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 Becomes a Standup Guy

October 29, 2012

By Karen

In preparation for his new Guts & Glory tour in November, Anthony Bourdain dropped in at the Comedy Cellar in NYC last week and did 10 minutes of standup to test his material. I’m sure it was better than bombing in front several thousand people, which is what his personal appearances typically attract, given the space, but it was risky in that he wasn’t guaranteed an audience of foodies.

Imagine making cracks about Guy Fieri and Adam Richman to people who have never heard of them.

But no guts, no glory. That’s our Tony!

I’ve been watching the final season of No Reservations, and he utterly charmed me in Burgundy and Emilia-Romagna. And I was awed by Ottavia’s amazing display of lower-body strength in Rio when she wrapped her legs like a boa constrictor around her hapless opponent to win her first Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu match.

No Res wraps on November 5 in Brooklyn — and Travel Channel waves buh-bye to future Emmys unless crown prince Zimmern can rise above a diet of balls and bugs.
To watch the Brooklyn show, Tony’s fan-favorite sidekick, Zamir, will be the guest of honor at the Lafayette Hotel in Buffalo, NY, where there will also be a Bourdain impersonator contest. Let’s hope somebody captures some video of that.

The second and final Bourdain-led season of The Layover begins in the No Res time slot November 19. Tony’s selection of places is excellent: Chicago, Atlanta, Dublin, New Orleans, Paris, Philadelphia, Sao Paolo, Seattle, Taipei, and Toronto.

It will be interesting to see how Travel Channel pads and drags out Layover to milk the illusion of Tony’s presence as long as possible.

I believe Tony begins work on his new, as-yet-unnamed CNN series in December.

But before all that, on November 9 a new 30-minute series debuts on PBS at 9 p.m. called The Mind of a Chef. It stars David Chang, with Bourdain as executive producer and narrator.

Details have been released on how Tony and Nigella Lawson’s ABC food competition, The Taste, will work. What sticks in my craw is the bit pitting amateurs against pros, but I trust that Bourdain wouldn’t condone a vastly uneven playing field after his merciless mocking of non-chefs on other similar shows.

And it seems Tony may have finally been bitten by the merchandising bug…

Zagat and Eater reported that Bourdain and BFF Eric Ripert may be launching a new chocolate bar called Good & Evil some time after November 8, but nobody seems to know any details.

First a graphic novel comic book, now candy. What next? Bubble gum with celebrity chef trading cards?

Old news, but also of interest…

On October 11, Bourdain got roasted at the New York Wine & Food Festival. Here are some of the zingers, and it sounds like Eric Ripert stooped nicely to the occasion.

More zingers.

The following morning, Tony got to spend 3 whole minutes chatting with Savannah Guthrie on the Today Show.

Bourdain recently did a phone interview with the Houston Press. It was published in 2 parts, and part 2 was most worth reading.

In part 1, Tony said he’d like to see chicken Caesar salads disappear from restaurant menus, and took a swipe at old white-haired food critics that got a rise out of John Mariani of Esquire.


A Bourdain Catch-Up Marathon

February 16, 2012

By Karen

I’ve got a pile of Bourdainia stacked up, so let’s sift through and see what’s worth sharing…

Travel Channel just announced No Reservations Season 8 (yes, 8 – TC apparently forgot they tried to fob S7 off on us as two distinctly separate events) begins on Ariane’s 5th birthday, April 9.

Destinations include:

  • Austin, TX
  • Baja, Mexico
  • Burgundy region of France
  • Croatian coast
  • Emilia–Romagna region of Northern Italy
  • Finland
  • Rio De Janeiro
  • Kansas City, MO
  • Lisbon
  • Penang, Malaysia
  • Sydney

France, Italy, and Portugal, great, but I’m most looking forward to Finland. Tony told somebody recently he’s trying to overcome his distaste for orderly countries.

The rest, meh.

In the meantime, TC has given Tony’s usual 9 p.m. Monday slot to new episodes of Bizarre Foods, which must have Andrew Zimmern feeling “King of TC” is almost within his grasp.

On April 10, Bourdain will be TCM’s guest programmer, watching and discussing with host Robert Osborne such classics as The Searchers and Eyes Without a Face. This link also has his Oscar picks. I think he was swinging from way out in left field to claim Midnight in Paris is elitist. I saw it twice, don’t recall Djuna Barnes being mentioned, and STILL don’t know who it is.

This goes back to the NR Christmas special, but Broward Palm Beach New Times got a nice little video of Tony griping about the Travel Channel — complete with a foul cat simile.

Speaking of cats, he did it again in the San Francisco Layover episode, in the Hotel Fairmont tiki bar: “If you have no love in your heart for this place, you are a sick, twisted, lonely fuck with too many cats.”

In case you missed that one, Eater.com posted the best one-liners.

Rachael Ray talked about Bourdain with A.V. Club. It’s in the middle of the page, including, “Everybody has a right to their opinion, and quite frankly, there probably isn’t too much Tony has said about me over the years that wasn’t true… if you were Tony.”

Paula Deen should take notes.

