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Nov 19, 2012 12:12 AM

HBO's Treme 11-19 Episode, Chowhound Plot Twist

I had a major chuckle watching tonight's new episode of Treme on HBO, in which Chowhounds cheer the "crawfish ravioli" at character Janette Deasautel's new restaurant, adding to the Chef's numerous other dilemmas, as suddenly the restaurant is flooded with orders for one trendy dish.

This Chow bunch seems like a modest community, but evidently some in the screenwriting world consider it to be surprisingly powerful.

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  1. Bourdain is the food writer on Treme...

    44 Replies
    1. re: The Chowfather

      I'd like to think it was a metaphor for the chaos that I've caused for the bbq shrimp crew at Mr. B's. ;)

      1. re: The Chowfather

        Brett Anderson would have been a far better choice than Bourdain. Guess they went for big name recognition rarher than actual knowlege of New Orleans dining.

        1. re: JazzyB

          Bourdain might agree with you himself. From the New York Times:

          “Brett is not just anybody, he’s a serious food writer with a nationwide reputation in a town whose whole economy is built around the hospitality industry,” said Anthony Bourdain, the chef, author and TV personality, who has traveled frequently to New Orleans for two years as a writer for the HBO series “Treme.”

          Bourdain's career stemmed from working in a kitchen then writing about it with grit. Perhaps this is what the producers were looking for. Big name recognition doesn't hurt either....

          1. re: porker

            I wouldn't second guess any decisions made in the production of Treme considering it's one of the best shows ever made.

            1. re: kukubura

              . Personally, I only watch b/c it chronicles post Katrina nola. I wonder if those without an affinity for our city tune in.

              1. re: JazzyB

                We often wonder that. Early on when they were showing funeral dirges and indian practice and all the other stuff that is so unique to New Orleans we were asking how someone who doesn't live there or have a special interest in the city the way we do could possibly understand what was going on. David Simon has produced two of the best shows in the history of the medium - one on the city in which we live and one on the city that we love. They're both heartbreaking but really only one leaves you with a sense that it's all worth it in the end.

                1. re: kukubura

                  I was a fan of Treme before I had a chance to visit New Orleans. Now I'm a fan of the city and the show, and both have amplified my love for the other.

              2. re: kukubura

                best shows ever made? i cant go there. as much as i enjoy seeing our locales, it's pretty boring. it's like postcards -- photorealistic, but flat. the show is too busy name-dropping everything Simon can think of to prove hes the "real deal" (and not just a tourist) than working on meaningful story & character arcs. whereas The Wire was just the opposite -- little focus on the city as a character, major focus on the characters & story.

                i like blackened out's discussion:

                1. re: kibbles

                  Best shows ever made is entirely subjective, so I don't claim to have the "truth" on that, but I'm not the only person who feels that way. There is a ton of remarkable character development on Treme. Maybe not every character's story grabs at you, but Albert and Delmond, Toni Bernette and her family, LaDonna, Antoine Batiste, Harley, heck even Sonny and his interesting relationship with Linh's dad. There's so much that's great about the show with so many complex character arcs that twist and turn (like how Antoine is really changing... but he's also still a dog at heart).

                  It's not as plot-driven as The Wire, there's no doubt about that. But Baltimore was as much a character on The Wire as NOLA is in Treme, the only difference is that Baltimore doesn't HAVE as much character as NOLA and it's not that different from a number of other dying cities. Plus due to the incendiary nature of the show most of the real-life public figures were thinly veiled fictional characters that you wouldn't recognize instead of cameos by real people (although there were those too.)

                  Plus The Wire covered the entirety of local Baltimore dining as well: crab cakes, pit beef and lake trout. Didn't need an entire plot-line to cover that fertile territory!

                  1. re: kukubura

                    Yeah, totally agree, kuk...i'm not sure if kibbles is watching the same show we are. i think if persons have the great opportunity to live in New Orleans and/or its envirions, it sometimes makes them hyper-critical of anything that portrays the city in any manner other than what THEY think it should be. Instead of embracing and applauding such a fantastic representation of the city as Treme does, you nitpick and find fault because it doesn't live up to your definition of authenticity. Perhaps it would been "better" if a native had done the show, but there's no question David Simon loves your city and is showcasing some of its best attributes (food and music), as well as illustrating its corrupt, seedier, and downright tragic side. And fwiw, there were many locals we've talked to on our visits who love the show. so there...;-)

                    1. re: Christine

                      (sorry ive been busy for a while)

