

I’ve pre-ordered Bourdain’s book Appetites with expectations it’s more user-friendly than his Les Halles Cookbook and will join my two Pépin cookbooks as favorites.

So, thank you, Tony, for putting Jacques Pépin on my radar. And thank you, Jacques, for enriching home cooks by sharing your amazing knowledge with such charm and generosity.

Pepin


Bourdain Takes the Gold in Jiu-Jitsu

April 18, 2016

By Karen

I seldom write about Anthony Bourdain anymore, but I still keep up, and just saw something amazing I have to share in case any of my former fellow Bourdainiacs are still reading.

If you haven’t noticed, Tony has become a household word. Last week on The Daily Show, Trevor Noah and a guest threw the name “Bourdain” around as if the entire planet knows who that is. I also just saw him referenced in an article in Conde Nast Traveler as some standard for travel.

Tony took up jiu-jitsu a year or two ago, inspired by his wife Ottavia and daughter Ariane, who both practice the art. BTW, Happy Birthdays, ladies! (They both celebrate one in April.)

Upon earning his blue belt, Tony just competed in his first competition, in the Blue Belt Masters 5 Middleweight Division at the IBJJF New York Spring International Open Championship.

He won and took home the gold.

Here’s a video on Fight Sports of the whole match-up. It’s not exactly action-packed, but more a test of brute strength, with Bourdain mostly keeping his opponent pinned to the mat for about 5 minutes…

Flograppling.com filmed from another vantage point and included much more of Ottavia and Tony’s trainer cheering him on. At the end of the match, it also clearly shows the phenomenal shape Tony’s trained himself into. He’s approaching 60 on June 25 with six-pack abs and not an ounce of fat.

For old times’ sake, Cats Working extends 12 paws up and a hearty “Congratulations!” to Anthony Bourdain on his milestone victory, and wishes him many, many more.


Catching Up with Bourdain

May 26, 2015

By Karen

It’s impossible to “catch up” with Anthony Bourdain anymore. He’s always going at full steam in a dozen directions, but these are some noteworthy developments I’ve been tracking.

We’re mid-season with Parts Unknown on CNN. I particularly enjoyed Miami. I’ve been there a few dozen times, and did a double-take upon seeing our paths virtually cross for a split second when he flashed the Colony Hotel’s Art Deco façade. I stayed there in October.

Back in Tony’s Travel Channel days, you’d never imagine him becoming comedy fodder for the likes of Billy Crystal. But a recent episode of The Comedians on FX began with a parody called Unknown Parts, with Crystal strolling around in a silver wig, and then tasting several courses of human testicles, which all caused him to projectile vomit onto his co-star.

And then Tony popped up on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver in a shot of his younger self out in some wilderness, saying armadillo tastes like chicken.

Speaking of popping up, something that has pooped out is a fourth season of The Taste on ABC. Not even Bourdain’s Emmy nomination as best host could save it.

I’ve always said the premise of cramming one meal onto a spoon was ridiculous, and the dwindling audience apparently agreed. It was the culinary equivalent of Dancing with the Stars staging all routines in a phone booth, or forcing aspiring American Idols to sing into an empty mayonnaise jar instead of a mic.

If The Taste accomplished anything, it was to give Nigella Lawson refuge and camaraderie while she was going through a personal nightmare. And it spawned worldwide franchises that may very well keep it a nice income stream for years to come.

Coming up June 2, Bourdain will be inducted in the RealScreen Awards Hall of Fame in Santa Monica as Person of the Year. Parts Unknown is nominated for a Critics’ Choice Award for Best Reality Series, and Tony for Best Reality Series Host. A&E is supposed to broadcast the awards live May 31.

Boudain hits the road July 7 for a 10-city personal appearance tour called Close to the Bone. Unfortunately, he’s coming nowhere near these parts. (I’m waiting for Tony to get wind of Richmond’s growing reputation as the newest foodie utopia and drop by for a few bites.)

And then there’s literary Bourdain. Still no word on the novel, but October 20 he’s got a prequel to his graphic novel, Get Jiro!, coming out. It’s called, Get Jiro: Blood & Sushi.

In addition, he’s co-authoring with Lauri Woolover a new cookbook called Appetites to be published by Ecco imprint in fall 2016. It sounds more down-to-earth than the French recipes and techniques he covered in the Les Halles Cookbook.

Speaking of Les Halles (as in, the market in Paris), Bourdain’s vision of a vast American counterpart in New York City took another step toward reality, after many months of speculation.

Bourdain Market will reputedly occupy 100,000 square feet (double the size of Mario Batali’s Eataly) in a new facility being constructed in the Meatpacking District on the Upper West Side at West 15th Street, Pier 57, on the Hudson River.

Here’s an excerpt from the linked Commercial Observer article…

Stephen Werther, Mr. Bourdain’s business partner, said that the food hall will ‘include a farmers market with an oyster bar, bakery, tapas bar and much more,’ according to Eater. It will house 100 vendors – some permanent, some for a few weeks at a time – and will include a rooftop beer garden.

The new food court will cost between $20 million and $30 million to build, Eater indicated.

‘We will work with the tourism boards to create a complete experience of the place. Not just prepared food or packaged food but serving ware, cookware, cookbooks, cooking demos, everything to promote the area,’ Eater quotes Mr. Werther as saying.

It sounds like a place where you could easily lose yourself for a weekend.

