Sunday, September 16, 2007

An Open Letter to Anthony Bourdain

Tony, Tony, Tony...what in God's name has become of you?

When Kitchen Confidential first came out it took the food world by storm, forever changing the way people thought, and wrote, about how restaurants operate behind the scenes. You wrote with a rugged honesty, and you weren't afraid to cast aspersions on the sacred cows and media giants of the food world.

When you started doing a Food Network Series, I was worried. There you were, swearing and chain smoking as you swaggered around adorned with an earring and a faded Ramone's shirt. Very rebellious stuff...if it were 1977. But the show, A Cook's Tour, was a breath of fresh air on the otherwise staid network. It had a more realistic feel and, impressively, a more cinematic quality than anything the Food Network has had on before or since. Try though they may, the Network execs can't match it. (Pity poor nerdy Alton Brown who they have tried to dress up as a cool biker and send "on the road.")

Now, I haven't seen your Travel Channel show, so maybe I'm missing something there, but sometime in the last few years, things started to go wrong...

Your latest book, The Nasty Bits, while provocatively titled, is a pretty average collection of essays. Strangely, though, you added a section of "Commentary," essentially a post-hoc apologia for each essay. Oh, you were sorry! You shouldn't have said such mean things about Emeril or Bobby or Mario; hey, we're all in this together, we celebrity chefs.

And now, you sit as a judge on Top Chef, hurling the vitriol you used to save for the rich and powerful at the hapless line cooks who are just trying to get their hands on $100,000 or a set of ovens or whatever it is you get for winning Top Chef.

Don't you see what's happened, Tony? You used to be the Hunter S. Thompson of food media, and now you're the Simon Cowell, and in my book, that's a big step down.

Part of me still has hope though, hope that the real Anthony Bourdain is bound and gagged and being held hostage by GE (Bravo's parent company) because he is still too dangerous. Maybe he's in a vault in a refrigerator factory somewhere or a dungeon under Jay Leno's office (NBC being, of course, another GE subsidiary) struggling to get out. Meanwhile, the Top Chef Bourdain is a look-alike or an android or a hologram...well, I can hope, can't I?


Anonymous said...

People make it to the top and then lose whatever it was that got them there. I've seen it with novelists, too. Great first few books, then the rest are skippable.

Bon Vivant said...

Great post! How many times can we hear about how he ate something completely disgusting and how sick he became afterwards?

OT: I was dying for pupusas on Saturday so mumsy and I headed on over to El Buen Gusto in Atwater. The pupusas were great and not at all greasy.

sku said...

BV, thanks for the tip, I am ALWAYS on the hunt for great pupusas.