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Oct 15, 2011 11:49 AM

Bourdain eating illegal Beluga caviar on TV?

The recent thread on shark fin banning resulting in a possible black market had me recall the No Reservations episode this season where he goes to the Ukraine. I thought there was a scene where Anthony Bourdain goes to a market with his friend Amir who buys some legal caviar. Bourdain tries the caviar and hates it, he then says something about the black market and produced what looked like a tin of illegal Beluga caviar which he proceeded to eat on TV.

I can't believe that Bourdain did this! I thought as an ex-chef he would respect the fact that we have to better manage our food sources, rather than flaunting the current attempts to save the beluga sturgeon. People will see that scene and think "well he's obviously still eating the stuff so why shouldn't I?"

My estimation of Bourdain fell a lot after seeing that scene. So I hope someone can tell me I was mistaken and that he did not eat black market beluga caviar?

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  1. I saw the episode, too, and I recall him being presented with, and eating, the black market variety.

    I'm not surprised he ate the black market stuff. I very much picture him as a, "F*** the regulations, I'm eating what I d*** well want." sort of guy. I *am* surprised he did it on TV, tho I didn't have the reaction you proposed. I still wouldn't eat it if it were available.

    My opinion of him has steadily dropped over the past couple of seasons of NR, and this didn't help any.

    1. Bourdain didn't give up crack because it was illegal.

      He ain't sure not going to pass on some good quality fish eggs just because it's illegal.

      [rolls eyes]

      1. "Illegal" has to do with the importation of Caspian Sea beluga to the US. He was in the Ukraine, where there may not be such a prohibition. Correctness is another matter.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Veggo

          Beluga caviar is banned by CITES. However, CITES is an international TRADE other words, it can ban the trade in endangered species BETWEEN nations, but not within any nation. If the Ukraine has any caviar originating within its borders, it would not be affected by the CITES ban. "Black market" may simply mean product that is not under government control...possibly legal product (in origin) that has been diverted to avoid paying fees, taxes, etc. An example would be the black market trade that exists for cigarettes in the US. That said, Ukraine does not border on the Caspian. If beluga are also found in the Black sea, it could be legal within Ukraine borders, or it could be illegal in origin, yet falsely labelled to say its Ukraine in origin. If its from the Caspian, its illegal. On the other hand, I saw the show...and I remember that he thought it was good quality, but I don't remember if he said it was beluga...and beluga is the one regulated by CITES.

          1. re: EricMM

            From what l recall, beluga was not mentioned. Assumed it was sturgeon so could easily have been sevruga or my favorite oscetra, which is available in the States legally, albeit expensively.

            1. re: EricMM

              Excellent explanation. So many Americans do not understand what "illegal" really means.

          2. Didn't "Medium Raw" open with a scene of Bourdain and others dining on ortolan? This just more of the same hedonistic macho indulgence that he cultivates.

            2 Replies
            1. re: janniecooks

              I don't think he is nearly as arrogant as he used to be. I like him.

              1. re: janniecooks

                You're right, his book does have an ortolan eating scene. But I guess I expect something like that in his books having read Kitchen Confidential which talks about his drug use. I just didn't think he would do that on TV, which is a more accessible medium that reaches a far wider audience.