HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >


Bourdain in Mexico

I'm surprised I didn't see anything on the board about the No Reservations season premier.
I enjoyed the episode, maybe not a classic but solid and a great start. The food looked fantastic and I enjoyed Carlos' story. The dolls hanging from the tree brought some freakiness to the table.
Any thoughts on the bullfight? I attended one in Tijuana and my reaction was almost identical to Tony's. It seems incredibly cruel while watching it but the bulls do end up as food and from the bull's perspective I think it would be better to go out in a blaze of glory than a slaughterhouse.
I think it would be tough for meat eaters to oppose it on moral grounds.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Of course Tony would go to a bullfight...

    I missed the show (fortunately?) but thanks for the heads up. I had completely forgotten that the season would be starting in January.

    1. The dolls were indeed creepy.

      It was a good episode. The food all looked good -- especially the blue corn tortilla filled with squash blossoms and cheese.

      I've also seen a bullfight before. I had my qualms about it before but decided to experience it to see what it was about before coming up with any judgments about it. I wasn't too surprised they showed the "cleaned-up" version of the bullfight on this show. There was a lot of editing -- didn't show the bull being dragged away. Even when they showed the bull with those "pins" in him, it was shown from the vantage that you weren't able to see any of the blood. They didn't show the ultimate killing. They talked about the ritual and history behind it, but I don't think the viewer really gets the whole sense of a bullfight from what they showed on TV. I don't want to get into the whole morality of it because this topic has the potential to get really ugly on this board, but let's just say it's not my cup of tea.

      1. Yes, the problem about showing the bullfight as they did, is one gets a sense of the beauty and ritual of the matador's moves, but not the ugliness/negativity of the killing -- it was too clean to give a realistic view and so possibly better not shown at all. Despite Tony's voiced reservations, the segment still tended to glorify the event.

        The dolls creeped me out very much, but it was a very interesting and darkly fascinating bit of hispanic surrealism.

        The food looked incredible.

        8 Replies
        1. re: Joan Kureczka

          Sanitized bullfight indeed. No bandarillas. No picadors. No matador coming in for the kill. Only the implication that the horses are dragging the bull out of the arena, but no view of the dead bull itself.

          Ironic, since so many TV dramas are awash in (fake) blood and (fake) gore -- to say nothing of graphic news footage of wounded people in the whatever part of the world is exploding in violence.

          1. re: Joan Kureczka

            they probably don't want to lose any animal rights activist types as viewers. I haven't watched it yet, but have it recorded

            1. re: kirinraj

              Please, it has nothing to do with animal rights, it's a food show on the Travel Channel and meant to be entertaining. They have routinely cut away from every instance of animal slaughter in Bourdain's shows in the past, cutting back to the butchery (which ostensibly has informational value). The difference here is more distinct, he wasn't about to eat the bull, it was presented as a bit of local flavor.

              In a past episode he was presented with a staged cockfight where the chickens weren't all that interested in fighting. I'm confident that if they actually engaged in fighting he would have edited out the bloodhsed.

              1. re: ferret

                I once went to a legal cockfight in Guadalajara. They served beer and food. I had a bowl of chicken soup. I figured it was made from the previous night's losers, so nice and fresh. You bet with the people around you - I won a lot of pesos from a guy with an eye patch.
                A bullfight would be way too gory for me.

                1. re: Veggo

                  They had bullfights in the Houston Astrodome in the '60s. The bull wasn't killed, it was illegal. The matador ceremoniously "killed" the bull. I was only about 12 at the time, but I remember really enjoying them. They had a very good burger in the Dome back then, and later on, excellent deli sandwiches at Oiler and Astros games. The food at the two new venues are subpar, I've quit eating them, and eat a good meal before I go, so I'm not hungry and don't have to eat the crap they pass off as food.

                  1. re: Veggo

                    Thank you for the laugh... and for finishing it off with a well sharp pun.

                2. re: kirinraj

                  Remember the seal "hunt" and the resulting family meal from the Quebec episode? Methinks needling animal lovers (or "the bunny people" as Julia Child called us), is just as delectable as fois gras to Mr. Bourdain. I avert my eyes during these bits but keep my ears open for the accompanying wit.

                  1. re: MplsM ary

                    I just saw it last night, so now I know what it was like. I agree with you guys. I was just trying to rationalize. I don't have a problem with it, but see how others could.

              2. He didn't have a blog entry about it - people are leaving comments about the new Mexico show at the end of his last entry which was about pig segments being edited out of moslem countries, Sri Lanka, and another trip to Vietnam. I can't wait to see his next Vietnam show. He gets into food deeper and richer with return visits, and this Mexico show was no exception. While Carlos' family visit was wonderful, the highlight has to be that breakfast place - Fonda Margarita. Who do we have to kill to get a place like that to open up around here? The bull fight was irrelevant, except that it is part of the culture. I agree that if they were going to show it, they should have shown it more honestly - including the kill.

                1 Reply
                1. re: applehome

                  I actually got a reccomendation for Fonda Margarita by the Chef of Laja in Baja California and realized on return that this was the place the Bourdain went to. Needless to say the food was mind etchingly delicious - one of the best places we ate in DF. Actually everywhere we ate has left me forever spoiled.

                2. I thought it was one of the most tastiest shows I have ever seen him do. My god that breakfast place, the blue corn tortillas with squash blossoms, the tamales, the tacos al pastor, and the mole ...I was dying towards the end ):

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: bitsubeats

                    Agreed. We've only seen half of it so far but I was dying. The food looked unbelievable and even that may be an understatement.

