More on Bourdain

To answer some of your questions:

– We were at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival (see here) and, as stated in that post, we were on our last day of shooting, at the Mario Batali Jamie Oliver dinner at Danny Devito’s restaurant. My director and I, exhausted from all the interviews we’d done, decided we’d just enjoy this dinner and not make it a “work” event. But then, at the end of the meal, I said: “Let’s just go into the kitchen to make sure we’re not missing anyone” and so he obliged, pushing through the throngs of people (it was a madhouse in there) and once in the kitchen, who should we find but Mario, Jamie, Giada DiLaurentis, Dave Pasternack and, of course, Sir Anthony Bourdain. Earlier on the trip, I’d reached out to Bourdain for an interview and he’d kindly refused and so, respecting that, I kept him out of things when we shot this video with Mario and Jamie. After that, I said to him: “See, I respected your desire not to do this show” and he said, “I appreciate that.” It was my director Matthew, though, who said: “Just so you know, we wanted you to come on our show and bash the Food Network… we wanted you to say whatever it is you had to say.” At that Bourdain smiled and said, “All right, let’s go” putting his arm around me and assenting to the interview you saw linked to in the post below.

– As for the bleeped bits, I’m happy to share (and this is from the extended video, which you should watch to see the whole thing in its entirety):

* on Next Food Network star: “it’s sort of like watching German anal porn, I can’t turn away… it’s horrifying, but I’m learning something about Germany while I’m watching it.”

* on Sandra Lee: “She should be taken to Guantanamo and waterboarded.”

* any final words: “Watch Travel Channel…it’s so much better than Food Network.”

[The bleeping makes it seem worse than it is–well except for that Guantanamo bit–but those were the parts the higher-ups took exception to.]

As for my own take on Food Network (in case you’re interested), I think it’s important to keep things in perspective. I’m a perfect example of someone who knew nothing about food, who grew up eating processed foods–jarred tomato sauces, TGI Friday’s dinners, frozen pizzas–who only thought to care about cooking as Food Network became popular. Really, it was a confluence of being a miserable law student and finding Food Network shows calming and comforting. True, the shows that won me over were shows that Bourdain would champion–Mario’s and Sarah Moulton’s–but what those shows were, really, were gateways into the food world. It’s not like anyone watching endless cycles of Food TV will suddenly become cultured and cultivated–even watching Bourdain’s show, you won’t suddenly become worldly and wise–it’s just an impetus to go out and learn more. The only real way to learn how to cook is to start cooking. That’s it. Standing in your kitchen, burning your roast beef and scorching your sauce, you are acquiring more knowledge than a year’s worth of even the greatest cooking shows can provide. The key is to get people cooking. Does Food Network do that? Yes, I’m pretty sure it does. And when some of those people who make Rachael Ray 30 minute meals start to say, “You know what? This is getting boring. I want to make something more complex and rewarding, something intricate and historical and important that takes more than 30 minutes” they can crack open Julia Child and make a cassoulet (as I did here). Thought of as a gateway to bigger and better things, Food Network is fine. And sometimes, as Bourdain points out, it’s better than fine: Barefoot Contessa recipes are often the best of their kind and I think Ace of Cakes, Iron Chef America, Good Eats, Nigella Bites, Next Food Network Star, and Tyler’s Ultimate are all excellent shows. Those are my two cents, take them as you will.

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26 comments

  1. Dear Adam,

    You are on the front page of the food network website with Anthony Bourdain. Your barista is very confused. You should come visit me at my new cafe, El Beit, some time. You can feel free to bring Anthony Bourdain with you, but that would probably make me even more confused.

    Yours,

    Anne from Joe

    p.s. I miss you.

  2. I would agree with you AG, that the Food Network (at its best) is some sort of gateway drug that (hopefully) will eventually -hopefully- lead folks to explore more in-depth cooking techniques and ideas. I would be lying, however, if I didn’t admit that I really think they should balance more of their fluff shows with serious/slow-cooking/riveting programming of substance – but hey, that’s just me It will be very interesting to see how the FN evolves over time as their core audience does. And if they refuse to evolve…. well, let’s just say it wouldn’t be the worst thing to see Bourdain or Mario tackle a food channel lineup – hell I would welcome that with open arms and mind!

  3. I see Bourdain’s point but it seems a little over-the-top. No I don’t like NFNS but I don’t feel strongly about it like him. As for Sandra Lee… what’s the point? We all know how negativly 95% of us feel about her.

    Go Alton!

