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Aug 16, 2009 10:26 AM

Anthony Bourdain vs Alice Waters

I watched the San Francisco show of No Reservation with Anthony Bourdain and thought what's with Tony's dis on Alice Waters. In the intro of the show Alice Water's restaurant Chez Panisse, is shown, but Bourdain does not eat there. Instead he criticizes the place as some locavore, organic, crunchy food haven that some how represents all that is wrong with the san fran food scene. He later visits a farmers market and tries to go into a "farmers markets are elitist," rants and that the people who shop at this market in an upscale neighborhood all make 80K a year (as if Bourdain does not make more than 80K a year) His rant is foiled by him getting an excellent tamale at the market. What is wrong with farm fresh produces, I think and what is up Tony's but about Alice? In the shows close, Bourdian is having a cheeseburger at a greasy breakfast joint and makes a, Take that Alice Waters remark.

I just did not get it. Alice Water's does not seem to have the standard traits that Tony freaks out about. She is not anti-cheeseburger as far as I know. She is not a vegan, not a raw foodist, not against say drinking, and she creates french inspired cuisine. So why is Bourdain so pissed about Waters? I felt that Bourdain was trying to push his bad boy image at Alice's expense, but his routine fell flat. Bourdain in his own cookbook talks about going to farmers market to find good ingredients, the same farmers markets that people like Waters' helped to create for 30 years. Maybe he is uptight about Water's local food focus, but most of his best meals around the world were fresh local meals.

Besides for the Alice Water's dis, the show seemed to be lacking the magic. There seemed to be too much of him eating and not enough of him checking out the town or doing something funny. Where was the trip to Alcatraz, to the wax museum, to Lombard Street, to a gay bar, to something took him out of his comfort zone. For me, the show jumped the shark along with the food travel show genre. I guess watching people eat on TV has lost its appeal for me.

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  1. I have no idea, but considering my favorite course at Panisse was the selection of cheeses, I don't get the fascination with Panisse. Good, certainly, but forgettable.

    1. Didn't see the show, but, Jeez why toes Tony have to be such a d!ck? Ok, Alice can be a tad precious and faerie like in her earnestness, but i feel she is sincere and walks the walk. I know it's Tony's "shtick" to be an ass, but he even gives us pushy, "ethnic" New York types a bad name! I wouldn't call Chez P's food style "crunchy" at all. Simple, austere, not flashy or foamy. They know how to respect the food and keep it tasting like it should. Not earthshaking, but very lovingly prepared and sourced. A tad full of itself, but nothing compared to Mr. B's container-ship sized ego. I'd pay big bucks to see Alice and Tony get down and dirty in a cage match a la ultimate fighting...Boo-Yahh!!! adam

      2 Replies
      1. re: adamshoe

        Alice has dealt with bigger assholes with bigger egos than Bourdain (Jeremiah Tower, anyone?) She eats jerks like him for lunch (as long as he's local and prepared simply to bring out his maximum deliciousness).

        1. re: adamshoe

          "Jeez why toes Tony have to be such a d!ck?"

          Because that's what pays the bills: "I'm Tony Bourdain, and I'm a complete a-hole." I'm not a particular fan of Alice Waters, who has a bad habit of taking credit for other people's ideas, but Bourdain has zero credibility in my eyes.

        2. I don't fully understand the backlash to locally grown/sustainable/slow food, etc. or why Tony Bourdain in what I'm guessing was sarcasm felt the need to, in his too cool for school way trash it all as flaky or precious.

          Seems there's a lot of that going around:

          I dunno. If the opposite of organic and local is what's "cool" it's time to stock up on Tang and Kraft Mac & Cheese or head to McDonald's.

          1. I have yet to see the episode, but I feel like Toni always has something negative to say about someone or something., I love his show & books, but if something doesn't have the Toni Bourdain stamp of approval he has no bones about letting everyone know.

            1. It must be tiresome to create an outsized persona for entertainment purposes and then have to puff yourself up to fill it week in and week out.

              I like No Reservations better than most food TV series, 95% of which I find too stupid to bear, but this is one of the aspects of it that annoys me: the forced colorfulness, Bourdain's threadbare aging-punk-rocker persona. Taking it to Waters seems especially ironic, considering she's an American pioneer of the kind of fairly straightforward, quality-ingredient-driven cooking that Bourdain seems to worship when it takes place in Hong Kong or Ho Chi Minh City. This is the kind of phony, forced drama that suggests Bourdain and his producers don't trust the show's basic and worthy premises about being an adventurous, non-tourbook-guided food traveler to be entertaining enough every week.

              So they shoehorn in some artificial fun to fill airtime and entertain viewers for whom the worthy bits -- a visit to the local markets, a street-food survey, dining at some great off-the-beaten-path restaurants, and a home-cooked meal with some local family -- aren't idiot-reality-TV fake-dramatic enough. I find myself scanning through most of these non-food-related bits. I'd like the show better as a half hour without all that lowest-common-denominator-pandering baloney, and without Bourdain playing up his snickering, overgrown-Jersey-teen shtick so much. It's mildly funny when he takes on talentless, porcelain-veneered food TV hacks, but Waters clearly doesn't belong in that company.