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Bourdain as Talk Show Host? (At The Table with Tony Bourdain)

Just caught the tease this weekend. It doesn't look like anything along the lines of Leno or Letterman, more like along the lines of Charlie Rose, perhaps not as austere. The conversation takes place around a dining table rather than in a bare studio.


Bill Buford, "Nightlife Queen of New York" Amy Sacco, TV personality Ted Allen, and gossip columnist Chris Wilson.

My interest is piqued.

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  1. hmmmm... Round table discussions seem to be the new "reality" trend for cable television. There's one on Planet Green. Forget who hosts or what it's called. Watched about three minutes of it a week or so ago. I would probably find Bourdain's show a lot more appealing if it didn't have a set "guest" list. It's hard to get diversity from the same-old same-old week after week. And then there's only one Charlie Rose! But I'll probably watch at least once. Or at least part of a show.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Caroline1

      From what I saw it looks like it's just the one episode, not a series. Wylie Dufresne is doing the cooking, so that should be interesting. Looking forward to it...thanks for the heads up, I would have missed it if I didn't hear about it here!

    2. Sounds a lot like Boulud's show (After Hours). Tony obviously enjoyed his turn on the show at WD-50: http://www.hulu.com/watch/14108/after...

      Anyone notice that Tony's blog link on Travel Channel goes to a Hudson Union site? WTF?

      1. I caught the last half hour, I have the 2 AM repeat TiVoed. Dufrene's dishes looked interesting. I thought the idea was good but the pacing was too rushed. There was no real give and take and expanding on the topics. It seemed AB was in too much of a hurry to ask the nifty questions he came up with to ask people.

        The guests as well as AB did a lot of breaking the invisible barrier by talking directly to the camera about the experience. I can see where this can get old fast, but for the first show it was pretty refreshing.

        I kind of wished for "My Dinner with Andre" or Charlie Rose, instead it was just another talk show, with great food.

        1. Over all, I didn't think that this was anywhere near as good as Boulud's After Hours. It didn't show enough of Wylie in the kitchen or of his food. But the focus here is the conversation, and there were certainly some interesting things said. Ironically, Tony asks the same question he asked on Boulud's show (and elsewhere) - the you're dying tomorrow, what do you eat question. The question of the day for me - is it really important that everybody learns to roast a chicken? (my answer - yes!) The point that today's poor end up eating crappy tenderloin at Red Lobster while the rich eat the pig snouts at the great places was a good one. Of course, they will be delicious to each.

          The guests were pretty much as I pictured. Buford is a real communicator and knows food. The others, not so much - especially that Sacco chick. I think she's really a blond. And Ted Allen with his baby back ribs...

          In Tony's blog on this show he says that there may be another 2 or 3 more, although he's off to the PI to eat Balut. I'll definitely watch.

          His blog: http://anthony-bourdain-blog.travelch...

          5 Replies
          1. re: applehome

            I was at the Gourmet Institute this weekend in NYC and caught Bourdains seminar. He said that this was a one time deal, just the one episode. He said that he is trying to stay closer to home these days to be with the family. When pushed, he did say that he wouldn't write off the possibility of doing more of these in the future if there was enough interest.

            1. re: applehome

              i "watched" this-- fine, it was on while i was doing other things, so mostly i sort of listened to it like i 'd listen to npr while doing other tasks. . . it was fun to watch everybody get loaded over the course of the show. . . esp buford's flushed dome and widening range of gesticulation. seemed like they put sacco there to say "i don't care" in response to everything everyone else said. she said she'd prefer kfc over popeye's for her last meal on earth-- she's obviously an idiot. agree that t.a. could away from the bbq references already, and i'm a pretty big fan of bbq. felt bad for the service staff, trying to ignore the dumbest moments of the conversation (okay, that's just part of the job) and at times just standing there waiting for an break in the wall of verbiage to introduce the courses. i would have liked to have tasted most of the courses, but the one that was dessicated fried pellets of corn, i'll bet it tasted just like glorified kix cereal, and i notice that any comments on that course, if there were any, were edited out. the show was not remotely an interesting conversation about food for me-- i'd have weeded out at least 2 participants who contributed so very little and replaced them with people who actually knew what they were talking about, but i have more interesting food conversations every day with the dishwasher and the guy who brings the chickens in, so i won't be tuning into this show again, if indeed it is a regular show.

