Bourdain is Moving On

February 22, 2017

By Karen

Finally catching up on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, I watched the Rome episode the other night. Must admit I preferred his highly stylized black-and-white visit on No Reservations, but that’s not to say Parts Unknown is lacking. There has been something in every episode that grabs me in some way.

But what I didn’t catch in Rome was any vibe between Tony and the woman he spent a lot of air time with, Asia Argento. In hindsight, the scene of Tony in a grocery store with Asia and her two kids should have tipped me off. You have to be totally ga-ga about someone to tag along on that chore — with kids.

Anyway, Page Six and People just made it official. They’re an item. “Bourgento”? Asia is 41, Italian, divorced, tatted, and her Wikipedia entry lists her as an “actress, director, singer, model, DJ, writer.” A real Renaissance woman.

bourdain-argento-pagesix-gettyimages

Page Six – Getty Images

Did I mention she bears some resemblance to pre-MMA Ottavia?

If Tony’s happy, I’m happy, although I was hoping for someone age-appropriate. But we did see him bounce around after his first marriage with a few unlikely chicks before he fell for Ottavia, so I’ll still hold out hope for Nigella Lawson.

And now that I know he had something going on in Rome, that scene in the London episode of Nigella cooking Tony breakfast takes on new significance. I didn’t rewind to double-check, but was he wearing the same clothes from the night before, or was it my wishful thinking?

On the other hand, knowing how scenes get juxtaposed in the final cut, I’ll give Tony the benefit of the doubt that he and Nigella are still “just good friends.”

Bourdain recently gave an extensive interview to the New Yorker, for which author Patrick Radden Keefe deserves kudos for exhaustive research. (Note: This is the same piece I linked to as a must-read in the comments on an earlier post.)

Keefe gathered input from Nigella, Tony’s buddy Eric Ripert, brother Chris, and a host of others, including Ottavia. But the biggest coup was comments from first wife Nancy, who has been silent and elusive since the Bourdains divorced in 2005. Keefe reveals that Tony wrote to Nancy after he had a health scare while vacationing alone in France.

As always, Bourdain is pursuing myriad projects, including plans for Bourdain Market at Pier 57 in New York City, and popping up everywhere. Also, Bourdain and Ripert teamed with Williams-Sonoma to sell the limited-edition Good & Evil chocolate bar again. I think the price dropped from $18 to $12.95.

We original Cats Working Bourdainiacs have watched Tony achieve a level of fame where he makes the AOL homepage whenever he disses Donald Trump. I’m sharing just a few tidbits that have been highlights for me.

BONUS: Here’s an interesting in-depth analysis by Maria Bustillos for Eater of Bourdain’s three early novels and how they may have reflected the real Bourdain back in the days before his TV fame.

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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 Flirts with His Final Frontier

February 12, 2014

By Karen

Anthony Bourdain’s final frontier is ocean travel. Sure, we’ve seen him chugging up fetid rivers, snorkeling, and catch a few stunt fish, but he’s never filmed an hour of TV on the ocean.

At the upcoming South Beach Wine and Food Festival, Anthony Bourdain is hosting “An Evening Aboard the S.S. Wolfsonian” with Azamara Club Cruises on February 21 at the Wolfsonian-FIU Museum. At $1,500 a plate, it’s already sold out, but the proceeds go to the Wolfsonian and the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, so it’s all for a good cause.

According to Azamara’s press release, this was Bourdain’s idea, and he got inspiration for dishes from the Wolfsonian ocean liner menu collection. He’ll be overseeing the dinner, prepared by Daniel Boulud, Eric Ripert, and other celebrity chefs.

Bourdain will share hosting duties with one of Azamara’s captains.

Didn’t Tony make at least one transatlantic crossing to France as a child, possibly on the Queen Mary? Unfortunately, true ocean liners have passed into history, and in his career as a globe-trotter, I’ve never heard Bourdain be anything but dismissive of today’s cruise industry.

Could that be about to change?

Azamara is a relatively unknown, more upscale brand of Royal Caribbean Cruises. Azamara has only 2 ships, and its sister lines most familiar to Americans are Royal Caribbean and Celebrity.

Azamara ships are smaller, and feature a casually elegant experience, with an English butler’s services available to suite passengers. Fares are higher, yet more inclusive than mass market lines (most alcohol is included), yet not as inclusive as top-tier lines like Crystal and Seabourn, who also throw in airfare and most shore excursions.

