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Sep 7, 2010 12:19 AM

Bourdain 100

This episode is going in my limited Bourdain library, along with his episodes in Tokyo, and dining at The French Laundry. I have so many reactions to this show. First is how both he and Eric Ripert are aging. How DARE they! I manage to ignore my own aging by avoiding mirrors, but when people are on TV? There were some definite advantages to radio, how else would Jack Benny have managed to stay 39 all of those years?

Watching Bourdain and Ripert romp through Paris, and delve into the ways that restaurants in Paris are evolving (have evolved?) is somehow comforting to me. I can see the advantages of a restaurant where the menu changes daily based primarily on availability. And in today's economy and shrinking sizes to everything (and that undoubtedly includes commercial kitchens), paring down the number of sous chefs and line cooks makes sense. However, my regret in this department is that it means, by definition, that I cannot go to my favorite elite restaurant and enjoy the classic dish I had last week or last year or even in a more distant past. For me, and for most of my life, the luxury of being able to go to a favorite classic restaurant and order a favorite classic dish and have it be just as delicious as I remember it being before is a very special type of "comfort food," and every bit as embracing and reassuring as anyone's mother's best mac and cheese. There are some things in life that are sad to lose. Things like youth, a thin waste-line, and classic restaurant food.

It was engaging to see a young Parisian chef whose primary focus and interest is in the food he serves instead of in the amount of money he makes. Poor fellow! In some perverse counterpoint to his philosophy, Anthony Bourdain shows up with TV cameras and celebrity chefs and throws the spotlight on him! Hopefully he'll respond to the demand from new fans by introducing a brand of soup or whatever instead of by expanding his restaurant and bringing in troops of sous chefs and line cooks!

For me, this was a show where Bourdain was in his element. I don't much appreciate the shows where he is off doing an upscale impression of Andrew Zimmern feasting on street food renderings of bugs and other esoteric delicacies. Watching Tony Bourdain drink camel's milk in a yurt is not inspiring to me, primarily because I've already passed on the opportunity to drink camel's milk many years ago and a vicarious grasped opportunity is just not that appealing. He really rankled me with his show on "Greece." It was rather like taking one single raisin, dipping it in some booze and then presenting it as "fruit cake." But hey, that's just me. There is a lot more to Greece than drinking raki (a Turkish drink) with shepherds on a mountain top in Crete, or dancing around a bon fire beside a shipwreck on Ithaca!

Fact is my favorite Bourdain shows are those in which he delves into things I am more familiar with. Maybe if he presented recipes and cooking techniques for food he ate in a yurt, I might look for a good camel's milk substitute and try them out. When I have no chance of tasting the dishes he tries in his out-of-the-way travels, for me it has something in common with watching a silent movie. An imprtant part of the overall experience is being denied. This show was a feast of all my senses, even if the food flavors were supplied directly from my own memory banks. I don't remember camel's milk!

What did you think of this show?.

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  1. I could not agree more about your assessment of the episode. I thought it was a terrific show.

    Bourdain and Ripert make a great double act. It was great to see the new up and coming chefs and the new dinning trends of Paris. Especially when they challenged the 'establishment' and that included Ripert. Certainly to have Joel Roubuchon involved was fascinating as he has been involved with both the heights of french cuisine as well as the current new dinning trend(s).

    The term 'perfect show' come to mind. A little over the top perhaps but none the less it certainly was a great show!

    1. I thought it was one of the best episodes of no reservations. It was great to have robuchon as a part of it. I'm a huge robuchon fan as you can easily tell from my facebook. Showing the way Paris has evolved really captured me and makes me want to try to spend as much time as possible their.

      1. I've been really disappointed with this season. But this was an episode I really enjoyed and wouldn't mind watching again. For me, it's not because I'm more familiar with the topic. I loved this one because he concentrated on the food.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Miss Needle

          Interesting you said that about the show being food centric this time. Bourdain addressed this in the 9 PM show, where he and his producers talked about the show. He said that he is aware that they were going to tick off half the people all the time. The travel people want more travel stuff and the food people want more food stuff. He is resigned that he is never going to make everyone happy.

          1. re: Phaedrus

            Then there are folks like me who like both aspects and are clearly easy to please: travel, food, with AB taking me along for the ride. Oh, yeah.

            LOVED this episode! Back to Paris with Eric Ripert (having both gentlemen on the screen at the same time just makes me happy), and a whole new twist by highlighting the migration from Michelin ratings to affordable and innovative food. Nice to have Roubuchon bring it back around by stating his feelings that a good chef needs the formal training to endure. Would you all agree with that?

            One last note: that first young lion of a chef they showed.....Marchand? Anyone else see him taste and throw the spoon back in TWICE? Made me shudder a little.

            1. re: phee

              "Nice to have Roubuchon bring it back around by stating his feelings that a good chef needs the formal training to endure. Would you all agree with that?".........phee

              Absolutely! What's the old saying about you have to know the rules before you can break them? Sadly, I've been to restaurants where I've thought, "God, these people cut a lot of classes in culinary school!"

              I must have been looking at my coffee cup or something because I missed Marchand's(?) spoon trick. If it's done to taste a sauce that is simmering, it doesn't bother me that much that time, but when it's a cold sauce, no double dipping! But if a chef will do it with something simmering, chances are he'll do it with something cold. I try not to think about such things when I'm in a restaurant.

            2. re: Phaedrus

              I love food. I love travel. But I watch Bourdain to see Bourdain being Bourdain. He's a self-sacrificing world treasure, out there in the hinterlands, busily destroying his liver so that the viewer might vicariously enjoy his intemperance. He has the hangover and suffers so that we don't have to. I'd watch him any old time. He's terrific.

          2. I thought this episode was excellent and really spoke to me and my ambitions with my culinary career.

            I hope that those young chefs succeed and pave way for more open mindedness in the Paris dining scene.

            1. I don't get the Travel Channel, so I couldn't watch it. Do you suppose it's up on HULU?