              1. re: applehome

                I was thinking about After Hours the whole time I watched this show. Boulud's show is more natural feeling and Tony's is more forced. I hope he dosen't stick with this format. And when are their going to be new After Hours episodes?

                1. re: garethblackstock

                  Something's happening with the network that produces After Hours with Daniel, MOJO HD (which took over InHD). I'm not sure quite what the issues are, but the cable companies are pulling the channel and offering select programs only on VOD. So I don't know what will happen to After Hours. You can see all the previous 3 seasons on Hulu.

                  Tony should get some slick production company like these guys to do his show. He's a knowledgeable and erudite person - if you've ever heard his speeches and read his books, you know that he has things to say. That doesn't necessarily make a good host on a talk show, but it seems to me that he just needs help with the format. He's not going to keep traveling all around the world forever - especially not with a 2 year old daughter - he needs a good steady gig in town.

                  He really gets down on himself for this show on his blog. The comments are 50/50, half telling him that he sucks at it, never do it again, just keep traveling, the other half telling to try again with some tweaking. I'm in the latter camp.

                  1. re: applehome

                    I just saw the TiVo again. I agree with a lot of the others who said that he was incredibly ill at ease, the worst thing that he did was to follow a plan. It seemed so forced, that he had to get a certain question in during a given course, that he felt compelled to say certain things at a certain time. i thought the guests did not help him one bit, except maybe for Bruford and to a much lesser extent Ted Allen.

                    There was no rhythm to the conversation, no real chemistry amongst the people on the show. Maybe they ought to take the Top Chef lead and get them all schnockered for an hour beofre the show.

                    My main complaint is that I was dying for someone to ask Dufresne, why? Why is he doing it this way or that way, what was he trying to accomplish? That is the biggest question to me. Don't just do molecular gastronomy just because you can, do it for a reason. The producers were trying for an extemporaneous feel to the thing, I think, but failed miserably. Like Applehome, I think Bourdain could pull it off, he just needs torelax and be himself. Maybe they needed a little din and chaos around them to get them going.

              2. I thought he spent too much time on the pre-show segment worrying about whether he should be doing it. Then I felt the "panel" was either very badly edited or not holding up their end of the conversation, but I will also add that I fell asleep out of sheer boredom during the discussion of Bourdain's $1,900.00 restaurant tab for dinner for two. After that, I spent more time wondering whether he personally picked up that tab or if it was written off for the show.

                I also have to admit that I am not as enamored of his TV shows now as I was in the beginning. I get quite irritated with his lack of intellectual curiosity, especially on the two shows I've seen so far that he did about Greece. To date, the show I liked best for it's scope and depth was the show on Japan, though he could have left out his ikebana venture and had an expert do one, or as I said in another thread, that segment would have been a lot more interesting had he tried his hand a sumo.

                I don't think the talk show is up as a series, but I did sleep through the last half of it. But there are lots and lots of TV shows and formats that are cut short today and not given a chance to bloom and flourish. Maybe if it is a series, who knows? He could develop into the Charlie Rose of food. I'm not crazy about every Charlie Rose show he sends down the pike, but the good and great ones are enough to keep him going for a long time (I hope). Maybe the day will come when the same thing can be said for Bourdain. That would be a gain.

                1. Not having seen Boulud's show, it was an interesting discussion covering a range of food issues. I found it light entertainment, perfect for watching at 3am.
                  Great thing about the show was that I just had the tasting menu at WD-50 so it was neat to relive the experience. However, think the show did the food a little disservice as I think the food was very interesting and could have been discussed a little more in depth. Having said that though, I'm guessing that the main purpose of the show is to discuss food in general.
                  Would probably watch again if there's another episode. I find Bourdain's sense of humour amusing.