It’s far from the first time a cruise line has used a celebrity chef to embellish their brand. Jacques Pépin is executive culinary director for Oceania Cruises, another top-tier line.

Norwegian Cruise Line has adopted Cake Boss Buddy Valastro and Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian to design menus for its newest ships, Getaway and Breakaway.

And even Carnival has a celebrity chef — Guy Fieri. He’s perfect for the line that attracts the diners, dives, and drive-in set.

But I don’t see Bourdain planning Azamara’s menus. I see him as their spokesman.

Speaking of Carnival, who could ever forget Kathie Lee Gifford and Richard Simmons dancing on the decks, singing about “Fun Ships?”

If Azamara could get Bourdain to become the face of their more refined brand, he could potentially kick the whole industry’s reputation up a notch (well, not Carnival’s — he’s only human).

Bourdain could help the cruise industry shift the focus away from its ships being floating amusement parks, back to the time when a sea voyage was considered the most special way to visit exotic places.

I could see Royal Caribbean and Norwegian grabbing that life preserver, quickly following suit to distance themselves from the “Do Whatever — We Don’t Care” attitude they’ve foolishly promoted of late, to the detriment of their ships and their reputations.

But Azamara has one big hurdle ahead: They’ve got to get Bourdain on a ship.

I’d love to see a Parts Unknown episode filmed on Azamara. He’s always talking about wanting to make each episode unlike anything he’s ever done before. So…?

Wining and dining Bourdain is a good first move, Azamara. Keep it up.


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.


Bourdain Lands a Temp Talk Show Gig

July 23, 2013

By Karen

Piers Morgan is on a break from his CNN talk show this week and needed subs, so Anthony Bourdain, who has been showing his family the sights and tastes of Tokyo, is returning to take over the chair Thursday, July 25, at 9 p.m. ET.

This isn’t Tony’s first time hosting a talk show, but it’s been 5 years. The first time was a sort of trial balloon he launched for Travel Channel back in 2008 called At the Table.

Anyway, it did not go as well as hoped; video of it quickly disappeared from YouTube, and the experiment was never repeated.

This time out, it seems Tony will be remaining within his comfort zone. Or perhaps CNN required him to supply his own guests.

He’s tweeted he’ll be host to David Simon (Treme co-creator), David Carr (New York Times media and culture columnist), and always-fun celebrity-chef pals Eric Ripert and Mario Batali. One major topic of discussion will be Cronuts™.

Eater.com reports that Cronuts™ creator Chef Dominique Ansel will also be on hand, and there will be a “DKA vs. Cronut™” taste-off. (I have no idea what a “DKA” is.)

FYI, a Cronut™ is a hybrid croissant-doughnut fried in grapeseed oil, with flaky layers and cream inside, and a glazed-doughnut exterior.

Just putting this out there for any Bourdainiacs who care to tune in. I know I will.

 


Bourdain Coming to Richmond – At Last

November 13, 2012

By Karen

My eyes boinged out of their sockets this morning at the news Anthony Bourdain is finally — FINALLY! — coming to Richmond. He’s gracing us with his Guts & Glory at the newly-renovated Landmark Theater April 23, 2013.

I can hardly wait.

Moving on to chocolate, the rumor of Bourdain taking the merchandising plunge — with Eric Ripert — is true. Their Good & Evil bar hit the market November 9.

Last April, Eric hacked his way through the jungles of Peru with Pennsylvania chocolatier Christopher Curtin to reach rare trees that produce cacao beans long believed extinct, and he helped harvest them.

The result is a delicacy that’s 72% cacao, weighs 2.6 ounces, and retails for $18. Each.

If anybody splurges and orders one, please let us 99-Percenters know if you could detect its dark cherry notes.

A blogger at The New Yorker recently ripped Tony a new one for his very existence, accusing him of “brutishness” and leaving a “crude hickey on food culture.” Tony shot back promptly in the third comment. He must get Google alerts on himself.

As you probably know, No Reservations wrapped forever with Tony’s visit to Brooklyn. Especially poignant was the thought that his locales may have been doomed by Hurricane Sandy. (I wondered what happened to one man’s collection of vintage cars? And will Zamir follow Tony to CNN?)