Speaking of dear Paula, I wonder if Tony will be appearing on Fox any time soon after they used her announcement of Type 2 diabetes (and $$$ deal to shill for a drug company), along with some misinformation from TMZ, as an excuse to take a few big dumps on Bourdain.

One was titled, “Anthony Bourdain is a Moron,” with video where Fox talking heads refuse to pronounce his name correctly and act as if Tony calling himself “Bore-dane” is some twisted affectation on the spelling.

On the other hand, those phonetically-challenged bozos do think “Boehner” spells BAY-ner.

And in a second attack they called him an “elitist” displaying “Northern snobbery.”

New York magazine elicited many one-liners from Bourdain. Cole and Max were thrilled to learn that Tony also loves his man cave.

Men’s Journal got a meaty sit-down (in a NYC bar) interview with Tony.

Tony did a Q&A with Vanity Fair about vacationing in Ottavia’s neck of the woods in Italy, where he loves to devour Italian gossip magazines and TV game shows.

Apparently, Travel Channel has jerked Andrew Zimmern’s leash up short, keeping him in the U.S. for his next season. This article at South Coast Today provides an interesting analysis of Zimmern and Bourdain’s respective schticks.

Bourdain and Eric Ripert did their Good vs. Evil thing in Austin (where Tony’s filming NR in March — has TC clipped his leash, too?). Who knew Eric harbors a grudge against John McEnroe?

The Cynical Girl saw Bourdain and Ripert in Raleigh, NC, which inspired her to write, “Anthony Bourdain is Such a Piece of Shit.” If what she says about his note-reading delivery is true, he must have really been having an off night.

Here’s a 30-minute video from Reddit that apparently was recently unlocked for general viewing. Tony answers questions directly to the camera, and it’s about as close to conversation with him as it gets.

And Ottavia hasn’t been exactly hiding in a corner all this time…

The Genuine Kitchen got Ottavia to discuss why she loves for Amaretto Di Saronno as she was leaving the Cayman Cookout in January.

She also gave an interview to FightChix about — well, guess. If you’ve ever wanted to see more of her tongue, this is your chance!


Warming Up to ‘The Layover’

November 22, 2011

By Karen

I started writing very different impressions of Anthony Bourdain’s new series, The Layover, which premiered on Travel Channel last night. But I wanted to watch the Singapore episode again before shooting my mouth off, so I just checked Verizon’s On Demand for it in hopes of skipping the step of fast-forwarding through 20 minutes of commercials.

Predictably, it wasn’t there — but the as-yet-unaired New York City episode was.

Travel Channel strikes again. But more on that below.

Bottom line: Singapore left me underwhelmed. The 3- and 4-way split screens quickly grated. But let’s begin with what I liked…

  • Testimonials and tips from locals — they found friendly, articulate characters who complemented Bourdain nicely.
  • Tony navigating like a normal person. In No Reservations, he magically appears at destinations without logistics — unless his mode of travel is bizarre and feeds his idea of “the story.” But now we know he’s royalty at Singapore’s Grand Hyatt and thinks the airport is the world’s best.
  • The subtitles. I loved the maps, lists, and spellings of locations, businesses, and foods.
  • All the practical advice about transportation, hotels, and pricing (which will, unfortunately, date the series).

But aside from that, it was essentially Tony walking around, looking cool, and eating.

I get his reluctance to hit tourist traps. He’d have probably run in to Samantha Brown on that Ferris wheel. But I doubt anybody with one day in Singapore would eat 15 times.

At one point, I thought the show was wrapping up because it seemed I’d been watching Bourdain eat for hours, but the clock said it was only 9:29. That’s never a good thing.

But then I lucked into episode 2 in New York City. The format’s essentially the same, but used far less split-screen. It just felt better and held my interest.

If there’s anything Bourdain can teach us, it’s how to avoid being ugly American tourists. The tips NYC locals gave did just that. I was waiting for one to say, “Ladies, never wear a scrunchie.” (FYI: Sex & the City reference.)

After seeing New York, I like the The Layover. Let’s face it, if you were in foreign surroundings, who better than Anthony Bourdain to keep you safe and show you the good stuff?

Now, back to Travel Channel…

They are partnering with Rand-McNally’s Tripology.com to help viewers trace Bourdain’s footsteps in The Layover, virtually ensuring that Tony will indeed “destroy the things he loves.”

From their press release

Viewers can go to Travelchannel.com to watch additional video from a particular show and then research locations and activities. The site then connects them with Tripology.com, an interactive referral service focused on connecting travelers with qualified top-rated travel specialists. With Tripology.com, a user tells specialists where they want to go and what kind of experience they want. The request goes to a Travel Channel tripologist who specializes in the area, and is armed with actual itineraries from programming. Usually within 24 hours, the user will receive an email or phone call from a Travel Channel tripologist who can help plan the trip, and book with them directly.

Travel Channel “tripologists.”

What a stinking job title. I imagine incarnations of those hapless schlubs from Room 214 who tried to make TC a force in social media. They’d never met Tony and could tell you nothing about him or his travels beyond what TC’s PR flaks dribbled out in emails and video snippets.

It smells like Travel Channel has found a way to skim a little off viewer-to-travel-agent referrals. If you’re sucker enough to trust them, you’ll probably be spending your vacation in the wrong country.


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