Bourdainia Galore!

May 25, 2011

By Karen

I’m playing catch-up with DVDs of Treme, the HBO New Orleans series Anthony Bourdain has been writing for. After the first 2 episodes of Season 1, I’m still waiting to feel hooked, but I’m optimistic. Luckily, the Internet teems with video clips of the restaurant scenes Tony is doing for Season 2, which is airing now.

For example, here’s the scene of food critic Alan Richman taking a drink in the puss. Richman wrote about that later in GQ and actually seemed to be a good sport about it.

Tony also gave Tom Colicchio and Eric Ripert cameos with lines, and then Tom talked to Esquire about the experience.

A video of Tony speaking to HuffPost Food has been surfacing in pieces. He discussed which foods he’d like to see more of in the U.S. and modified his stance on bacon. He also talked about things he’ll never do — which we’ve already seen him do — and manages to lump Jay Leno in with strolling through steaming bat guano and being mounted by an Uzbek masseur.

In this video clip from PopEater, Tony talks about celebrities.

Last week, Bourdain was in Australia for the Sydney Writers’ Festival and did a video interview with MUmBRELLA where, among other things, he shared his thoughts on the value of Facebook and Twitter. 

At the Sydney festival, he appeared in a sold-out session on May 19 with AA Gill. Links to the full audio are under May 21 at 3 p.m., but they seem screwed up. Click “Download” to just listen.

If you don’t want to do that, Book Thingo provides a written recap and a snippet of illicit video taken from the audience.

Here’s a recap on another appearance Tony made at the festival called “Medium Raw,” which also sold out.

While rooting around for the festival stuff, I found a phone interview Tony did with ABC Sydney back in July 2010 that I don’t recall ever hearing.

On the literary front…

Bourdain will be a contributor to a new quarterly food journal, Lucky Peach, edited by David Chang and others, which debuts June 14. Each issue will have a theme, and the first one is ramen. According to the site, it’s the sister project to “an iPad app produced by Zero Point Zero that will feature more than two hours of videos, plus recipes, art, and essays.” Right now, the site is features a conversation on mediocrity among Bourdain, Chang, and Wylie Dufresne.

Tucson Weekly is critical of Bourdain’s involvement with Treme (2nd paragraph from the end). The writer seems to have an outdated image of Tony’s persona, but from the clips I’ve seen on Eater, I find myself relating somewhat to his unfoodie perspective. But that’s fodder for a future post.

I found this fascinating site on tumblr called Fuck Yes, Tony Bourdain! It’s devoted to photos, video clips, and quotes.

Finally, Travel Channel posted a video clip of Tony discussing his job with his adult niece, Isabelle.

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Bourdain vs. JBF: Round 2

May 3, 2011

By Karen

James Beard Foundation president Susan Ungaro talked to the Village Voice and said she’s still “unclear” about Anthony Bourdain’s unwavering disdain for the organization, which he called “The Mummy’s Tomb” in a recent blog post where he ripped the hypocrisy of this year’s awards theme, “The Melting Pot.” He also wrote in Medium Raw (page 158):

The James Beard House… provides comfort and succor and the illusion of importance to a bunch of supremely irrelevant old fucks who have nothing to do and nothing to say of any significance to the restaurant business they claim to support and love. It’s a private dining society for the soon-to-be incontinent — like the Friars Club for old mummies who never themselves told a joke but like to hang around comedians.

I don’t understand what part of all this Ungaro doesn’t get. Does she need for Bourdain to provide a visual, like showing up at the awards and taking a dump on the stage? (Not that he would, of course.)

Eater provided some clips of, presumably, kitchen scenes Tony wrote for Treme, in case, like me, you don’t get HBO. They certainly have the ring of his voice.

Pajiba compiled Tony’s most profane quotes from the Boston episode, but some of the comments on them are even funnier.

Ottavia tweeted this picture of herself at the gym, where she practices MMA. She makes me think of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and I mean it as a compliment. Nobody messes with the Bourdains!

Tony was recently out west filming an American Desert episode, and his latest blog post was about his car and the music, and he segued into his previous travels to Cuba.