And, finally, in spite of the utter contempt he’s always shown toward the James Beard Awards, Bourdain’s series, Mind of a Chef, won for Best On-Location Food Program for the 3rd straight year.

If there’s one thing nobody can ever accuse Anthony Bourdain of, it’s being lazy.


Bourdain’s Got a Bone in the Throat: the Movie

March 20, 2015

By Karen

Not all fans may know that Anthony Bourdain was a chef/moonlighting novelist before he hit bestsellerdom with his nonfiction restaurant exposé, Kitchen Confidential, in 2000.

Bourdain published his first crime novel, Bone in the Throat, in 1995, followed in 1997 by another one, Gone Bamboo.

Over the past few years, Bourdain’s career hit critical mass and now he’s on a roll, with one success after another. I knew he’d arrived when his birthday appeared last year in the “Born This Day” list of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Anyway, actor Ed Westwick plays Will Reeves (called Tommy Pagana in the book), an aspiring chef who works under this guy, whom I don’t believe ever gets named…

The chef, the tallest one, was pale and thin, with long brown hair that curled out from under his chef’s hat. He held a copy of Larousse Gastronomique and was turning the pages furiously. He wore the hat high on his forehead and pulled straight back like a skullcap. A cigarette dangled from his mouth.

In chapter 18, we get more description of this chef…

His face in the bathroom mirror was pale and bloodless. Tiny pupils floated around in watery, bloodshot eyes. His thick brown hair was too long, sticking up at odd angles, and his sideburns were uneven…. One tooth was missing on the right side, but you couldn’t see it; there was one crumbling molar on the left, also invisible to the casual observer, and a chipped eyetooth.

The chef moved his eyes down over his naked, bony chest: protruding ribs, the stomach that was showing the beginnings of a paunch. He examined his arms. There were no tracks to speak of, only a small, yellowish bruise in the crook of his left arm.

Remind you of anyone we know?

Well, I’m sure the paunch must be gone since he took up MMA and lost 30 lbs., and his arms are now covered with tattoos.

The story for the movie was transported from Manhattan to London’s East End for some reason, and premiered March 14 at a film festival at the Alamo Ritz in Austin, Texas. Here’s the trailer…

The Austin Chronicle gave it a positive review.

Variety, not so glowing.

The movie’s official website includes some recipes, although food isn’t a central character.

I doubt this flick will ever make it to a Richmond screen, but that gives me time to reread the book before I get my hands on it.

Having read both novels years ago, I remember little about the plots. But I do recall laughing out loud at Bourdain’s sharp dialogue and vivid, witty descriptions of the seedy gangster underworld his imagination dwelled in.

Diving back into his fiction is one task on my To-Do list that I eagerly look forward to doing.


Afterthoughts on “The Taste” Season 3

January 26, 2015

By Karen

Yes, I swore off Anthony Bourdain’s cooking competition, The Taste, after Season 2, but it pulled me back in. But I’m no Bourdainiac like Vanessa, that creepy fan girl on his team who cooked only to please her Tony.

Season 3 wrapped up last week, and I saw it all. Bourdain was a contender, but his last team member, Eric, got knocked out just before the grand finale, leaving it to Ludo and Marcus.

The premise is still ridiculous, but ABC’s pumping the hyperbole, calling Bourdain a “culinary legend” and the show an “international juggernaut.”

Bourdain’s too young to be legendary, but I’ll give him juggernaut. The Taste format is being reproduced worldwide. I hope Tony and Nigella get a nice slice of all that franchising.

What I liked…

  • Bourdain as host. He comes across as reasonable, likable, caring, the perfect foil for tantrum-throwing, trashcan-kicking Ludo.
  • The person who does Tony’s hair deserves an Emmy for confiscating his hair gel and ending the wet, mangy dog look.
  • Marcus Samuelsson. What’s not to like? He’s a cordial, articulate guy with an interesting background who knows his stuff.
  • Gabe as winner. He had the skills and the most favorite spoons. It was a nice touch that the judges allegedly didn’t know the winner themselves until they pushed the last button for their favorite.
  • They let us get to know the cooks better, although I felt like I knew Jen, Ludo’s token home cook, too well. At times I wanted to slap her even more than he did.

What left me wondering…

  • Where’s Bourdain’s wedding ring? He never wore it once, and it’s been missing elsewhere I’ve seen him. I hope it’s just a jiu jitsu thing, now that he’s in training.
  • Why doesn’t Nigella look in a mirror and kill the person who dresses her? In one early episode, her neckline was so low, her bra hung out. By mid-season when she was plumping up, she wore big horizontal stripes. And for the finale, they dressed her in full-on Morticia Addams. Nigella’s got a beautiful face, but she’s voluptuous all over and looks like haggis on legs poured into tight dresses she can hardly walk or sit in.
  • Why is every episode 2 hours long, even after they’re down to a few cooks? Didn’t ABC learn anything from over-milking Dancing with the Stars?

What I still don’t like…

  • Ludo, the once and future douche. He was more dickish than ever.
  • Home cooks pitted against professionals. Once again, Nigella was rendered moot almost immediately because her team of home cooks got creamed. No home cook has ever won.
  • A finale that dragged on for three rounds. Two would have been plenty.

So, I ended this season OK with The Taste, and I’d watch Season 4, although I don’t think it’s renewed yet. But I’ve got a new favorite: Master Chef Junior.

Stay tuned…


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