                  1. I was lukewarm on this one. It was definitely not as entertaining as Boulud's, and Amy Sacco got on my nerves. And I don't think I really heard much from the Wilson guy.

                    I actually did what soupkitten did -- it was on while I multi-tasked. Unless I really like a show (like Top Chef), I will definitely take care of other business while I watch. If it was on again, I'll probably "watch" it. But it will not garner my undivided attention.

                    1. While I really do enjoy Bourdain's No Reservations shows, I found At The Table to be about 90% snooze time.

                      I don't know, maybe I wasn't in a great mood, but the food seemed almost an afterthought, with 10-second descriptions and very little time on what/why/how of the dishes. And most of it seemed about as far out as it could be (I'm not that into real ''nouveau" kind of thing but these seemed even more so than usua)l. I guess Wylie is the guru but I don't get it at that level.

                      The conversation, at least the first two thirds of the hour, was pretty dull, with Buford the only one of real interest (I read Heat and loved it). The last 15-20 minutes got more interesting, but not much.

                      Tony should stick to his usual format. They showed his return to Les Halles episode later on. Now that was fun to watch, even a second time Especially with Eric Ripert joining him on the line.

                      1. I was fairly underwhelmed. It dragged a bit to start, though it picked up some as the alcohol took effect (I'm not telling whether I mean the guests' alcohol or my own).

                        The biggest puzzle to me is why they would set it up to have a tasting menu at wd~50 and then spend virtually no time over the course of an entire hour (as edited) talking about the food they're being served or using that as a springboard to talk more broadly about the state of contemporary restaurant cooking. Other than a few miscellaneous comments about the dishes, a rather unilluminating exchange on the "celebrity chef" ("Good or bad? Both!"), and a couple pot-shots at Grant Achatz (Tony kvatching about dishes on swings or on sticks poking you in the eye), there was pretty much nothing - even though that would seem to be the most obvious topic.

                        Tony's apparent guilty conscience as a running theme is sort of odd too - guilt about spending too much on his sushi dinner, guilt about eating things that suffered, guilt about getting special treatment in restaurants ...just not that interesting really.

                        I thought Buford was the hit of the show even if he perhaps could have used an editor, especially by later in the evening (I highly recommend "Heat" if you haven't read it). The "Page 6" guy had a "just happy to be here" mien the whole time. His best moment was at the end with the closing credits telling the apocryphal story of his relationship with Tony.

                        1. Like I said in the post I started about this show, I did appreciate Buford's take on people not cooking as much so kids not having the great experience of watching mom cook and hand you what she made for you. Of course, it could be dad cooking.

                          I didn't like the show much....Tony was trying too hard and the only one who had anything at all worth hearing was Buford.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: melly

                            I never liked watching Mom cook because she was always nagging me and asking me to peel things and telling me to get out of the way, it's a small kitchen. It was not a situation of being served and cooked for, but rather a situation of panic and drudgery. So maybe it's better if they just microwave things, I don't know.

                          2. Could have been good if AB had more than Buford to talk with and actually let someone answer a question before asking another.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: KHT

                              This is why Charlie Rose is so good. he lets the conversation flow. he is prepared if it is dying, but if the conversation takes an unexpected turn he rolls with it and is intelligent enough to ask pertinent and insightful questions. I think AB is capable of this too but I think he was clearly out of his element. An opportunity missed.

                            2. Bourdain takes his criticism like a man and hopes to redeem himself with the next Philippines episode of NR ->
                              I hope so too.

                              1. Did anybody see the first few episodes of "A Cook's Tour"? They were pretty awful. The thing is, he's a quick study. The episodes got much better very quickly. NR is to me the best show of its kind and I watch it whenever I can.

                                Anybody ever see Mario Batali's screen test? Oy, the pain. He's now the showman extraordinaire. The good ones get better quickly. I'm not worried for Bourdain, he'll rise to the top in a hurry, I have no doubt.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: EWSflash

                                  Actually I still think some of the earliest Cook's Tour episodes (including the very first one in Tokyo with the visit to the fish market, the edomai sushi and the sumo training center) were some of the best and in many ways I still prefer Cook's Tour to No Reservations, which is often too fixated on "themes" or goofy attempts at humor.

