Monday, February 11, 2008

No Reservations (Anthony Bourdain)

Anthony Bourdain does not have kind words for vegetarians. Yet I like him. I think that says a lot about him (or maybe it says a lot about me). He can explain his rationale clearly: Most of the world does not have the option to eat a vegetarian diet, and when visiting these people, you will disgrace your guests by refusing the food they, who are often very poor, have prepared in your honor. (He has the same argument when it comes to the local liquor of choice.) Food unites people.

Bourdain's life has changed immensely since he first published Kitchen Confidential, which many considered to be an expose of the restaurant world. Since then, he has written many other books, and now has his second television show, No Reservations, which is on the Travel Channel. (He does not have the kindest of words for the Food Network, which was the home of his first show, A Cook's Tour.) He loves his job, and rightfully so. No Reservations goes where he wants. It's a small production crew (only five at most working on a shoot), and if a planned scene goes bad, they ditch it and see what else they can find. He does not have to take a bite of food and smile through his teeth for the camera if he doesn't like it. He does, however, often get invited to dance by the locals, something I'm sure the production crew loves because it always provides good television. (He hates dancing, looks incredibly awkward, and has on his sheepish smile the entire time.)

Bourdain's book No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach is a nice supplement to the television series. Bourdain's quick to point out in the introduction that he's "done [his] very best not to make this some cynical, cheap-ass 'companion' book to the series, filled---as those things so often are--with excerpts from voice-over scripts, a few maps, and a bunch of blurry photos taken from the show." The photographs featured are taken by the production crew on location for the Travel Channel website.

If you've watched the series, the book will remind you of some of the show's greatest moments. Each country's section has an introductory text, providing background information on the logistics of the shoot, followed by beautiful photographs. If you haven't seen the show but are a Bourdain fan, this will probably get you started watching. It's a good book to have around, for guests to flip through (though you may want to put the book on a shelf around dinnertime if you have guests who prefer not to see photographs of dead animals waiting to become dinner).

Bourdain is known to have quite the mouth. He's had words for the Food Network, for Emeril, for Rachael Ray, among others. But what I really like about him is that while he speaks his mind, he's also the first to point out when he's wrong or when his opinions have changed (e.g., Emeril can actually cook, Bourdain has noted, and is really a nice guy). Even though many people may find him abrasive, what you see is honestly what he is, and that rings true in this book.

1 comment:

Maewen Archer said...

The only time I watched Anthony Bourdain, he was eating half a sheep's head. When he excitedly popped the eyeball into his mouth, I had to turn the TV off -- never to return. I'm sure he's eater weirder things, but I don't have the stomach.