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There's something about Anthony Bourdain

Has anyone actually seen the man cook? I have seen menus from his restaurant, but I don't know whether he's the chef-owner or simply their celebrity chef emeritus. I will say that he's a world class eater. And I am awed by what his immune system must be. I've seen him swallow things I'd be afraid to feed my cat! But does he cook? Has he ever had an actual cooking show? If he did, it came in well below my radar. Anyone know?

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  1. I guess you've never read his book, Kitchen Confidential, which chronicles his adventures into the restaurant world in great detail.

    Tony was executive chef for quite some time at Les Halles in New York, and only fairly recently stepped away from that, due to his hectic travel/shooting schedule.

    And if you caught the holiday episode of No Reservations, it revolved around him cooking the holiday meal for his brother's family (albeit, they probably shot the show in July, or something like that...).

    5 Replies
    1. re: cmvan

      Haven't read the book but I'm familiar with his history, and have looked over the Les Halles menus from when he was there. But I did miss the No Reservations show where he cooked for his family. Thanks!

      1. re: Caroline1

        What episode was that? Maybe it hasn't aired in Canada yet.

        1. re: BLM

          According to cmvan, it was a holiday show on "No Reservations." I also missed it.

          1. re: Caroline1

            If it's a recent show from the current season, then it hasn't aired in Canada(we're about 1 season behind).

        2. re: Caroline1

          Caroline1, I would HIGHLY recommend that you get your hands on a copy of No Reservations. If you are interested in food in any way, shape or form (and even if you aren't), this is really a great read and one I guarantee you will enjoy.

      2. He and Ripert returned to Les Halles (Ripert at the grill station, I think) and cooked for a shift for the benefit of "No Reservations."


        Wish I could've afforded to eat at Les Halles every night that week :(

        1. I'm intrigued by your question that seems to equate having a cooking show with being able to cook or with having professional experience. there are many celebrities cooking on TV who couldn't stand up to a slow night in a small restaurant, no less put out acceptable food under dinner rush conditions at a place with a complicated menu. Their sole qualification( I know, ---our two chief weapons are fear, surprise and a ruthless devotion to our faith, etc) for having a show being their ability to talk well on camera and have a good PR person. AB has actually run a serious kitchen for a number of years. That is one of the reasons that I enjoy his show; he does appreciate the work that goes on in a real kitchen. That's beside his engaging degenerate attitude about travel; which I tend to share in many aspects.

          3 Replies
          1. re: chazzerking

            From this end, your conception that I seem to equate having a cooking show with being able to cook is totally a case of "eye of the beholder!" However, having read some of the menus from Bourdain's days with Les Halles, those are very classic menus that indicate an extremely accomplished background. In his shows, I think he comes across as a connoisseur as opposed to a practitioner.

            That being said, what I do find somewhat confounding in his "travel and eat" shows is that he betrays no indication that he knows how to poach an egg, let alone how to create a successful emulsion. And I find that rare. Even refreshing. It''s also something that I think only very accomplished chefs are comfortable doing. I'm an accomplished cook who loves to entertain, but the thing I hate about entertaining is that most guests make remarks about they can't cook like I do, so they'll never invite me to dinner. It's NOT a freaking contest! I love the effort and love that others put into making something for me, even if it's a fried egg sandwich. I feel Bourdain shares the philosophy.

            But I also feel that his travel-and-eat shows are rather like watching Rachmaninoff listen to other pianists. At least once in a while I'd like to hear Rachmaninoff play!

            1. re: Caroline1

              Love the Rachmaninoff analogy.

              He does help out on the shows. In Carolina he helped with the clam bake. In new Zealand he helped prepare the dinner either just before or after almost getting himself killed on the ATV. In Spain he helped to dispatch a pig. Granted not really cooking but involvement none the least.

              He's not there to showcase his talents but to allow other people do their thing. Certainly a 'throw down' is never in the cards.

              I'd also recommend his books. I haven't read 'Nasty Bits' but the others great reads!

              1. re: Caroline1

                I guess the difference of viewpoint is that I am happy to listen/watch AB try new stuff and be AB as opposed to watching him cook.Having spent the better part of 10 years in restaurant kitchens, I'm not interested in watching very many people cook. Listening to Rachmaninoff play, IMHO, is more akin to eating the food, as opposed to watching AB cook. watching tsomeone cook would be more like watching a composer at work. I guess it's just a matter of a chacun son gout, etc

            2. And here I thought you were talking about his picture in the book "My Last Meal".....

              1. I have always taken Bourdain as a guy who worked his tail off in kitchens for 30 years and is having a second career revival as a writer/host/traveler.

