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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?

              1. I liked the episode, but was somewhat disappointed in that nearly all of the food was really high-end "frou-frou" - even the supposedly "bistro" stuff. Frankly, everything they claimed was "bistro" fare couldn't have been further from the truth. BUT - that's just personal preference on my part. My preference in French cuisine is "real" bistro fare & what was/is commonly called country or peasant type dishes. I'm just not a "frou-frou" fan & just couldn't warm up to Tony & Eric going all orgasmic over 4" plates of tiny little ingredients. I actually broke out into a laugh when Eric acclaimed a new "bistro" chef of sheer "genious" over a piece of fish on top of some pureed rice. BUT AGAIN - I'm more of a Coq au Vin kind of girl.

                (And as a somewhat catty aside, I was also somewhat taken aback by Eric Ripert's comments re: his getting old, because I would swear that he's had some "work" done. I could be wrong, but I've seen photos & cooking shows with him having a normally lined face for his age, yet in last night's episode, his face was amazingly smooth as a baby's bottom. It almost didn't look like him at all.)

                1 Reply
                1. re: Breezychow

                  I'm not sure why you would expect old, classic bistro dishes from Le Chateaubriand or Frenchie. The show did feature some very traditional offal dishes at other restaurants.

                  Ripert's "genius" comment was directed towards the dish of sea bream, white asparagus, mascarpone, and brown butter at Le Chateaubriand, not the dish of beef sirloin and lardo over puréed black rice at Frenchie. If you're going to criticize something, at least get the basic facts straight. Then again, calling Inaki Aizpitarte a "bistro" chef and your "frou-frou" comments...

                  As for Ripert's appearance, he looked pretty much like he usually does on TV, although the No Reservations staff went very heavy on the makeup. He may claim to be old, but the guy is only in his mid 40's.

                2. One of his best episodes, though not topping Istanbul, although like his Istanbul episode this one will have me attempting to retrace his footsteps.

                  1. I just watched the show a second time, primarily to count the cooks who licked their spoons and put them back in their pots... 3, but due to camera cuts, there's no sure call on whether any of them actually double dipped. I don't mind double dipping with something that is boiling, or at least simmering, but cold stuff? Shoot the chef!

                    The other thing that became apparent with a second viewing is... NO SALADS! But I comforted myself that at least there were no towers of salad precariously perched atop an entree that collapses across the entire width of the table the first time a fork touches it!

                    The second viewing also allowed me to do the math on Joel Roubuchon's decadent mashed potatoes. By his own dictate, they are one half pound of butter per 2 pounds of potatoes. My God! If you butter a 1 pound baked potato at that ratio, you will use one entire quarter pound cube of butter on it...! A little potato in your butter anyone?

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Caroline1

                      he uses way more butter than that it's closer to a 50/50 ratio..

                      1. re: SDGourmand

                        I had heard that too; equal parts butter and potato.

                        1. re: Withnail42

                          Maybe he backed off on the show so he wouldn't be under siege from all of the cardiologists in the world! When AB asked him what he would like as his last bite on earth, he replied, "Give me a good potato and a slab of butter and I'm a happy man." Or words to that effect.

                          1. re: Withnail42

                            yes and don't forget the heavy cream that is added as well...

                            1. re: SDGourmand

                              If I had grass fed butter and cream, I would make and eat that. Grass fed beef and beef by-products have all the benefits of salmon without the fishy taste!

                          2. re: SDGourmand

                            Yup. Very rich and silky. It's almost like you're drinking mashed potatoes with all the butter and cream.

                        2. Haven't seen it yet, but must comment on the Greece episode that you mention which I thought was the biggest waste of great scenery and food. It ranks down there with Romania and a few others as one of his absolute worst--hope he fired whoever produced it.

                          1. Great episode! We were wondering though, what their idea of "inexpensive" is...

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: skoolpsyk

                              I missed this show and forgot to record it too. Darn!!!!

                              I checked TLC's site for future airing and didn't find any in the next few weeks. Anyone have any info on when it might air again or where I could see it? (We have Cox Cable and they do not show it On Demand either).

                              I'd also love to see the original Paris show and the French Laundry episode. I'm going to assume that Paris is on the first season DVD, but does anyone know which DVD FL is on or how to find out??


                              >>>>>>> sorry for wrong placement.

                              1. re: Midlife

                                I am pretty sure on youtube you can see the FL episode.

                                1. re: JonDough

                                  If you are in the US, all episodes are available via ITUNES. I reside most of the year outside of the US, so I either use Slingbox or download (purchase) via ITUNES.

                                  I thought this was one of the better episodes of NR particuarly because the emphasis was on cuisine and good food. My only complaint with NR is that the premise and focus can be a bit predictable.

                                  1. re: vinhotinto75

                                    Yes........... it can be predictable, but it's Bourdain and it's interesting local food, so how different could it get? In the episode that aired before the 100th here, the one where he and the staff talk about highlight episodes, they admit that they have some difficulty figuring out how to make it unique and as good as they can make it. For me, the show has become about 50% Bourdain and 50% other personalities/food/travel anyway, so when it's good it's good.

                                    Thanks for the itunes ref.

                              2. re: skoolpsyk

                                According to this article, $35.00-$50.00.


                                Not 'cheap', but not bad.

                              3. I think the best line I heard for a while from the man was

                                "For the first time I've ever seen, Eric has found himself in the position of having to defend fine dining, poor bastard." - on a discussion between Alexandre Cammas of French food movement Le Fooding and Eric Ripert over the value of the Michelin star system.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: K K

                                  I enjoyed that observation too. And could not help but admire the aplomb and composure with which ER responded! I am a staunch supporter of the Michelin system. I do enjoy the bistro experience, but every once in a while it really is a balm for my soul to have great classic food in a room where no one is wearing jeans! <sigh> My age is showing.

                                2. I watched this last night (DVR) and really enjoyed it. The food those "young Turk" chefs are putting out looked so appealing (beets/raspberries/ventreche...I can taste it).
                                  The byplay between Ripert and Bourdain and among the chefs and food eminences was quite amusing and enlightening (and not entirely translated in the subtitles by the way). Imagine...Robuchon supervising your meal...what could be better?
                                  It was nice to see the Mouff, our favorite place to stay in Paris, but was that café there? Most of the restaurants on that strip are undistinguished.
                                  The notion put forth that all "grands restaurants" are stuffy is a bit misleading, however, one of the warmest and most relaxed restaurant experiences we've ever had was a lunch at Taillevent where even "nobodies" were made to feel very much at home.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: buttertart

                                    <one of the warmest and most relaxed restaurant experiences we've ever had was a lunch at Taillevent where even "nobodies" were made to feel very much at home.>

                                    True dat...

                                  2. Caroline1,
                                    I agree completely with you on this and I am so glad to read others feel the same.