Tony put out a tantalizing tweet that Zamir figures in the upcoming Ukraine episode. OK’s the guy can be a jerk, but he’s TV gold as Tony’s zany sidekick.

CelebStoner honored Bourdain as its 50th pick for “Top CelebStoner.” He’s the first chef ever selected for the dubious honor.


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.

NorthJersey.com 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.


Bourdain Stirs, the Pot Boils

April 4, 2011

By Karen

No Reservations returns to San Francisco in a rerun tonight, launching a 3-night SF marathon that includes Zimmern and Man v. Food. Tony’s next new episode is April 11 in Brazil.

Last week in the Ozark’s… what can I say? Really, what? I kept leaving the room rather than watch Bourdain chow down on roadkill with his new friends, whom he swears aren’t hillbillies. Sure, but only because the term hillbillies died with Jed Clampett. If you’ve spent any time in the South, you know rednecks when you see them.

Birthday shout-out to daughter Ariane, who turns 4 on April 9. Ottavia tweeted that dad is teaching Ariane how to ride a bike.

Tony’s nemesis, Sandra Lee, gave an extensive interview to New York magazine where she forgives Tony for his cruelty, saying she realizes it’s only part of his “schtick.”

The infamous verbal piss Tony took in his blog last week on the James Beard awards (see also Chapter 13 in Medium Raw) made a big splash. Michael Bauer at Inside Scoop at SF Gate took offense that Bourdain slammed home cooks who create recipes. But the way I read it, Tony was targeting those who write about cooks.

Bauer was joined by the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s John Kessler, and in Kessler’s post’s comments, Esquire food writer John Mariani, who’s reputed to be demanding and a mooch, leaps into the fray to lock horns with Tony again. If you keep reading, Tony asserts that NR does pay for food, except in instances where the host would be insulted, and that he personally tries to avoid being comped in restaurants because he doesn’t want to be “that guy.”

I believe Bourdain’s sincere and, personally, the only people I find more annoying than food critics are Tom Colicchio and Padma.

And if all that weren’t enough, Bourdain brewed a tempest in a beer mug by implying in a tweet that “Big Beer” muscled Discovery Channel into canceling a series called Brew Masters by threatening to yank their ads. This was a reality show produced by Zero Point Zero about Dogfish Head Brewery that filmed only 6 episodes, according to the brewery’s founder, so its future was never certain.

Variety reports that Zero Point Zero has signed a distribution deal with FremantleMedia Enterprises that includes any future seasons of No Res, and a “new Bourdain title” currently under development.

Hmmmm… what could that be about? A Year in Vietnam, perhaps?


Travel Channel Tired of Bourdain?

February 14, 2011

By Karen

Season 7 of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations begins two weeks from tonight, and Travel Channel posted a video of Tony saying many of the shows were not only difficult to make, but “may be difficult to watch.”

That must be music to Andrew Zimmern’s ears.

I’d like to know why Travel Channel fails to mention in some of the new-season promos that Bourdain’s time slot has switched from 10 to 9 p.m., now that they seem to have settled on February 28 as the premier date, after initially announcing it as March 14.

Not to mention that Tony’s promos run less frequently than Zimmern’s and just about everybody else’s.

If you add all these little things up, you might get the impression that Travel Channel is subtly trying to sink No Reservations.

I’ve got a bone to pick with Bravo, too. Bourdain didn’t blog on Top Chef All-Stars’ week 9 when Fabio got ousted a lousy hamburger. Bravo posted on Tony’s page that he’s out of the country when the truth is that he’s making personal appearances around the U.S. most nights this month. He’s even tweeting about it @NoReservations.

Speaking of Top Chef, the snooze factor went WAY up with Fabio’s departure. Déjà vu to Tre and the glumpy risotto, Fabio was doomed by form over substance when he failed to serve greasy burgers that could drip on Padma’s ankles. Flavor wasn’t really a factor, except someone likened his burger to meatloaf.

Fabio’s done a lot of interviews since, but I thought Fancast got the best one, eliciting Fabio’s thoughts on Bourdain, Jersey Shore, and a variety of other topics.