                      @christine - that’s one possibility. Another is your views of New Orleans are based on short visits and experienced through the sentiment of vacation. Series-creator Simon is likewise a visitor. What seems amazingly authentic to visitors may not seem as authentic to someone who lives in a place. For that person to point out that he doesn’t find a television series’ take on his home to have a compelling narrative doesn’t make him hyper-critical or resentful or any of the other things you may come up with.

                      but more than locale, I know good television – and, sadly, Treme just isn’t that, which is why its ratings are very poor and it was given only a few full seasons. (I’d even argue that was a pity-award from HBO). It simply doesn’t have the gripping, character-driven drama that made a series like The Wire so popular to so many people everywhere. Instead it has a lot of celebrity-chef spotting and scenes at Bacchanal and The Spotted Cat. thats fine and those are fine places, but they dont make for compelling television. nearly all of my local krewe feel the same way.

                      i also prefer chocholate ice cream.

                      1. re: kibbles

                        Point taken, kibbie. I guess for us poor slobs who don't have the opportunity to live in your great city, the HBO series will just have to suffice, even though, as you state, it's a poor substitute. Not a gripping HBO drama by any means, but I feel at least I get a literal "peek" at New Orleans when I watch, since it is indeed filmed there. But again, I also loved the HBO series Carnivale, and I lamented its departure after only two seasons.

                        But something we do agree on: my favorite ice cream flavor is chocolate, too! ;-)

                        1. re: Christine

                          ah ha!

                          yes, we also really loved Carnival and were likewise disappointed to see it go after only two seasons. the series creator promised he'd continue to pursue the story line in other channels, but sadly that never happened either. if you read wikipedia they talk a bit more about what happened to the characters.

                  2. re: kibbles

                    You're certainly entitled to your opinion, but me thinks thou doth protest too much . . .

                    1. re: zin1953

                      yeah, you right...what's really funny is that this heated debate about the merits of treme may be exactly what rene on blackened out was orchestrating...any discussion about new orleans and its food is always encouraged, right?

                2. re: porker

                  A point well taken. (scroll down to 11/13/12). Perhaps liberties were taken for the sake of the storyline or Bourdain was just clueless. Should you doubt the veracity of the rant, click "comment" below the article.


                3. re: JazzyB

                  Bourdain's contributions are not about "New Orleans dining" but instead are about what transpires inside restaurant kitchens. That is entirely different from being a "food writer."

                  AB is a wonderful writer, and he quite literally wrote the definitive book on the topic (Kitchen Confidential). Treme benefits greatly from Bourdain's ability to shape story lines and dialog relating to "the back of the house,"

                  1. re: Gizmo56

                    I agree with the folks here on this board, I really like Treme because I love all things pertaining to New Orleans, but one of the reviewers named Rene on another New Orleans food blog, Blackened Out, really lambasted the show and said it implies that it took a New York influence to save the city's restaurants after Katrina...all because the character, Janette Desautel, went to New York and worked for David Chang and schmoozed with other NY chefs. Anthony Bourdain took this reviewer to task on Gawker, apparently, because he/she (not sure if Rene is a man or woman) criticized the use of Bourdain as a food consultant and writer for Treme. I'm not attaching the link here, but check it out on Blackened Out, and see if you agree. I definitely do not, but Rene says it's because the majority of people watching Treme don't live in NO, and the natives there hate it. Comments?

                    1. re: Christine

                      I am local, lived through Katrina and the rebuild and agree with Rene ( fwiw, Rene is male).

                      One of the positvie things to come about due to Katrina was that the restaurants gained a new appreciation for the locals. We not only kept their doors open, we kept them busy.

                      Prior to Katrina, Besh, Link, Tommy Citanovich (Drago's), Spicer and Boswell each had one restaurant. Post K, Besh 9, Link 5, Spicer 2, Citanovich 2, Boswell 2. In addition, the restaurant scene (not including chains) had been less than 1,000. It now stands at 1313.

                      With what do you disagree?

                      1. re: JazzyB

                        You have a good point. I can think of three restaurants (no names, please) in town that were generally ignoring or discounting their local customers' fairly minor complaints about altering some dish or whatever, patently catering to the tourist trade by putting such things as shrimp and grits on a menu becuase that is what the traveller expected to find, as if this is Charleston. After Katrina they did an about face, realizing who kept them going.

                        I've only seen a few of teh Treme shows, courtesy of other peoples' televisions but what I have seen, while good promotion for the City and not at all bad, in my view, still proves to me that that genius Tim Reid's "Frank's Place" was the best series about New Orleans ever done, just like "Friends of Eddie Coyle" surpasses the recently ballyhooed movies about Boston.