Bourdain blogged what he considers his best and worst episodes of No Res. I have to agree that Rome, even in black and white, sticks in my mind. Tony in suit and tie tooling around with Ottavia glammed up like Sophia Hepburn was so Roman Holiday.

His remaining Travel Channel series, The Layover, debuts its second (and last) season November 19. I’m waiting to see to what new lows TC will sink to stretch the illusion of a Bourdain association.

But maybe they won’t be sorry to see the last of Tony after his cuss-filled Twitter tirade when they secretly spliced gratuitous shots of Cadillacs into Brooklyn show promo, making it look like his endorsement.

It took me right back to the days they had him flash a Chase Sapphire card to pay for his meals in exotic places.

UPDATE: Just discovered that Tony blogged at length about the Cadillac incident. He’s STILL pissed with Travel Channel, and rightly so, by the sound of it.

Travel Channel is such a clusterfuck on so many levels, you have to give them credit for creative underhandedness in advertising. I just realized they recently started duplicating episodes out on Verizon On Demand to trick hapless viewers into watching the longer one laced with commercials.

Almost forgot… I caught the first 4 half-hour episodes of Tony’s PBS series, The Mind of a Chef, starring David Chang. It came on at 2 a.m. here. Thanks to Bourdain, I’ve got this obsession with finding the perfect noodle, and that’s what the first episode was about. I didn’t expect the series to hold my attention, but it totally did. Highly recommend it.

And finally, Tony’s still writing for the HBO series Treme, and did a scene for Emeril Lagasse that reveals him in a light (and with a mouth) you’ve probably never seen before.

UPDATE: This will teach me not to read Twitter before I post. Bourdain’s new CNN series is called Parts Unknown. I like that. Here’s the promo.


Bourdain in Travel Channel Home Stretch

September 10, 2012

By Karen

I’ve lost count of No Reservations’ seasons. Some are calling the current new episodes Season 9. According to my DVD recordings, it’s part 2 of Season 8. But if you count how Travel Channel lopped Season 7 into two last year, this would be Season 10.

Anyway, in the opener, Tony visited Austin, TX, where, in addition to the world’s best barbecue, he seemed to be in search of that elusive, probably mythical, demographic — young males who prefer food porn to the usual type, enjoy hanging out with 50-something-old dudes, and who think anybody who makes noise on an instrument and screams incoherently is playing “music.”

About 10 minutes in, I found myself stealing glances at the clock to see how much longer I had to suffer (I was taping it). As it turns out, I was in good company with the New York Times.

So it didn’t float my boat to watch Bourdain play rock band groupie, eat BBQ, and deface himself again with yet another tat (not a gargoyle or a tarantula, as you might expect, but a cute little sun on his left forearm). But I still have high hopes for whatever’s left of NR.

Here are a few other things I’ve collected…

On August 15, Tony did a live “hangout” on Zagat’s Google+ page where he answered fan questions.

In November, Tony’s road show morphs into the “Guts and Glory Tour,” with supposedly fresh material. He’s even got a new logo and it has an official site.

I’m idly toying with catching it when he goes to Baltimore.

Tony’s appearances with Eric Ripert as “Good vs. Evil” also have their own site.

Now, here’s a mystery…

Some weeks ago, a blogger named Colman Andrews with The Daily Meal cruelly trashed Marilyn Hagerty in a column titled, “Does Anyone Get the Joke?” — you remember Marilyn, that nice lady from Grand Forks whose unabashed admiration for Olive Garden earned her a book deal with Bourdain’s imprint.

Bourdain quickly struck back at Andrews on Twitter, claiming that Hagerty’s book will be “an extraordinary and beautiful thing.”

I didn’t totally disagree with Andrews. Bourdain undoubtedly believes that exhuming Hagerty’s work to enlighten us all on what “the heartland” ate 30 years ago is a noble quest. His name will probably appear on the book’s cover larger than Hagerty’s to drive initial sales — and then the book will sink like a stone.

Bourdain told Zagat in August he’s perused about half of Hagerty’s oeuvre of 7,500 pages, searching for the gems he’ll publish.

Better him than me.

And finally, from the Tony’s Friends Dept…

As it turns out, Zamir’s not a shiftless deadbeat Tony found in a Russian gutter, but an accomplished documentary filmmaker. Who knew?

Eric Ripert’s latest On the Table interview featured Mario Batali.


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