"I'm Anthony Bourdain. I write, I travel, I eat... and I'm hungry... FOR MORE."
Once upon a time, a hard talking, chain smoking chef who had worked his way through several failures to become a fairly respectable chef at a NYC French restaurant, Les Halles, wrote a tell-all book: Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (2000). To his and everyone else's surprise, it became a hit sensation. (It even spawned the short-lived Kitchen Confidential series).Deciding the writer's life might be worth continuing on given the seemingly inevitable burnout of working 12 hour shifts in the busy kitchen, he conceives of another book, a travelogue in which he visits different places around the world in search of "the perfect meal". To his surprise and horror the Food Network — an institution he is and was an outspoken critic of — got wind of the idea and wanted to make it into a television show. The book and the show became A Cook's Tour and Anthony Bourdain became a television host.The show ran 35 episodes and attained something akin to cult hit status. The book chronicles several pages of behind the scenes instances of "why you should never do a TV show" — many of which owe a lot to Anthony Bourdain's don't-want-to-put-up-with-this-shit and tell-it-like-it-is demeanor which account partly for his appeal. However, according to his newer book "The Nasty Bits", the Food Network was not going to renew the show because they want more shows that cater to average folks with barbecues and limited interest in foreign cuisines. After being abandoned by their own production company, the Travel Channel (who would give him a lot more free reign and creative control) picked up the show and it became No Reservations.Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations (2005-2012), which concluded after 8 seasons, works on the premise of using food as a window into the culture that they are visiting. "In the world of a cook," says the show's promo blurb, "an understanding and appreciation of how others eat is akin to discovering secret societies and cryptic subcultures. Cooks have special access. As always, the food is only the first glimpse of a wider view of how people live their lives in faraway lands and unfamiliar territories." The show has a number of defining characteristics that lend to its popularity. Anthony Bourdain's ever present snark and hard honesty are one. His willingness to eat many things Westerners might not — a beating cobra's heart in Vietnam back on A Cook's Tour, raw bloody seal with an Inuit family on the kitchen floor in Canada, assorted tasty offal ("the nasty bits" he lovingly calls them) and the like are another. His tendency to end up in humiliating situations — they may or may not involve significant quantities of alcohol — in which Hilarity Ensues is another.As of June 2012, Anthony announced via his tumblr that No Reservation is ending its run after 8 seasons and he would be moving with his production team to CNN. Considering that the parent company of Food Network (which Anthony despised) recently purchased Travel Channel, the new development is not exactly surprising.
Author Appeal: The Tokyo episode? Spain? Totally blatant self-indulgence, in a good way. Generally places Anthony has visited before (off-camera or on A Cook's Tour) and episodes with the highest Food Porn quotient.
Perhaps a rare case where this trope is for the better, as Anthony gives off a lot of good telegenic energy in these episodes. As you might figure, these are the "Good Anthony" episodes.
Nari Kye is shown practically begging Anthony to go to Korea.
Cameraman Zach Zamboni talked Anthony into visiting Maine, where Zamboni grew up.
One fan got the chance to take Anthony on a tour of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Author Tract: Anthony editorializes all the time, but more specifically, when he gets political. The US-Mexico Border episode on immigration, for example.
As with the above, at least with many cases, a rare case for the better, especially when said Author Tract forces him off on another tract where he waxes poetic nostalgia. You get a pretty good sense of what he's feeling here.
Biting-the-Hand Humor: The Travel Network and his producers are frequently the targets of his snark. Taken to the extreme for his 2011 "holiday special."
Butt Monkey: Anthony often being put in situations that result in his embarrassment, humiliation or otherwise stuff he would rather not do in the name of entertainment, more so in A Cook's Tour and earlier seasons of No Reservations than lately.
As with Author Appeal, these tend to be the "Bad Anthony" episodes.
Also cameraman Todd who frequently breaks things and is given a lot of shit for it. Probably was deserved when he knocked over an entire day's worth of ingredients at a restaurant. Twice.
Minor case in producer Nari, who strong-armed Anthony into going to Korea and later had him do outdoorsy things in Vancouver. Her "Reward" for this involves holding a small umbrella for Anthony in the rain, making absurd stuff anthony happened to want (such as 20 yard of black latex).
Catch Phrase: Anthony Bourdain likes to end seemingly negative descriptions with "in a good way".
Christmas Episode: the "It's a Holiday, Everyday" episode, which shows the best way to celebrate the generic nondenominational holiday season by celebrating the best ways to serve up and cook a cow.
The feast at El Bulli, which included a simple fried cookie covered with slices of black truffles followed by another little thing covered with black truffles. Anthony almost felt guilty.
In the Haiti episode, shot after the earthquake in 2010, he eats 2 servings of food guiltily while hungry children watch. He eventually buys them food as well.
Combat Pragmatist: In Indonesia, Anthony watched as people practiced the martial art of Silat. At one point, some guys pulled out knives and dashed at another, who pushed them back with their "Inner Spirit". Anthony mentions that it reminded him of The Force. He pointed out that if a knife-wielding maniac came at him, he wouldn't rely on his inner spirit. He's always been a practitioner of the ancient martial art of firearms.
Deadpan Snarker: Anthony himself, especially in voiceovers. He's mentioned a few times that he's very proud of his snarkish ways.
Except in the Iceland episode, when his snarkiest moments were in the moment. Of course, it arguably reached an inversion in this episode when he got so fed up at how horrible things were gone that his snark stopped being deadpan.
Deliberately Monochrome: The Rome episode, to evoke the Italian films of Anthony's childhood, with only the food and drinks in color.
