Who would have guessed 15 years ago that this self-styled rebel, who wrote about waitress blow jobs and shooting heroin in his best-selling 2000 memoir, Kitchen Confidential, would become America’s contemporary answer to, say, Mark Twain — our most enthusiastic chronicler of life outside our borders?
Josh Eells tags along to get a firsthand look at Anthony Bourdain’s world domination.
I’ve caught a couple of episodes of CNN’s Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown and I’ve been impressed with the show so far. In it, chef/author Anthony Bourdain travels to places off the beaten path and explores the local culture. But it’s not just about food and culture as with his previous shows. In Parts Unknown, Bourdain also delves into local politics and social issues. In Iran, he spoke with journalists about their tenuous relationship with the government (and two of the journalists he spoke with were subsequently arrested). Episodes in the Congo, Myanmar, and Libya are produced with a focus on their oppressive governments, past and present. Even in the Massachusetts episode, he talks about his former heroin addiction and the current addiction of poor whites in the US. Many of the places he visits, we only hear about the leadership and bad things that happen on the news, but Bourdain meets with the locals and finds more similarities amongst cultures than differences. I’d never considered going to visit someplace like Iran, but Parts Unknown has me considering it…what a great people.
Season four recently wrapped up and they’re shooting season five now. The first three seasons are currently available on Netflix and all four seasons are on Amazon. (FYI to the web team at CNN: “Unknown” is misspelled in the <title> of that page.)
When Anthony Bourdain’s hour-long food and travel show first launched on CNN, it marked the network’s step away from 24 hours news and towards more entertainment programming. But maybe Bourdain is just the reporter we need these days when most of what we see of other cultures is satellite images or shots of rubble. “I’m not a foreign policy wonk, but I see aspects of these countries that regular journalists don’t.” From FastCo: Anthony Bourdain has become the future of cable news, and he couldn’t care less.
Anthony Bourdain travels a lot; here’s how he approaches flying, packing, getting good local recommendations, etc.
The other great way to figure out where to eat in a new city is to provoke nerd fury online. Go to a number of foodie websites with discussion boards. Let’s say you’re going to Kuala Lumpur — just post on the Malaysia board that you recently returned and had the best rendang in the universe, and give the name of a place, and all these annoying foodies will bombard you with angry replies about how the place is bullshit, and give you a better place to go.
In case you missed it a few months ago on PBS, the excellent The Mind of a Chef is out in downloadable form on iTunes and at Amazon. The first episode is available for free on the PBS site for try-before-you-buy purposes.
How had I not heard about this before now? The Mind of a Chef is a PBS consisting of sixteen half-hour shows that follows David Chang through his world of food. As far as I can tell, this series is basically the TV version of Lucky Peach. Episode one is about ramen:
In the series premiere, David dissects the roots of his passion for ramen dishes and tsukemen on a trip to Japan. Learn the history of this famous noodle as David visits a ramen factory, has a bowl of the original tsukemen, and examines how alkalinity makes noodles chewier and less prone to dissolving in broth.
Check out an excerpt here, in which Chang reveals how he used to eat instant ramen noodles right out of the bag with the pork flavor powder sprinkled on top. The series starts this weekend…check your local listings, as they say. (via ny times)
Emeril Lagasse made an appearance on Treme on Sunday. I watched a clip of his scene a few days ago and have been thinking about it on and off ever since. In the scene written by Anthony Bourdain, Emeril takes a fellow chef to the building that used to house Uglesich’s, a small-but-beloved New Orleans restaurant that closed back in 2005. The chef is having misgivings about expanding her business, particularly about all the non-cooking things you have to do, and Emeril explains that the way the owners of Uglesich’s did it was one way forward:
You see, they kept it small, just one spot, just a few tables. There’d be a line around the corner by 10 am. You see, they made a choice. Anthony and Gail made a choice to stay on Baronne Street and keep their hands on what they were serving. They cooked, everyday they cooked, until they could cook no more.
But there’s also another way to approach your business:
The other choice is that you can build something big but keep it the way that you wanna keep it. Take those ideas and try to execute them to the highest level. You got a lotta people around you, right? You’re the captain of the ship. Or what I should say is that you’re the ship. And all these people that look up to you and wanna be around you, they’re living in the ship. And they’re saying, “Oh, the ship is doing good. Oh, the ship is going to some interesting places. Oh, this ship isn’t going down just like all the other fucking ships I’ve been on.” […] You’ve got a chance to do your restaurant and to take care of these people. Just do it.
kottke.org has always been a one-person thing. Sure, Aaron posts here regularly now and I have guest editors on occasion, but for the most part, I keep my ass in the chair and my hands on what I am serving. I’ve always resisted attempts at expanding the site because, I have reasoned, that would mean that the site wouldn’t be exactly what I wanted it to be. And people come here for exactly what I want it to be. Doing the site with other people involved has always seemed unnatural. It would be selling out…that’s how I’ve thought about it, as opposed to blowing up.
