Catching Up with Bourdain

September 6, 2011

By Karen

No Reservations Season 7 (7 ½?) just wrapped, after a bizarre mid-season do-over of the “big Season 7 premier” to hype the Cuba episode, just as the REAL Season 7 opener Travel Channel tried to sweep under the rug months earlier, Haiti, was earning several Emmy nominations. Way to go, TC!

Bourdain ended up making a few destination tradeoffs, skipping the Congo, Yemen, and Memphis in favor of Chernobyl, Kurdistan, and New Orleans.

No complaints here. Zamir’s always a treat, and I’d rather see Tony get a clean, invisible nuking than chewed up and mauled by bat-sized bugs and crocs on some fetid river through a slimy jungle.

Speaking of New Orleans, I had to leave the room before he popped that pig full of lead. OK, call me a hypocrite because I love pork, but I’ve never eaten it right after looking into its eyes. And why does he always have to rub it in by goofing around with the severed head?

I didn’t see anybody using Pam to cook the fried chicken and other local specialties Bourdain wolfed down. This show airing on the heels of his dust-up with Paula Deen seemed particularly unfortunate.

If somehow you missed it, Tony told TV Guide that Paula Deen is the “most dangerous person to America” for her unhealthy dishes, that her food “sucks,” and several other jugular-aimed zingers.

Paula responded on Fox News that Tony should “get a life,” and Time magazine wrote that she cited “being irritated” as Bourdain’s biggest contribution to America. On the other hand, she did graciously extend him an open invitation to drop by for dinner, and I bet she could cuss him under the table stone-cold sober.

I feel certain Tony didn’t realize he picked at the longstanding chip on the South’s shoulder when he dissed Deen, but he did semi-back down in an interview with NPR’s Leonard Lopate, saying he didn’t mean to sound so personal, crass, and nasty.

Condemning vegans is one thing because Tony walks the walk, but after years of stuffing deep-fried everything, tubular mystery meats, and cream-and-mayo-slathered street junk and haute cuisine alike into his cake-hole, while coasting by on this souped-up junkie/smoker metabolism and a height (6’4”) that could carry another hundred pounds before his neck starts disappearing, criticizing grease-based Southern-style cooking seemed over the top, even for him.

Makes you wonder whom he’ll target next. Alcoholics, perhaps?

The backlash against Bourdain was immediate and, sadly, caused his basic, valid point about obesity to be lost. I read many of the take-downs (including Frank Bruni’s op-ed piece in the New York Times), but I thought the most thoughtful one came from Jessica Levine at

You’ve probably heard that Travel Channel gave Bourdain a second show — 10 hour-long episodes called The Layover. It’s supposed to debut Monday, November 21, at 9 p.m., so mark your calendar. Tony and his crew returned to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, Rome, Montreal, and Amsterdam to film it.

Let’s hope TC lets Layover gain some traction before yanking it after a few episodes until everyone forgets about it, then resurrecting the remnants in mid-2012 like they’re something brand-new.

In this new endeavor, TVbythenumbers described Tony as a “contemporary cultural anthropologist,” which makes him sound a lot classier than his usual tag: “former chef and bad boy.”

On other fronts …

Anthony Bourdain will be a guest character on The Simpsons’ next season. Check out his cartoon persona here. For some reason, it’s circa 1995.

Sophia Chang has designed Bourdain destination posters. You can see a few of them here and here.

Tony’s wrote a sweet letter to Josh Homme’s daughter, Camille, after the U.S. Desert NR to explain why he smashed Daddy’s guitar against a tree. You can just imagine what his conversations with Ariane must be like. Oh, to be a fly on the wall.

And here’s a picture of Tony with Cole’s celebrity friend, Lupetto Bourdain, that received 6 paws up at Cats Working, even though Lupetto complained the photographer’s angle made him look chunky.

(Photo - Ottavia Bourdain, with permission)

Cole and Max asked me to include this message to Paula Deen and her fans:

“Any man who loves black cats can’t be all bad.”


Becoming Mrs. Bourdain

November 15, 2009

By Karen

After Ottavia began spending a lot of time at Tony’s place while they were dating, he invited her to stay an entire weekend, but she said she’d have to go home to feed Lupetto. Tony told her to bring the cat over, and Lupetto never left.

I said, “You know when a man accepts your cat, you have found a good man.”

Ottavia smiled and nodded in agreement.

She said she wasn’t particularly interested in getting married because things were going well. Now I’m surmising here, but Tony must have realized he’d found a keeper because he started talking about — brace yourselves — having a family.

Kids. His idea. Goes to show how little Tony lets TV and his books reveal about his soft side.

But in July 2006, Tony got trapped filming No Reservations in Beirut (his first episode to be nominated for an Emmy). Ottavia said he phoned her almost daily, but when he told her the cell phone towers were being bombed and they might lose touch, she got really worried. “The Italians and other countries got their people out. Where were the Americans?” she asked.


Ottavia Bourdain talks to Cats Working (Photo - Morgan)

When she was offered a seat on the private plane sent to meet Tony and his crew wherever the Marines dropped them off, she took it.

That close call made them both realize there’s no guarantee of tomorrow, so they decided to go for the family. They succeeded in conceiving on their first try, and Ottavia found out while they were vacationing in the Caribbean (or Miami, not sure which).

One night in December 2006, she was lying on the couch, “VERY pregnant, watching something dreadful on TV, like Dancing with the Stars,” when Tony asked her to marry him.

Impending motherhood had changed her attitude toward marriage, so she accepted. The only hitch was that Tony’s divorce wasn’t quite final yet.

I asked Ottavia what her parents thought of the 22-year age spread, and she told me she had always been a good kid, never in any trouble, so they trusted her judgment. Her mother read Kitchen Confidential. Although she didn’t find it exactly reassuring, all she said was, “Be careful.”

Ottavia said, “I was never into the big white dress or anything,” and a civil ceremony in April 2007 with no trimmings suited her perfectly. When I asked if they had a honeymoon, she replied with a smile, “We’ve been on many,” and I got the impression they’re on honeymoon wherever they go together.

Ottavia still studies martial arts for the exercise, but doesn’t fight much because it has caused some problems with her back, knee, and leg. But she’s glad to be able to defend herself, and plans to have Ariane start lessons next year.

The Bourdains traveled to Tuscany to film No Reservations when Ariane was just 4 weeks old, and Ottavia was asked to appear in the scene where Tony prepares an Italian meal for the crew. She said it was delicious and everybody was gobbling it, but they told her to say on camera that it was “disgusting” to make the scene funny.

The truth is, Tony does know how to cook good Italian.

And speaking of babies, I was wrong. Ottavia is not pregnant now, but she hinted that Ariane may not always be an only child.

Cats Working once asked if Bourdain’s wife chooses obscurity. Ottavia definitely does. She’s been asked to appear on No Res many times, but declines. She agreed to do the Sardinia episode only because her whole family was so excited about it. In the spring they’ll be filming in Rome and she’ll be there, but said she has no plans to appear on camera.

(We’ll be watching the edges of every frame, just in case.)

Bourdain travels so much, I asked Ottavia if it’s hard on her. She told me when Tony is anywhere within the U.S., she feels “he’s just a few hours away, so it’s not so bad.” Sometimes he comes home for a night, or she and Ariane go to him. It’s only when he’s overseas that she really feels distance between them.


Anthony Bourdain hosting the 2009 Capital Food Fight (Photo - Morgan)

Next: Bourdain Food Fight Pan Scrapings (sans Nasty Bits)

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