                        1. re: JazzyB

                          The disagreement is about New Orleans not being able to rebuild and expand upon their restaurant scene and make it more successful than it was before if it hadn't been for the New York chef/restaurant input helping it along and infusing it with some much-needed tweaking. At least that's what Rene espoused...he feels Treme implies that New Orleans restaurants could not have made it back from the abyss without "consulting" New York chefs. I do not agree with his take on the show, and I do not think that's what the show was trying to put forth, and it sounds as if you don't either...New Orleans came back on its own merits and not because of any NY influence and/or help. That's all. However, there are many replies on Blackened Out from locals who agree with him and detest HBO's Treme. Is it because I'm not a local that I like the show?

                          1. re: Christine

                            Re" being "not a local" I'd only offer that for my generation and older, "Easy Rider" is still known as teh "movie that messed up Mardi Gras." A lot of comp[laints have to do with locals feeling swamped or inconvenienced. Then, too, there is a delight in finding dault.

                            1. re: Christine

                              You enjoy the show for what it is, entertainment. Many locals object to the inaccuracies. It is afterall, fiction that loosely chronicles post Katrina nola. Sometimes we lose sight of that.

                              1. re: JazzyB

                                True enough, jazzy. Since I don't get down to your wonderful city nearly enough, Treme has served as a pretty good substiute for me. As the old saying goes, "each to his own...said the old maid as she kissed the cow"! ;-)

                                1. re: Christine

                                  I will add this, though...there sure are a lot of local New Orleanians in Treme...I guess that's one of the reasons i thought it was considered fairly accurate in its portrayal. What up with that?

                                  1. re: Christine

                                    My guess is that they get to see themselves on tv. Oh, and they get paid. lol

                              2. re: Christine

                                "[Rene] feels Treme implies that New Orleans restaurants could not have made it back from the abyss without "consulting" New York chefs. I do not agree with his take on the show,..."

                                Not only do I not agree with that take on the show, that's literally not what happened on the show. But Rene can certainly make whatever he wants up and post it on the ol' internet.

                                1. re: kukubura

                                  I agree with you, kukubura. I can't imagine how anyone who has actually watched the series would draw the conclusion that the restaurant in which Janette is working as a chef is in any way pulling New Orleans dining "back from the abyss."

                                  She's essentially exactly the same moderately popular local chef that she was throughout the first season, before her difficult personal circumstances forced her time in exile in NYC. Rene's take on the show is positively hallucinatory.

                                  1. re: Gizmo56

                                    OK, "back from the abyss" was my wording, which may have been too dramatic, but the implication from the review on BO is that Desautel HAD to go to NY first before she could return to NO and "make it' as a chef (which i find to be a ridiculously defensive attitude of the reviewer). Here ya go:

                                    After losing her restaurant, Desautel then exiles herself to New York. She throws a drink at Alan Richman, works for David Chang, and eventually feels the tug back to New Orleans. Make no mistake what the implication is here. It is not that she wanted to leave New Orleans; or start over. That happened and still happens with chefs, lawyers, plumbers, teachers, you name it. What Treme implies, with a heavy hand, is that Janette had to go to New York to be a better chef and businesswomen. That a chef in New Orleans just isn't skilled enough to be successful at running a "real" restaurant.

                                    You see, she was just a hayseed. Just a Cajun-Creole girl who gosh darn it could cook well enough for New Orleans before Katrina, but not after. The Richman drink throwing scene was completely undone, by proving his point throughout the rest of Treme: that New Orleans isn't a good town for chefs or food. According to Treme, in order to be legitimized, Desautel needed the blessing of the New York Chef Mafia. She needed to learn about hydrocolloids or cooking with pork fat under the tutelage of the chefs Treme's writers think are important. This is such utter horseshit.

                                    New York is an excellent restaurant town, to be sure. And there is always something to learn from others, but spare us the protective custodian of helpless New Orleans angle. We didn't need your blessing, and we certainly did not need you dumping the lower half of Williamsburg into the Bywater like a trash barge looking for a port.

                                    You got the story wrong. You got it horribly wrong. Why don't you just shift it and put Desautels in a food truck slinging free range goat ramen in the parking lot of a Brooklyn haberdasher. Worse you already explored this exact "New York as the gateway to New Orleans" story with Delmond Lambreaux. On top of being incorrect, it is redundant. Your story of New Orleans' culinary reemergence after Katrina is about New York, not about anything that happened down here.

                                    Quote unquote.