                                2. I found it to be kind of "meh." It didn't seem real insiderish and worthwhile but more upper-crust; especially Amy Sacco, who came off like a raging elitist bitch.

                                  1. I think it was a little raw to be put on television. But, the format has merit. Here is why I think it didnt work:

                                    1. Bourdain is not a natural facilitator. This is a surprisingly difficult task, and not everyone is suited for it. Let’s face it, he is typically in a role where he is central to his books or tv shows. The hardest part about this job is stepping out of the way. In his defense, he may not have been able to do this because:

                                    2. Most of the guests didn’t do their job. Guests on this type of show are obligated to be interesting. It was pretty obvious that most of the guests were unable to really open up. I am sure it was in part a combination of the questions asked, being in front of a bunch of cameras and self-censoring so as to maintain their reputations, but ultimately, you need to find a way to be interesting. Even if they were able to be more candid, the combined lives of all of these guests are going to be less interesting than:

                                    3. The !@#!@ Food. You had five unbelievable palates dining on some of the most interesting food in New York. I know this isn’t actually a food show in the traditional sense, but this is one place where we actually needed more lip service. And while we are at it, why didn’t you:

                                    4. Include More Wylie. This is a guy who actually has something very important to say about food. And we got half an answer out of him. Also, like it or not, the average viewer would want to hear more from the chef than from:

                                    5. Too Many New Yorkers. Don’t get me wrong. 212 in the house. But I think the average viewer can’t even relate to some of the subjects. Especially around the difficulties of getting tables, or whether there are guilty pleasures in being a VIP in a restaurant.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Pablo Escolar

                                      In the After Hours with Daniel at Blue Ribbon, Tony, as a guest, takes over the conversation at one point and asks the very same question he asks here (about the last meal). He is bouyant, responsive to the suggestions, and obviously having a good time. I saw very little of that here, but still feel like he has the potential to do this, if he wanted to.

                                      Here's a clip of him from that show. The whole show is available at hulu.com.


                                    2. generally, i don't think food people are all that interesting. i really don't want to listen to people who charge $40 for roast chicken talk to me about anything. moreover, i also don't wanna listen to some guy from queer eye talk about anything.

                                      their discussions are self-indulgent, self-absorbed, etc.

                                      if they brought michael pollan, the ceo of whole foods, fresh and easy, and monsanto, small organic farmers, corn producers from iowa, rice growers from s. asia or farmers from africa to the table to talk, i might wanna listen.

                                      but these people are just blowhards.

                                      this show feels so irrelevant, superfluous.

                                      i love no reservations, but i don't wanna sit around listening to shallow people entertain themselves with silly fodder.

                                      i changed the station.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: misa

                                        "generally, i don't think food people are all that interesting." Amen.
                                        Posture as you reach, fetch, into the pockets of the HNWs ... yawn.

                                      2. I don't get all the push-back from last nights episode. I found the show interesting, and entertaining... especially as the wine began to flow. I've eaten at WD-50 and at MASA (once), and I was really facinated by everyone's take on the meal, and expensive dinners. I live in Florida, am not a New Yorker, and honestly couldn't really afford to eat at either restaurant, but I did anyway. One reviewer said "normal folk would never have any of that stuff. That's for rich people. Step down a few notches.", but no one complained about the two episodes at el Buli (brilliant by the way). Because I can't afford to eat like that very often, I'm facinated to share other's experiences when they do. I'm glad Bourdain's not doing away with the other format, but I do look forward to seeing more episodes of "At the Table".

                                        1. I had it on and paid faint attention, but it seemed silly watching a group of folks eating a thousand$ meal, and discussing whether it is wrong to eat thousand$ meals while people are starving somewhere else.
                                          "Gee, maybe we should continue this discussion at a later date."