But Emeril’s “until they could cook no more” and “you’re the ship”…that got to me. I am a ship. I don’t have employees but I have a family that relies on the income from my business and someday, when I am unable to do this work or people stop reading blogs or all online advertising moves to Facebook or Twitter, what happens then? Don’t I owe it to myself and to them to build something that’s going to last beyond my interest and ability to sit in a chair finding interesting things for people to look at? Or is it enough to just work by yourself and produce the best work you can?
Or can you do both? John Gruber’s Daring Fireball remains a one-man operation…as far as I know, he’s never even had an intern. I don’t have any inside knowledge of DF’s finances, but from the RSS sponsorship rate and the rate for sponsoring Gruber’s podcast, my conservative estimate is that DF grosses around $650,000 per year. And with a single employee/owner and relatively low expenses, a large amount of that is profit. So maybe that route is possible?
I don’t have any answers to these questions, but man, it’s got me thinking. Emeril got me thinking…who saw that coming? Bam!
Anthony Bourdain’s potty mouth + Ruth Reichl’s Twitter account = the luxuriously rude Twitter stylings of Ruth Bourdain.
Have you ever smoked tangerine zest in a bong? Incredible! Me and the cat are sky high
A Continuous Lean recommends Anthony Bourdain’s Disappearing Manhattan episode of No Reservations…with the pertinent YouTube embeds.
Fuck, it’s worth a watch even if you have seen it ten times. Eisenberg’s, Manganaro Foods, Keens, Le Veau d’Or, this show is like my NYC gastro-playbook. Watch it, love it, live it.
Grub Street has some textual CliffsNotes if you’re not into the video. If I had one of them life lists, sharing a meal with Bourdain would probably be on it.
A fine AV Club interview with the surprisingly down-to-earth Anthony Bourdain…much of it isn’t even about food. On selling out and endorsements:
Yeah, I’ve been offered cookware lines, some really gruesome reality shows that would have made me boatloads of money. The usual endorsements. I don’t know. Maybe it goes back to the heroin thing. I know what it’s like to wake up in the morning and feel ashamed of what you did yesterday. I’m just having a hard time crossing that line. I’d like to sell out. I really would!
I also learned that he writes crime novels.
Anthony Bourdain on the best method for finding good food in any city: provoke the nerds.
Take the city you want to go to and just google up some restaurant names that serve the dish you’re after. Then got to chowhound or another foodie site, and rather than asking about restaurants, you put up an enthusiastic post talking about how you just had the best whatever you’re looking for at one of these restaurants.
At that point, […] the nerdfury will begin. Posters will show up from nowhere to shower you with disdain, tell you how that place used to be good but has now totally sold out and — most important to your quest — will tell you where you would have gone if you were not some sort of mouth breathing water buffalo.
I wouldn’t have guessed that there’s actually an upside to Internet Jackass Syndrome. (via clusterflock)
Anthony Bourdain’s menu of overrated, trendy items. (via eater)
When the water sommelier comes over, I reach for my gun.
Anthony Bourdain critiques Food Network and some its stars on Michael Ruhlman’s blog. “SANDRA LEE: Pure evil. This frightening Hell Spawn of Kathie Lee and Betty Crocker seems on a mission to kill her fans, one meal at a time. She Must Be Stopped. Her death-dealing can-opening ways will cut a swath of destruction through the world if not contained. I would likely be arrested if I suggested on television that any children watching should promptly go to a wooded area with a gun and harm themselves.” Blogging may well be Bourdain’s natural medium…it suits his vitriolic style.
Great rant from Michael Ruhlman about the ethics of eating. “Beyond the fact that our current hand-wringing foreshadows an America that increasingly regulates how we live our lives, which is scary enough, the more insidious danger to me is that we think clams and ducks and lobsters are people too.”
Update: Anthony Bourdain responds to Ruhlman’s rant.
Chef/writer Anthony Bourdain turned 50 the other day so his friends threw him a big party; Michael Ruhlman surveys the scene.