                                    1. re: Christine

                                      Yeah, but all of that just does not reflect what actually happens in the series. Janette is a successful chef-owner before the storm, her restaurant goes under after the storm because of problems keeping it staffed, erratic utilities, etc. Mired in deb,t she goes the food truck route but she still can't make ends meet. She leaves New Orleans with great reluctance.

                                      She returns not because NYC is " protective custodian of helpless New Orleans," but instead because a well-financed LOCAL restauranteur offers her the freedom to run her own restaurant without having the headaches of owning the business. And the inevitable tension that comes between owner and chef butting heads is the storyline for Season 3, not that she is somehow a more successful chef after working in a couple of NYC kitchens. If anything she is less successful than when we first met her, at the beginning of the series, as a chef-owner.

                                      I think Rene is presuming facts that are not in evidence (as the lawyers would say).

                                      1. re: Gizmo56

                                        Yup. Plus the Delmond comment is 180 degrees wrong too. Plus Janette isn't "Cajun Creole," she from Alabama or somethinf, something her parents remind her of whenever they visit. Whatever.

                                        1. re: kukubura

                                          Agree completely. It is ironic to complain about the Delmond and A;lbert storyline, since it is factually based on the true life stories of Donald Harrison, Jr. and Sr.

                              3. re: JazzyB

                                Oops, I did not mean to post twice. My apologies.

                                1. re: JazzyB

                                  @christine - im late to the party here, but... Rene was not suggesting that the NYC "revival influence" actually happened, he's saying it's lame that in the foodie story arc in the show that's what happened. because in reality, our A-team chefs did it completely on their own and didnt need to flee to NYC before realizing they missed their restaurant back home.

                                  while it's true that *did* happen for plenty of people as you have pointed out, Rene also addresses this -- that exactly same story arc *already happened* on the show w/ the trumpeter, who flees NO to NYC before realizing he misses his music life back home. so to rinse-and-repeat it w/ her character, when that was so NOT typical for the major NO chefs that she represents, is lame.

                                  in effect, it was completely unnecessary to shower all this facetime love on the NYC chef scene in a show orleans.

                                  i grok that.

                                  1. re: kibbles

                                    "The trumpeter" went to NYC (before the storm) because of his interest in exploring modern jazz and his desire to connect with the global jazz scene. He eventually reconciles both spheres with the fusion project he records with his father, per the real life experience of Donald Harrison, Jr.

                                    The chef departs New Orleans (after the storm) with great sadness and reluctance because (despite valiant efforts to get by) she concludes at length that she cannot earn a living until the city recovers. Her heart is always in New Orleans.

                                    "...didnt need to flee to NYC before realizing they missed their restaurant back home" is not the story line for Janette, and "flees NO to NYC before realizing he misses his music life back home" is not what happens with Delmond.

                                      1. re: Gizmo56

                                        " '...didnt need to flee to NYC before realizing they missed their restaurant back home' is not the story line for Janette,"

                                        why isnt it? she was running a top tier restaurant in NO, so good that all of the NYC chef scene dines there. somehow it goes out of business despite this reputation and crowd. she then....flees to NYC. then she misses NO and returns to take another stab at pursuing her dream again. thats what i saw.

                                        1. re: kibbles

                                          In season one her restaurant is not "top tier," but it is an up-and-comer that is beginning to attract notice. It "somehow" goes out of business because her staff has scattered after the storm, the utilities constantly fail, and as she gets deeper in debt being unable to operate the restaurant due to those problems, so her vendors cut her off. Her cash flow has collapsed.

                                          She does not "flee" then later "miss" NO. She leaves NO because she sees no reasonable alternative given that her house and her business have been destroyed and she is awash in debt. In New York, she works as a line cook under a cruel chef (fictional) and then under a kind and supportive one (Chang) and she misses New Orleans "every day" (the character's own words).

                                          Her time in exile in New York is simply an extension of her post-storm ordeal, and in some ways it is the worst part. It is the equivalent of the musicians that had to wait out the recovery, and scratch out their living in places like Austin, Texas. New York is not portrayed as her gateway to New Orleans, and I don't think that the character is changed in any way as a result of her time in NYC. It is shown merely as a survival move, and one that leaves the audience wondering throughout the second season what circumstances might enable her to get back home.

