Checking in On Bourdain

August 8, 2011

By Karen

Even though I stopped logging regular reports on Anthony Bourdain, I’ve been casually keeping tabs. I’ll confess I miss our old debates about Tony, so here’s some dish on what I’ve been seeing lately and I invite anyone to weigh in.

First, a round of applause to Tony, who seems to be pulling through his hair gel phase. His mane seems to be slowly returning to its original lushness.

I adored No Reservations in Naples. Maybe it’s because I can relate to the food, or maybe it’s Tony’s love for all things Italian, but his episodes in Italy are always sumptuous and highly rewatchable. And, of course, it’s a joy whenever Ottavia shows up and takes him down a few pegs, which she did when he and his crew crashed a wedding they happened upon. It was truly a gauche move, even for Vic Chanko.

The El Bulli episode? Meh. Yes, I know. The end of a culinary era. I should be wearing black. However, watching Bourdain & Friends consume the highlights of 52 one- or two-bite courses did nothing for me, although the sheer bizarreness and utter impracticality of what was shown was impressive and, I’m sure, delicious.

There’s no doubt Ferran Adria and David Chang are geniuses at what they do. But I think their notion of dining out is akin to a theater producer bankrolling some full-scale, avant garde musical and allowing only one row of seats for an audience. He sells a dozen tickets per performance, max, and eventually everyone’s claiming he’s got the hottest thing on Broadway and keeps the show “sold out” forever. But do I want to keep hearing about how wonderful, yet impossibly exclusive, it is? No.

On August 4, Tony visited the Colbert Report and didn’t quite seem to be getting the joke, playing straight his usual schtick on the evils of restaurant chains. After spending 28 years in restaurant kitchens, he said he now “boils with rage” at chains like Chili’s or Applebee’s, and claimed Cinnabon to be the most “grosteque” thing ever.

Was he implying he was cooking haute cuisine all that time? We know better.

Yeah, it’s a crying shame all Americans can’t hop a plane on someone else’s dime to grab a fresh bowl of pho in Hanoi or a pizza in Napoli when we want a nosh.

Colbert managed to make Bourdain sound even more elitist and out of touch by asking Tony to describe the rite of eating ortolon whole, as he described in the opening of Medium Raw.

On August 5, Tony appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher, and food consequently got shoe-horned into the political discussion. As the show wrapped up, Maher thanked “Arthur Bourdain” for being there.

The camera caught Tony’s nonplussed reaction. Sorry, I couldn’t find that bit anywhere online.

This clip is from the “Overtime” segment without Maher, where the guests discuss viewer questions. I’m guessing Maher apologized, saying he meant “author Anthony Bourdain” but it got jumbled.

Ep. 223: August 5, 2011 – Overtime

Tony’s a smart guy, and he’s branching out beyond food TV. I just wish he’d tap into his his worldly experience and talk about things other than food.

Technical PS: I’ve given you the links to the videos two ways, in the text and separately, as a WordPress experiment just to see how “embedding” from those sites would work.

Happy Birthday, Ottavia Bourdain

April 25, 2011

By Karen

April is a month for celebrating in the Bourdain household. First Ariane’s birthday on the 9th, a wedding anniversary on the 20th, and wife Ottavia celebrates her birthday on April 28. Cats Working wishes Ottavia a great one, and many more!

Meanwhile, Tony has been off shooting No Reservations on the West Coast. Tonight, tune in for another new episode in Hokkaido in northern Japan. Here’s the promo clip. (Sorry I couldn’t insert it from Travel Channel’s website, a veritable monument to inconsistency, bad schedule info, and general suckitude.)

Tony blogged most eloquently about his recent meal at El Bulli, Ferran Adrià’s restaurant in Spain that’s closing forever this summer. The event was captured for an upcoming NR episode.

According to Tony, we all have Ferran Adrià to thank for the very existence of No Res. Tony and his crew shot “Decoding Ferran Adrià” on faith and used it as the pilot for the show that eventually found a home on the Travel Channel.

Last week, Tony appeared on The Joy Behar Show on CNN. Eater posted the video. Behar mentioned that Medium Raw in paperback will be available in May. Amazon says May 3.

Bourdain’s BFF, Eric Ripert, prepared lamb on the Today Show on April 22 and was asked to describe Tony in one word. He answered, “grain of salt,” and explained why. provides a bit more background on Tony’s involvement as a writer on HBO’s series, Treme, which began its second season last night. Bourdain’s in charge of the New York thread, and his feelings for Alan Richman, whom he added as a character, don’t seem to have softened appreciably.

I’m reading Gabrielle Hamilton’s memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter mainly because Bourdain raves about it. BTW, they are co-hosting a lamb roast fundraiser on April 29 in NYC to benefit the Bronx Academy of Letters, if you’re in the neighborhood.

I’m just getting into “Bones” after feeling no qualms about skipping a chicken-killing scene that wrapped up “Blood.” I’ll reserve judgment, but confess that I’m not feeling hooked yet.

Will Bourdain Eat Beans in Boston?

April 18, 2011

By Karen

Tonight Anthony Bourdain eats and drinks his way through Boston in a new No Reservations episode named “Know Your Enemy” (because he’s a Yankees fan). I think he’s tweeting live @NoReservations during the broadcast. He talked to and they provide some background. And here’s the promo…

If you’re interested in the quotable Bourdain from the Amazon episode in Brazil last week, Eater’s got the best one-liners.

In the “Friends of Tony Bourdain” department…

For the past week, Tony has been tweeting from Spain, mainly photos of food. He’s been hanging out with chef Jose Andres while filming NR, a tribute to Ferran Adrià’s restaurant, El Bulli, which he’s closing to launch an advanced culinary academy.

The Bellingham (Wash.) Herald interviewed Sandra Lee during a visit there, and this is just one of her semi-sweet digs at Bourdain…

“I bet he’s a really nice guy. … I think he’s really talented,” she said. “I’m going to love the day when he doesn’t need to drop my name and say nasty things about anyone to get exposure and press.”

The article mentioned that Lee will be selling a cookware line she designed at Sears and Kmart, and that all 23 of her books are self-published because no “real” publisher would touch her first semi-homemade cookbook.

As a counterpoint, A.V. Club interviewed Brian Roberts of Ha Ha Tonka, the band that played on the recent NR Ozarks episode, and here’s part of what he said about Tony….

AVC: Is he as cool as he comes off on TV?

BR: He is just as cool — if not cooler. Really, really nice guy — he hung out with us for like 10 hours.

A food writer at Chicagoist describes a very strange encounter where the renowned chef Grant Achatz allegedly behaved like an asshole at his new restaurant, the Aviary.

The Harvard Business Review just published a podcast they did with Tony on “Why Leaders Should Eat with the Locals.” Among other things, he talks about what motivated him to take over his Twitter account @NoReservations.

Cats Working wishes the Bourdains a Happy Anniversary on April 20.

If you get HBO, Season 2 of Treme, begins on April 24 with Bourdain as one of the writers.

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