Next up in week 10 of Top Chef, Bourdain is back at judges’ table and the Muppets judge the Quickfire challenge on — what else? — COOKIES!

Tony’s hitting the personal appearance circuit hard this month. Here’s what I’ve pieced together of his February schedule:

10 Red Bank, NJ
11 Easton, PA
12 Stamford, CT
13 Norfolk, VA
14 Glenside, PA
15 Pompano Beach, FL
18 Cerritos, CA
19 Palm Desert, CA
20 Modesto, CA
22 Wilmington, DE
23 New Haven, CT
24-27 Miami, FL (South Beach Wine & Food Festival)

Could screenplays be in Bourdain’s future? He’s been learning the ropes writing the restaurant scenes for HBO’s new season of Treme, including one where food critic Alan Richman guests. Remember him? Bourdain devoted Chapter 14 to him in Medium Raw, entitled, “Alan Richman is a Douchebag.”

Grub Street got Richman’s reaction to Bourdain’s screenwriting.

B.R. Myers, a South-Korea-based vegan opinion writer for Atlantic magazine, has foodies’ napkins in a knot over his recent article, “The Moral Crusade Against Foodies,” and he quoted Bourdain to do it.

I agree with Myers to a point. Even after watching Bourdain all these years, foodies still creep me out. I resent their belief that the world would be a better place if we all aspired to ever-greater feats in the kitchen, and that anyone outside their rarified circle should give a damn about whom they’ve anointed this week’s “world’s greatest chef” or care what comes out of his/her kitchen if we live beyond driving distance.

99.99% of us eat what’s available and don’t dwell on it nor feel compelled to photograph it. (Yeah, that’s why there’s obesity, blah, blah. That’s a separate debate.)

In a nutshell, “normal” people eat to live. We don’t live to eat. But these days it seems we can’t swing a cat without hitting a foodie.

The judges on Top Chef bemoan cheftestants’ “ignorance” of certain dishes as if they’re supposed to know every cuisine on the planet. It’s food snobs setting impossible standards solely for the purpose of tripping up (mostly) competent cooks with solid track records in their own milieu. Watching them go down apparently holds endless fascination for foodies.

And what was sicker than the intro to Medium Raw, where Bourdain rapturously describes joining unnamed food celebrities to hide their heads under napkins while they devour hapless, endangered songbirds WHOLE? All that was missing was the female guests killing the birds by impaling them on their stiletto heels.

Foodie fetishism can be as ugly and unhealthy in its own way as living on junk food.

Anyway, Village Voice and Salon jumped in and defended foodies with stinging rebuttals of Myers’ rant.


Cooking Classes: Lessons Learned

February 3, 2011

By Karen

I’m a proud new graduate of Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Basics classes at Sur La Table with all 10 fingers intact. What did I learn? Let’s see…

I’m sure Bourdain’s curriculum adhered to whatever specifications Sur La Table provided. Its dubious value for beginner cooks was not entirely his fault, but a byproduct of the SLT kitchen/classroom setup. (I’m not picking on SLT here; I understand they are typical.)

Tony has been concerned about the notion of “selling out” for quite a while. If he ever sees these posts, I hope I give him a little food for thought on how far he’s willing to go in putting his name on things that don’t really do him proud.

My misgivings about the classes began when I saw Sur La Table touting them online as being “based on” Medium Raw. I assumed it was a typo until our instructor, Sue, repeated it on the last night of class, adding that MR was Bourdain’s “latest novel.”

If you know anything about Medium Raw (a 2010 New York Times bestseller — not some obscure, hard-to-find book) you know how absurd/inaccurate those statements are. And you have to wonder about the functional illiterates at Sur La Table who hired Bourdain to devise cooking classes based on rants about the food industry rather than on his freaking COOKBOOK. (Bourdain, no dummy, actually used his cookbook in developing the classes, and most of SLT’s class handouts were excerpted verbatim from it.)

But let it serve as a warning to any future students to take course descriptions with a grain of salt and set your expectations low.

We were told Bobby Flay is about to join SLT’s stable of celebrity chefs endorsing classes with a Flay book giveaway, which could be knitting patterns for all it seems to matter to SLT.

