Many people find adventures to be great, as long as they're confined to movie theaters, TV sets or the bedroom. They do NOT want eating to be adventurous.
Then there's Anthony Bourdain, who makes everything -- including dinner time -- a grand adventure. His latest show has already been renewed for the fall, halfway through its first season. Here's the story I sent to papers; also, please check the previous blog on this weekend's Gordie Howe movie:
By MIKE HUGHES
Bizarre pleasures have passed before
Anthony Bourdain's eyes and into his stomach.
He's been to odd places, eaten odd
things. Yet, it's tough to top a recent surprise: Inside an
ice-fishing shack was a full French dinner, on fine china. “It was
very strange and very wonderful,” he said.
That's in a CNN series – just renewed
for next season – that follows the chef-author around the globe.
Previous hours ranged from Myanmar (formerly Burma) to Colombia; the
next one takes him to Quebec, including that fishing shack, for
French food … which is really how this all started.
Flash back 47 years, to when Bourdain
was 9. He was with his family aboard the Queen Mary and largely
disinterested … until he tried vichyssoise. For the rest of the
European vacation, he devoured French food with increasing glee. “It
was the type of experience that resonates,” he said.
This was a family – French roots on
his father's side, Russian-German on his mother's – with a passion
for worldly food and stories. “It was a house full of books,”
Bourdain recalled. “My parents read a lot; my dad would read me
'Wind in the Willows' or Robin Hood.”
There were movies – Mel Brooks and
Alec Guinness and such – that further stirred his mind. “Being a
little narcissistic, I could go escape and play and pretend
Many people outgrow playfulness;
Bourdain didn't. A privileged education – private school, Vassar
College – was scuttled. “I was a thoroughly undisciplined young
man,” he once wrote, “blithely flunking or fading out of college
…. I spent most of my waking hours drinking, smoking pot and doing
my best to amuse, outrage, impress and penetrate anyone silly enough
to find me entertaining.”
Many people did; 6-foot-4, handsome and
witty, Bourdain had a busy social life. He only lasted two years at
Vassar, but he had found his place working summers in Cape Cod
kitchens; next came the Culinary Institute of America and then New
The front of a restaurant may be
elegant, he said, but the back is something else. Kitchen people tend
to be blue-collar, independent “and sensualists”; they can be
rogues and rock 'n' rollers.
Their world was unknown … until he
described it in a New Yorker piece and a book.
Bourdain was confident he could write –
his mother was a New York Times copy editor – and could engage
people. “I knew I was an entertaining storyteller;” he said. “I
could make people laugh. But I thought this was a niche-market
book,” mostly aimed at chefs and New Yorkers.
Instead, “Kitchen Confidential”
(2000) became a best-seller. Publishers Weekly called it
“surprisingly beautiful” and New York magazine called it “utterly
riveting.” There have been 10 more books, and even a situation
comedy – Fox's “Kitchen Confidential” in 2005 – that had
Bradley Cooper, later proclaimed “the sexiest man alive,” playing
a chef designed after Bourdain.
Now Bourdain is a New York chef and a
TV traveler, eating everything without being judgmental (“I'm not a
food critic”) or gaining weight. “I don't snack; if I eat a big
meal, … it's the only one of the day.”
His first two series were on the Travel
Channel; then, Bourdain said, CNN contacted him. It was a logical
link: “After they've been in Libya and Iraq, they won't object if I
go to Colombia.”
The link has worked. For the time slot,
CNN says Bourdain has doubled its overall ratings and quadrubled its
audience ages 25-54. It has already renewed the show for a new season
begnning Sept.15, ranging from India to Sicily.
And yes, he sometimes stay home and
cooks for the family. His wife, .a jiu-jitsu fighter, eats virtually
no carbs; their daughter, 6, helps cook. “She loves standing on a
chair next to me, making omelets.” Chances are, those aren't times
when he tells his epic stories of the drug culture and the sex
– “Anthony Bourdain: Parts
Unknown,” 9 p.m. ET Sundays, CNN, preceded by a rerun at 8
– May 5 has Colombia at 8 p.m. and
Quebec at 9; those two repeat at midnight and 3 a.m.; other reruns
include 11 p.m. Fridays and 9-11 p.m. Saturdays. Previous Bourdain
shows rerun on Travel Channel.
– Four new episodes remain this
season – Tangier, Libya, Peru and the Congo