  4. I agree with you. Given, I barely watch the FN anymore because all of the shows I liked have either been canceled or buried in ridiculous time slots, but I’ve learned so much from all the hours I’ve soaked up. I am also so tired of people getting up in arms over Rachel Ray and such; why should I care how they or their audience cooks? I’d rather change the channel than sit around judging people for their food not being refined enough–it smacks of classicism.

  5. I’ve never had the Food Network, but I can see how your points make sense. Even if it just inspires people to take an interest in real food, I guess that’s a good thing. On the other hand, I can see where Bourdain is coming from. For someone like him, the network probably doesn’t have much to offer. As zeep mentioned, the entry-level stuff can only take them so far; eventually they’ll need to grow with their audience and find some more substantial content.

    Me, I’m sticking to books for inspiration. The latest by Michael Ruhlman and Jamie Oliver have been keeping me busy, and I even snagged a copy of the Amateur Gourmet on the weekend. Good times!

  6. Adam impressed with how far you have come. I bet life tastes a whole lot better now since you gave up the canned chili.

    I agree with your assessment on the FN shows, they do get people cooking. They also get the retired people out of bed in the morning so that they can watch the FN and cook, my dad included. He still isn’t over Julia being gone.

    Not one to make a negative comment. That being said, if you can find someone who has been inspired by Sandra Lee and wants to move on to Julia Childs. I will buy them the cookbook, Julia that is.

  7. I think you meant to say Bourdain “assented” to the interview. Not “ascent.” They’re very different.

  8. Different people will have different opinions about the FN, and I think Bourdain has earned the right to express his. It’s cool that you got the scoop on letting him trash your employer, that’s a unique position to be in.

    How people have gotten inspired about food is an interesting topic. I got into cooking because I loved food and knew it, but my first glimpse at the larger world of cooking through the media was Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, and this is still one of the few books I re-read regularly.

  9. You list a lot of fine cooking shows. I’m partial to Unwrapped and the Food Network Challenges myself. ;)

  10. Have enjoyed your work on-line and in print, and now am enjoying it on video. But that camera operator was swinging the camera around like crazy…maybe he was hungry, or thirsty, or …?

  11. Adam, you are too sweet for words. Why haven’t you become jaded and/or cynical? Perhaps it is the memories of the canned food you grew up with that keeps you grounded on what is truly important today in life and work. So perhaps the likes of Sandra Lee (or is it Dee?) have their place in the world, too.

  12. I’m not a big Bourdain fan. He seems to be famous now just for being a jerk. It doesn’t impress me. I’m all about everyone cooking whether it is with frozen peas or vegetables picked straight from your own garden. Whatever gets people in the kitchen and making their own food is good.

  13. I believe that Anthony Bourdain is a closet stand-up comedian. How long do you think he has been waiting to drop that “German anal porn” reference? His food-based elietism feels like shzick to me.

  14. I’d like to hear what Bourdain has to say about the train wreck new show on FN called ‘Down Home With the Neelys.’ I have been unable to watch an entire segment without turning the channel. Waterboarding may be mild compared to what he might recommend for the Neely’s.

  15. I love food pornography: your blog, Gourmet, Saveur, cook books and other food books including yours, chow.com, the Food network and even Bourdain who I was watching last night on the travel channal. Looking at pictures and TV on food and reading about it is similar to looking and reading about sex; it whets the appititite without fully satisfying. It’s still fun and intersting. Like all TV Net works the FN has a range of quality in their shows. Over all I think they have raised the awarness of good cooking and fine dining for many people but let’s be clear they are entertainment not education. Still there are some excellent recipies on their web site. Even the Neely’s have a cole slaw recipie with hot pepper which is as good as any cole slaw I’ve made (if you like it hot). Bourdain has a fun show and makes me want to visit some of the places he goes but not to cook any of the stuff he eats there. Talk abour German anal porn; looking at him eat that garbage is hard to stomach but still odly facinating.

    Glad yo are associated with the FN

  16. And when some of those people who make Rachael Ray 30 minute meals start to say, “You know what? This is getting boring. I want to make something more complex and rewarding, something intricate and historical and important that takes more than 30 minutes” they can crack open Julia Child and make a cassoulet

    That’s exactly what I did. If it weren’t for the Food Network, I truly believe that I’d still be a little scared of cooking, despite my mother’s best efforts. Those shows made me think “oh, I could do that!” and then encouraged me to actually go out and do it. I’ve kind of “graduated” from Rachael Ray now, but I’ll always be grateful for the “it’s okay, you really can do this!” attitude of her show that got me out of my rut and into the kitchen.

