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…

Congratulations to Bourdain, Parts Unknown

August 26, 2014

By Karen

Last weekend, something I was watching on TV had an ad for the Creative Arts Emmy ceremony, and for a split second, I saw Anthony Bourdain on stage accepting an award. It was supposed to air August 24 on FXM, but I scoured Comcast and couldn’t find that channel ANYWHERE.

I HATE Comcast so much…

Anyway, it looks like out of their 7 nominations, Parts Unknown won only for Outstanding Informational Series or Special. Admittedly, that was the biggest honor, but they tied with HBO’s Vice for it.

Once again, Bourdain’s writing was passed over, with COSMOS getting that Emmy.

For Outstanding Host (for The Taste), he lost to Jane Lynch of Hollywood Game Night.

Anyway, Cats Working gives Bourdain and the ZPZ team 12 paws up on their well-deserved win!

BONUS: Yesterday I came across a meaty interview Bourdain gave SBNation about his newfound MMA obsession and other wide-ranging topics. It’s classic.

That one led me to a joint interview with Ottavia that’s an oldie, from around Christmas 2013, but a goodie. Ottavia never fails to liven things up.

Bourdain Chooses the Right Side of History

July 24, 2014

By Karen

Here I go again with a Bourdain post, but he just gave a great interview to Blogs of War and I have to say it: If there’s one thing about Anthony Bourdain I admire, it’s his willingness to stick his neck out for the underdog.

It’s never PC to even hint that anything Israel says or does is ever wrong, but Bourdain continues to make a strong case for changing the tragic reality of everyday Palestinians trapped in Gaza and the West Bank.

As I write this, Israel continues its bombing of Palestinian civilians in their homes, with virtually no hope of escape. Israel’s rationale is that every Palestinian boy playing on the beach, every patient lying helpless on a hospital operating table or in the ICU, could be a Hamas enabler and is, therefore, fair game.

Meanwhile, the world stands by, impotent in the face of such crazed blood-thirst.

By yesterday’s numbers, 695 Palestianians are dead (166 of them children, and probably more than 70% of them civilians, according to the UN).

Israel has 32 casualties. Of those, 3 were civilians, and 3 of the 29 soldiers killed were by friendly fire.

Sorry, Israel, but by NO definition on earth does such wholesale, one-sided slaughter qualify as self-defense.

We get it. Both sides’ leaders would love to wipe out each other’s people. Hamas can clearly never achieve it. But, Israel is proving that it can — and it will if someone doesn’t make it stop.

More of us need to follow Bourdain’s lead and speak up for the Palestinians who are allowed no voice. They’re dying for no good reason.

Israel, enough is enough.

Bourdain and ZPZ Finally Get Some Glory

July 15, 2014

By Karen

I seldom post about Anthony Bourdain anymore, but I’m still a fan. The man keeps his fingers in so many pies, it’s hard to keep up. I said a while ago that he’d hit critical mass and his success keeps snowballing, and there seems to be no stopping him now. We hardcore Cats Working Bourdainiacs can simply sigh and say, “We knew him when life was simple.”

Just off the top of my head, he’s got all this going in, in addition to Parts Unknown.

  • The Taste has been picked up by ABC for a third season and it’s casting now.
  • Mind of a Chef, which Tony writes for and narrates, starts its third season on PBS in September.
  • Parts Unknown has been renewed by CNN for THREE more seasons.
  • Bourdain’s planning to open a massive international street food emporium in NYC.
  • His Ecco imprint is publishing an eclectic variety of books.
  • Get Jiro! the graphic novel is getting a prequel (I’m waiting for that crime novel he’s been working on for years.)
  • Zero Point Zero is producing a new for John Walsh so he can continue to catch bad guys.
  • Tony has taken up MMA and trains at Ottavia’s studio.
  • Daughter Ariane turned 7 in April (seems like only yesterday he posed for a calendar holding her in one hand like a football).

Variety reported in May that Parts Unknown Season 3 initial ratings were down, but that didn’t prevent the recognitions from rolling in.

In May alone, Tony won a Voices of Courage and Conscience in media award by the Muslim Public Affairs Council for Parts Unknown Palestine. Here’s his acceptance speech.

Then Parts Unknown won a Peabody Award. Here’s a video of Tony talking about success.