The 3 Bourdain classes had broad themes: starches, liquids, and proteins. However, what was never established was any common thread between the dishes we made each night. They had virtually nothing to do with each other (except that chicken stock from week 2 ended up in steak peppercorn sauce in week 3). It seemed a hodge-podge of recipes.

Where I do fault Bourdain is in selecting dishes we couldn’t possibly complete during class time. Many were from his Les Halles Cookbook, but why? We were there to learn basics, not French bistro cooking.

This was my first experience with commercial cooking classes, and it was disappointing. For $175, the only dish I really “made” was an omelet. I contributed minimally to 3 others, and either watched bits of preparation or completely missed the rest until they ended up on a plate. Partly my fault for being in the wrong place at the wrong time every week.

But I could have learned more spending an evening watching Julia Child DVDs.

I don’t think the classes will win Bourdain any new fans, but they drove a bit of traffic through Sur La Table.

This weekend, I’m going to try making chicken stock, and bits of technique I heard in class will undoubtedly bubble up if I’m ever fixing similar dishes (but fish stew, fuggeddaboudit!).

Maybe that’s all Kitchen Basics was meant to deliver.


Bourdain’s Gone Fishin’

January 24, 2011

By Karen

Anthony Bourdain took No Reservations back to Brazil, where he fished in the Amazon and made an impressive catch. Is it a trick of light, or does he look unusually svelte? (Tony, not the fish.)

Meanwhile, controversy simmers back in the States after Hannah Hayes, daughter of a Cargill executive, publicly called Bourdain out on Chapter 9 of Medium Raw, his rant on “Meat” where he named food giant Cargill as a force of evil.

Bourdain was surprisingly benign in his blogged response, although he stood his ground (beef) on treating meat with ammonia.

A Faustian Bargain declared “Bullshit!,” saying Bourdain at any other time is “the Glenn Beck of the food world.” He also claims his comment on Bourdain’s Travel Channel blog got deleted, so he posted it himself and expanded upon everything that he thinks is wrong with Tony.

I’m going to claim non-foodie neutrality here and not pick sides. However, I do think that Faustian may be spot-on that Bourdain softened (or was advised to soften) his stance because HarperCollins’ lawyers smelled a potential libel suit cooking.

In the Win Some, Lose Some Department…

The 2011 Producers’ Guild Awards were held on January 22 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. No Res lost to Deadliest Catch for Outstanding Producer of Non-Fiction Television.

And on a lighter note, Chicago Foodies posed an interesting question: Is Bourdain starting to look like Eric Ripert? Hmmm…

Tony returned as a judge for week 7 of Top Chef All-Stars. If the Quickfire Challenge of filleting fish at Le Bernadin really was his brainchild it was, hands down, his finest hour ever on TC. Not only did he refrain from gratuitously making the cheftestants look silly just because he could, but he gave them an opportunity to display real-world skill.

Bonus: Padma was nowhere, which instantly elevated the challenge’s stature.

Tony shared judging duties with Justo Thomas, Le Bernadin’s resident fish prep chef and the hero of Medium Raw’s Chapter 18, “My Aim is True.”

Dale won the Quickfire, but the ensuing Restaurant War made me a bigger Fabio fan than ever. Last week, Fabio launched his own hilarious blog, and one of his first posts was about the Restaurant War, where he distinguished himself with a superior dessert and his management skills.

I’d like to see Fabio with his own cooking show. He could be the Italian Emeril.

Bourdain also blogged about the Restaurant War. In case you missed it, the increasingly scary/delusional Marcel had to pack it in with the foam and go.

There are many great recaps of this episode in the blogosphere, but David Dust’s had me laughing out loud.

Gawker was also hilarious. You know how I love a good Padma joke.

Tonight, I’m off to Sur La Table for Session 2 of Bourdain’s Kitchen Basics class, where I’ll learn about Stocks, Soups, and Sauces. Our dishes include: Rich Chicken Stock, Fish Stock, Mushroom Soup, Mussels Steamed in White Wine (Moules à la Grecque), and Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Bearnaise Sauce.

Full report on Wednesday…


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