  17. You know, say whatever else you want about Sandra Lee (around my house we call her “The Porn Wife”), but without being an apologist for some of her more egregious acts, she came from less-than-nothing, made more-than-something of herself, and then proceeded to give to others in very significant ways. Just ask L.A.’s AIDS home delivery meal organization, Project Angel Food.

  18. It would have been funny to have a contest where people guessed what Tony was saying under the bleeps. I guess that would have open the floodgates of foul-mouthiness and such. It’d be funny, though. fer sure.

    Well put about the Food Network. I think they have some good/promising shows. I do get angry that Jamie Oliver’s show is on at 8:30 AM on Saturdays, though. Doesn’t seem that thry are trying too hard to reach his demographic. Same with Nigella…9:30 AM on Sundays. I’d much refer to watch Nigella lick creamy sauces off spoons on a Friday night ;)

  19. It would have been funny to have a contest where people guessed what Tony was saying under the bleeps. I guess that would have open the floodgates of foul-mouthiness and such. It’d be funny, though. fer sure.

    Well put about the Food Network. I think they have some good/promising shows. I do get angry that Jamie Oliver’s show is on at 8:30 AM on Saturdays, though. Doesn’t seem that they are trying too hard to reach his demographic. Same with Nigella…9:30 AM on Sundays. I’d much refer to watch Nigella lick creamy sauces off spoons on a Friday night ;)

  20. I don’t like Sandra or Rachel much either but if Rachel Ray can get people to stop eating prepared, processed food I am all for it. If just one family decided to skip McDonald’s or a another box of Hamburger Helper and make something they saw on 30 minute meals, it makes all the “yum-o” comments worthwhile. Plus the popularity of shows like Emeri Live and 30 Minute Meals has had a positive impact on the food landscape. Interest in these and other FN shows has gotten people interested in real cooking and as a result created a demand for products that my local grocery store might not have stocked 5 years ago.

  21. If y’all haven’t checked it out yet, definitely watch an episode or two of Bourdain’s original show “A Cook’s Tour” – it rocks (now being replayed on the Food Network, no less). He seems so much younger and shell-shocked by his nearly-overnight rise to fame (check out Kitchen Confidential as well, if you haven’t – amazing read) – it is truly entertaining stuff – I bet you’ll get hooked on it just like I did. His new show “No Reservations” is great too, but i still think A Cook’s Tour was something really special. Peace.

  22. Lemme tell you something. I love Tony Bourdain. I have “Kitchen Confidential” and watch everything I can of his. On the other hand, I started college when I was 33 years old. I worked nights, had a wife who worked days and two young kids. While I was putting myself through school, I would watch Rachel Ray, pick a meal to serve, make a grocery list, pick up the kids and head to the grocery store. That time I spent teaching my pre-teens how to comparison shop, pick out the freshest meat, fish and vegetables, and avoid grocery store ripoffs. When we got back home, I let them help me prep the food, taught them knife skills and kitchen safety. Dinner was ready when Mom got home and they were proud to tell her how they helped. Today they are men and can prepare a meal from picking a recipe to plating. They have even created original recipes and served them proudly. FN is definitely a gateway to cooking and I am glad to be a fan … I just wish there were a greater span of shows for differing skill levels. (By the way, I was a prolific cook before college, but Rachel made it easy to go to school all day, work at night and put a complete meal on the table in the short time between the two. Thanks Rach.)

  23. the funny thing is that bordain is delicately riding that line between becoming a caricature of himself and still being real. his show on the travel network is still one of the only things i watch on tv and i completely agree with the stupid-ication of the food network.

    i learned a great deal and really respected emeril when he was doing how to boil water, and tried to watch him with the live crap but they have always had problems. They gave us that talentless douche, flay from back in the grillin and chillin days along with mario and AB. There will always be trash and a few bright moments (like feasting on asphalt) but unfortunately Food Network has jumped the shark.

    the fact that mark summers and guy wtf are on tv – TOGETHER marks the final nails in the coffin of FN and that it shall live with MTV as a network that used to be about something and now has nothing to do with what they are named after.

    quality always beats focus groups and ratings. Unfortunately the american public likes velveeta on white bread with a pimento garnish..

  24. Extended interview…gone. All reference to Bourdain on the new (fall 2008) Food Network website…gone. Except exactly one: “Anthony Bourdain’s Rant”.