                    The more you drink, the more and better free food they bring. I could really get into a concept like that.


                  2. My wife and I watched it last night, and despite having had dinner soon before watching it, we were starving by the end of it!

                    We're probably going to go to our favourite Mexican place, El Jacal, for dinner tonight - it surely won't be as good as anything that Tony ate, but it's the closest thing to the real thing in Toronto...

                    El Jacalito
                    1056 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6H1M3, CA

                    1. Some behind the scenes info on the show from a DF-based blogger can be found here:


                      2 Replies
                      1. re: menuinprogress

                        Didn't see the No Reservations segment, but I can heartily recommend the book written by the blogger Menuinprogress linked to. David Lida's book "Last Stop in the New World" is a terrific look at life in Mexico City. Imminently readable, does a good job of putting Mexico into perspective.

                        1. re: DiningDiva

                          I second the rec for David Lida's book - it is a great read.

                      2. I am aware that this show was a tribute to his successor at Les Halles, Carolos Llaguno, but... I thought the show was (overall) monotone and lacked flavor, so to speak. I mean, they WERE in Mexico City, weren't they? Or at least a suburb? For me, the food soon began to all look the same. Unthickened sauces with a variety of vegetables and/or meat cooking and floating in them.

                        Tony Bourdain as a Mexican wrestler? <yawn> I would have much preferred to see him try his hand at sumo when he was in Japan.

                        As for the "bullfight", why the rinky dink treatment? Why not a Sunday Corrida at the Plaza de Toros, the grand bullring of Mexico City? What kind of bullfight was this? No picador(s)? No banderillero(s)? No horses in armor? It was kind of like showing a close up of a belly dancer's navel, then claiming this is belly dancing. There's a whooooooole lot more shaking going on than Bourdain showed! And not all of it is bloody, or awarding a tail or ear(s) to the matador for a fight well fought.

                        I will say that Bourdain can be absolutely dazzling with some shows, but on this one, I thought he "phoned it in."

                        My opinion. '-)

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Caroline1

                          I think the neighborhood bullfight was because it was part of Carlos' upbringing. The show was about Carlos and his culture, and what made people like Carlos such great cooks - what made Carlos, in particular, the first Mexican exec chef in a NYC restaurant. Who knows, maybe rinky dink bullfights make great chefs... although I tend to think it was more likely his mom's mole.

                          As to everything looking the same, AB specifically made the comment (at Fonda Margarita) that each item had unique flavors - I'll take his word for that. I just wish one of those clay pots would show up at the local taqueria.

                          I didn't think he phoned it in at all. This wasn't about fancy shmancy Mexico City - it was about what someone like Carlos would have had as a cultural and culinary background. It was street food and cantina food. And I think he showed us some excellent examples - stuff that left me drooling. I'd say that from the perspective of a travel/food show that makes you want to be there, or at least, have smell-o-vision, this was a 9 out of 10.

                          1. re: applehome

                            Hmm....I think people like Carlos end up in the kitchen out of necessity, not because they have some unique talent. As for Carlos being an exec chef at Les Halles, who cares? You couldn't pay me to eat at Les Halles, even if Tony Bourdain is in the kitchen.

                              1. re: Ericandblueboy

                                Whether you like Les Halles or not, doesn't take away from Carlos's accomplishment. Necessity makes you do all kinds of things to get a job - it doesn't make you excel at it.

                          2. The doll thing was stupid.

                            I kept waiting to find out why Mexican chefs cook french food as good..or better, than french chefs. I guess it's because they are "hungry" and motivated.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: melly

                              It wasn't a generalization, just that THIS Mexican chef did a better job. In his books Bourdain has mentioned how he hired mostly Pueblan line cooks at Les Halles and found that they were more disciplined and less distracted -- they could replicate a dish over and over flawlessly. Again, he was hiring friends and relatives from Publa and whether he got a more dedicated bunch through word of mouth or whether there's a "tradition" of cooking in Puebla is debatable (and likely apocryphal).

                              Hey, who doesn't like a "local boy makes good" story and Carlos likely has some serious innate talent.

                              1. re: ferret

                                I liked Carlos lots...local boy does good makes me happy.

                              2. re: melly

                                Or perhaps, they grow up in a food culture that values slow cooking without shortcuts, whole family gatherings to eat great food passed down through the generations, one that was as influenced as the south of France was by bullfights, and the respect for the whole animal. I don't know if all Mexican chefs cook better than all French chefs, but Carlos is the first Mexican exec in a French restaurant, and I saw plenty of evidence of how that could have come to pass.

                              3. Just finished watching this episode. I loved it. I think it had the best food of any of the shows he did. As far as how tasty the dishes looked.

                                As for the bull fight, I think they did it properly. You weren't so much there to see a bull fight but to see the bull fight culture. So I thought it was well done.
                                I don't think it added much to the show though.


                                1. Just watched a different Bourdain episode where instead of traveling he returns to pull a shift at Les Halles (where he executive chef-ed) in New York. I'm pretty sure that's Carlos you'll see in that episode running the joint.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Cinnamon

                                    Yep, that's him. I thought it was funny how matter-of-factly he talks about how he took over as head chef because Tony became famous "for some reason". LOL. Anyway, I'm glad he got to do this episode and I LOVE real Mexican food. I've been lucky enough to live in Chicago and Queens so I know the difference!