                                          1. re: Gizmo56

                                            Kudos again, Gizmo. Perfectly stated. Hear, hear! :)

                                      2. re: kibbles

                                        I really didn't point it out, kibbles, because that's not how I interpreted the Janette Desautel storyline. I didn't take away that time spent in NYC with chef Chang molded Janette Desautel into a worthy chef who could then return to NO with her head held high because of her newly-found credentials. that's not what i think happened at all and apparently that's not what a lot of other folks here think either. now whether David Simon meant to imply that is another'd have to ask him. what i did point out is that rene on blackened out seems to have a defensive inferiority complex about NO and its chefs, but that was just HIS take on the show, NOT what many other people inferred from the show. Desautel may have gone to NY to work, but the bottom line is her character was an accomplished-enough chef to work ANYWHERE in the US, but her heart was in New Orleans. I agree with kukuburra: "that's literally not what happened on the show. But Rene can certainly make whatever he wants up and post it on the ol' internet." Since so many of us "non-natives" disagree with the Blackened out review of Treme, I'd have to say it's because we're not looking for slights against the city,but instead positive vibes. Sorry to beat a dead horse, but I was totally flummoxed when I read that review of the show. C'est la vie.

                                        1. re: Christine

                                          i wouldnt say not liking the restaurant story arc means one is looking defensively for perceived slights against NO. i would say that it's a disappointing angle Simon & Bourdain chose, spending so much face time w/ the NYC chef scene (where non-coincidentally Bourbain is from) when there was a much better *true* story that took place here, 100% in new orleans. and considering its similarity to the the trumpet player's story arc (even if not identical), it's a bit of a let down.

                                          thats Rene's point. and its a completely legitimate one regardless if other people disagree (thats life, right?). i couldnt really put my finger on it until Rene wrote his post, but something about all the NYC celebrity chef worship had rubbed me the wrong way in a story line about culinary New Orleans.

                                          as uber-tourists i just think they made different decisions in crafting their show. but hey, it's their show...i dont take it personally or anything, and i would bet Rene doesnt either (i dont know him from adam, btw).

                                          1. re: kibbles

                                            I think that’s a good point. Any restaurant that reopened after Katrina that was not flooded did amazing business for the next year or two until the rest of the city caught up and restaurants opened on every block. 50 new ones just on Magazine Street. I think a better story line would have been a Mandina’s revival storyline or any number of restaurants that lost everything and didn’t have enough money or insurance to rebuild. That could have taken 3 or 4 years for her to get the restaurant back up and running. By that point, her success would not have been guaranteed. It would have shown a deeper struggle in deciding whether or not it was all worth it.

                                  2. re: Gizmo56

                                    Anthony Bourdain is a very talented writer.

                              4. Perhaps the chowhound reference may be a joke provided by Bourdain? He once said that the way to rile up a chowhound board was to do a google search of "the top ten restaurants in X city." Then use that list to go on the chowhound board of X city and write, "I am coming to X city and here are my top choices, what do the locals think?" and watch the fireworks fly.

                                1. Funny I find the food storylines in the show to be the least interesting. But then all the cameos and name dropping don't do a thing for me. It's to the point where they are trying too hard IMO.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: rasputina

                                    exactly. agree 100%. it's simple cheerleading for a very small sub-celebrity culture, written by a member of said culture.

                                    1. re: kibbles

                                      Bourdain is A writer ON the show, not THE writer OF the show . . .

                                      Both in person and as a writer, he's actually very funny, witty and (as was said above) focuses on what's going on the dynamics of what's going on inside the kitchen among-and-between the staff-management-owner, and (at times) how the staff view the patrons -- think Anthony Anderson's two sentence descriptions of the patrons at Desautel's new place . . .

                                  2. Is this gal's restaurant totally fictional or is it based upon an existing or once existing place? My wife and I just started watching this show. I pulled out all of my old Columbia jazz records and have been playing them. Takes me back.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: singlemalt

                                      The character of Janette Deasautel (portrayed in the series by actress Kim Dickens) is *based* upon Chef Susan Spicer -- who portrays herself on the show.

                                      1. re: zin1953

                                        I guess I would say "partly inspired by" rather than "*based* upon" because so few facts are in in common (for example the relationship with the character based upon Davis Rogan, for starters).

                                        Singlemalt can delve into a very rich guide to the Treme series here:


                                        and a nice feature on Kim Dickens being tutored by Susan Spicer here:


                                        The Treme blog includes very detailed notes on the locations, food, and music in each episode, together with pointers to the post-Katrina historical events and cultural veins that the series explores.

                                        David Simon's blog also offers invaluable insights into the creative process behind the intent of the arc of the story:


                                        1. re: Gizmo56

                                          "Inspired by" works for me! ;^)

                                      2. Funny all this talk about new York and restaurants a city that has no cuisine of its own. Fascinating.

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