                His writing is decent and his stories are great. Even though he can come off as smug, he is always respectful and appreciative of his hosts and cultures on the show. While some of the footage is "shocking" foods, a lot of it is regional cuisine (dim sum, shanghai noodles, korean bbq, etc).

                Has anyone noticed the travel channel has started to air more food show as of late?

                4 Replies
                1. re: stellamystar

                  re: Travel Channel

                  I've definitely noticed that and am wondering if they're setting themselves up as direct competition to FN and then bringing on Batali. It would be amusing if that were the case, but it isn't surprising considering that the idea of exploring a country though its foods (in lieu of more touristy stuff) is becoming more popular as food and its preparation (and those doing the preparing) moves into the popular consciousness.

                  1. re: Ali

                    Aparently FN is aware of that and fighting back. Or maybe they read Chow? Anyway, Jamie Oliver is being brought on, and Anthony Bourdain. Maybe they're waking up? I rarely watch FN any more. There are much better cooking shows on Fine Living, the Travel Channel, and PBS.

                    1. re: Ali

                      Batali is hosting a PBS show / Gwneyth Paltrow about the cuisine of Spain. Not sure of the air date.

                      1. re: stellamystar

                        RE: Batali/Paltrow PBS show

                        Batali was on Martha Stewart's show in December, and said it is scheduled to air Fall 2008.

                  2. Caroline1-
                    To answer your question, Bourdain has described himself in Kitchen Confidential as more worker bee chef than the artistic tour de force that a Thomas Keller or Eric Ripert are. I think that's part of his appeal. It is with me, anway. He has a great respect for the kitchen, and the people that produce meals for a living, but also recognizes his own limitations.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: JCap

                      Never having seen him cook, I have no way of evaluating whether his self-percieved "limitations" are real or imagined. He may just be self-efacing.

                      1. re: Caroline1

                        I'd take his self-described limitations at face value. He's been a pro for pretty much all of his adult life, he's close friends with Ripert and seems to know Keller well. He knows what they try to and can do in the kitchen and he knows what he can do, too. There's a reason he was executive chef at an honest to god bistro. This is in no way at all a slight of Bourdain; personally, I'd prefer a truly good bistro meal to The French Laundry. Bourdain has never shown the slightest interest in making food that would be served at The French Laundry and a part of that is because he's not wired that way in the kitchen it seems.

                      2. re: JCap

                        I ate at Les Halles in NYC once, about 4 years ago. I am sure AB was not there, but he was still listed as executive chef. I was very underwhelmed. I don't know if this was just a bad day, but my steak frites were substandard, and the dishes of the other people weren't anything special. That being said, this has been a popular resto in NYC for a while, so they must be doing something right. AB is always very modest about his abilities. I suspect he is fairly realistic about his ability to create really outstanding cuisine. I have no doubt he is a very good managing chef, and would run a tight ship as the head of a restaurant. But I don't see him overauling The French Laundry anytime soon, and I'm sure he doesn't either.

                        He is a fabulous food and travel writer. Just read The Nasty Bits, and I loved it, even if I occassionally disagree with what he writes. I love his passion. And I love the fact that he is willing to acknowledge that he is occassionally spouting garbage! However, I think he should stop writing fiction. The short story at the end of this book is just terrible. And his other fiction has left me cringing. Funny how that is....

                        1. re: moh

                          Thanks for the information. Isn't it strange how so many restaurant menus make the meal sound so much better than the reality? I've collected menus for years, but I've yet to find one that simply says, "Meat, Potatoes, Spinach: $17.00." But I do have one that lists Rocky Mountain Oysters as "Beef Things."

                      3. In addition to no reservations, read nasty bits. He's matured just a little bit. I trust the man can cook, he's just not Alain Ducasse, nor does he claim to be.

                        1. He's cooked at Campanile on the LA edition of A Cook's Tour. He goes shopping with Mark Peel and cooks a simple menu and gives directions to the sous chef.

                          He also cooked in the Beiruit episode of No Reservations at the hotel.

                          1. T.V.. It's so incredible that Bourdain has so blown up as a t.v. star of late that his overwhelmingly popular Kitchen Confidential is now barely mentioned in a thread about him. He is revered among cooks for telling it like it is in that book. For all of us who never made it to NYC to cook, what a window into a great time to be doing just that, NYC in the eighties.

                            1. Just caught the intro to a rerun of the Maylasia program in which he says, ". . . having cooked in New York for 28 years . . . ." Knew he had, but didn't realize it had been for that long.

                              1. I think what makes Bourdain so appealing is that he's a "blue collared chef" . And he's proud of that. He also doesn't take himself too seriously and knows his place on the food chain, so to speak.

                                At least, that's why I like him.