This month, Tony and his ZPZ team got SEVEN Emmy nominations. Here are the categories and who he’s up against, in order by which I’m most eager to see him win…

Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming

  • Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
  • COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey
  • JFK (American Experience)
  • The World Wars
  • Years of Living Dangerously

Outstanding Informational Series or Special

  • Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
  • Inside the Actors Studio
  • The Writers’ Room
  • Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman
  • Vice

OK, this next one has me scratching my head, but Tony’s long overdue for personal Emmy recognition, so I hope he gets it…

Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program

  • Anthony Bourdain, Host, The Taste
  • Betty White, Host, Off Their Rockers
  • Tom Bergeron, Host, Dancing With The Stars
  • Jane Lynch, Host, Hollywood Game Night
  • Heidi Klum & Tim Gunn, Co-Hosts, Project Runway
  • Cat Deeley, Host, So You Think You Can Dance

And the rest are for the ZPZ team…

Outstanding Cinematography for Nonfiction Programming

  • Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown Punjab
  • Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown Tokyo
  • COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey
  • The Square
  • Vice

Outstanding Picture Editing for Nonfiction Programming

  • Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown Tokyo
  • American Masters
  • COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey
  • The Sixties: The Assassination of President Kennedy
  • The Square

Outstanding Sound Editing for Nonfiction Programming (Single Camera)

  • Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown Punjab
  • COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey
  • The Amazing Race
  • The World Wars
  • Vice

Outstanding Sound Mixing for Nonfiction Programming

  • Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown Tokyo
  • American Masters
  • COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey
  • Deadliest Catch
  • The Amazing Race

BONUS: Here’s an interesting interview Tony did with Smithsonian Magazine in June (and you know I don’t say that unless it covers some new ground).

Cats Working gives Tony three tails up and has all paws crossed for an Emmy sweep this year. There are two ceremonies, August 16 for Creative Arts, and August 25 for Primetime, and I’m not sure which will be his (maybe both).

Good luck, Bourdain. You’ve earned it!

“The Taste” Leaves a Bad Taste

February 21, 2014

By Karen

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…

And I lose 16 hours of my life I’ll never get back. (Well, 12-13. I DVRed so I could zip through commercials.)

Last night was the finale of Anthony Bourdain’s cooking competition, The Taste, and two of my three picks to win, Marina and Lee, made it in to the final 3.

The ultimate challenge was to prepare a spoonful each of breakfast, lunch, and dinner in 2 hours. All the cooks had the benefit of coaching by Jacques Pepin. Pepin had earlier picked Marina’s chicken testicles as the winner of a challenge, making her the first home cook to reach the finals.

During that first challenge, Marina was even gracious enough to help Bourdain and Lee learn to use a pressure cooker to prepare tripe, without missing a beat herself.

Eliminated in that first challenge was Jeff, one of the strongest cooks, for a steak. This shocked me because Louise served undercooked lobster but, once again, she skated through.

On what planet does underdone seafood trump a freaking steak??!!

What became the repeating chorus for the whole episode was, “Nobody who plays it safe and makes steak deserves to win.” Remember that.

Now, fast-forward to the ultimate 3-dish challenge.

The dishes were (by my simplified descriptions, omitting the aoli and ramoulade, etc., BS)…

Lee: (B) Parmesan flan with a quail egg and asparagus, (L) Crab cake, (D) Steak with pureed cauliflower.

Marina: (B) Egg McMuffin with a quail egg, (L) Pork belly spring roll, (D) Short ribs with kale

Louise: (B) Quail egg with tomato sauce, (L) Oyster po’boy, (D) Steak with crispy potatoes and red wine sauce

In the end, Lee lost, Marina came in second, and Louise won. With, basically, steak and French fries.

Nothing against Louise, but she coasted through it all being a relatively mediocre middle-of-the-pack cook. And in the final moments, Pepin stepped in and salvaged her breaking wine sauce.

Marina, on the other hand, was daring, wily, bizarre, cooking things no one had ever tried. She deserved to win. She was robbed.

And poor Lee. He sabotaged himself by going all gooey over fellow contestant Cassandra, who was in the audience for the finale. They even gave Lee and his lady a touching scene backstage, forcing Louise and Marina to watch the lovebirds suck face.

If this mess is renewed for a 3rd season, unless I come down with selective amnesia, The Taste is joining Top Chef as a show I don’t watch. Enough already.


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