Even Evil Has Standards: Anthony is an atheist and known for being pretty irreverent, but apparently seeing a tourist at the Blue Mosque in Istanbul wearing a bustier, short-shorts, and stripper shoes is the last straw. Snark all you like, but don't disrespect someone's religion around Anthony.
Despite being an atheist, Anthony has actually shown genuine respect for people he considers truly devout, and some of his more introspective and philosophical moments in the show are when visiting many religious sites. His trips to India, Machu Pichu and visiting the waterfall in Osaka are good examples of moments when he's declared that he can actually understand why the people there consider these places sacred. Basically, he may be an atheist, but he's not spiritually empty. Or an unrepentant asshole atheist.
Extreme Omnivore: The guy likes to eat some things that pretty much no one else will consume. Some of it he genuinely loves (durian, most offal), others (like fermented shark and other traditional "delicacies" from Iceland, ostrich egg scrambled in ashes and wildebeest anus with bushmen in Ghana) he would rather not have at all but his sense of honor dictates that he must accept them as a gracious guest when they are offered.
Fake Ultimate Hero: Anthony hypes up Zamir to the audience as this in Kansas City. He believes that Zamir's willingness to join in the tailgating festivities in the parking lot is the single defining factor of how the Kansas City Chiefs managed to smash the Green Bay Packers' undefeated 2011 season.
Fan Disservice: The Turkish bath scene. Also, the Food Porn Special scene in which Martin Picard and his crew dine in their skivvies.
Follow the Leader: Gordon Ramsay's World Travels, Independent Film Channel's Man Shops Globe (their guy even looks rather like Anthony).
Food Porn: A staple of every episode, with occasional episodes you gotta figure he went to the location particularly to indulge in it - a recent Japan episode comes to mind. He even did a whole show titled "Food Porn", both analyzing the trope and reveling in examples of it (all from chefs at previous shoots but using footage not shown from them before.) And then a sequel, just because.
When he appeared on The Martha Stewart Show (along with a durian), he asked the other guests what their food porn would be; surprisingly Martha was stumped since she'd never thought about it before ("Um... durian?").
In his newest book, Medium Raw, Anthony devotes a chapter to lyrical descriptions of some recent favorite meals, going into explicit and impassioned detail. The title of the chapter is "Lust".
It can be argued that any episodes that involve Singapore and the Penang episode is pure Food Porn, focusing mostly on Tony stuffing his mouth with food with little in way of actual content. Heck, he is all but reduced into a blubbering, mumbling idiot over a bowl of noodles at one point in the Penang episode!
Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: At the beginning of the "Back to Beirut" episode, Tony recounts that this is what happened with then-girlfriend Otavia the night he returned home after being evacuated from the Beirut war, resulting in the conception of his daughter.
Going Native: One thing Anthony always tries to avoid is doing the tourist thing(he considers himself a traveler and guest, not a tourist). He constantly reminds viewers that, no matter what country you go to, the good food is where the locals eat, and that the most breathtaking places and interesting cultural events are hidden away from the tourist spots.
He was especially adamant about this in the New York episode, insistently stating that Times Square is a Disneyfied version of New York, while true New Yorkers live in the nitty-gritty.
In Cambodia, Anthony was forced to get the exact same haircut and style as pretty much EVERY OTHER MALE in the country. Not because the producers said so, but because it's the only thing that the barbers do. Just that one hairstyle. Anthony protested, of course, but it didn't do him any good.
Hidden Depths: Who would've thought the world's snarkiest man was fascinated by the art of Japanese flower arranging?
In the Vienna episode, one of the camera crew reveals he knows size conversions for clothing between American and European.
Hollywood Atlas: the show is set out to avert stereotypes. It's always lampshaded whenever Anthony visits a location/tries something a tourist would.
The first two episodes that took place in Japan was to expose the culture of Japan that Westerners aren't exactly familiar with.
One good example of this is his trip to Saudi Arabia. Right from the get-go, he was determined to show (and be proven himself) that there is more to Arab people than terrorism and oil.
Anthony's determination to avoid visiting the Pyramids becomes a Running Gag throughout the Egypt episode.
Holiday in Cambodia: Thoroughly averted: Anthony loves Southeast Asia, especially Vietnam, and has covered it extensively. It makes sense: Southeast Asia has probably the greatest density of diverse cuisines in the world.
Honor Before Reason: One of the better uses of this trope. Word Of Anthony is that some of the things he's eaten and drunk (see Extreme Omnivore above) have left him intensely ill, spewing violently from both ends, or astoundingly hung over (or a combination of all three). But, as noted in Sacred Hospitality below, it would be disrespectful to do otherwise.
Ho Yay: Anthony and Zamir have a certain... chemistry when they're together.
Invoked, according to an informal Twitter game of "Fuck, Marry, Kill" - he'd fuck Tyler Florence (who is "cute"), he'd marry Guy Fieri ("he's husband material"), and he'd kill Bobby Flay (because he "doesn't trust him").
Anthony has a bit of an ongoing hetero lifemates thing going on with Eric Ripert, and whenever he's around Marco Pierre White (like the London ep), they bro out and go off on adventures.
Hype Aversion: Invoked by Anthony, who had never been to "touristy" places like Las Vegas and Hawaii because of hype aversion, and is rather embarrassed about never giving them a chance. Sort of related, he also despises foodies and was rather disappointed that the luxurious house in Vietnam was next to a destination cooking school ("Maybe I can bomb that bridge and be like Col. Kurtz: 'He's gone mad, they say, his methods have become unorthodox...'"). He also decided not to disclose the first, locals-only restaurant he eats at in Rome for fear of overrunning it with tourists ("I kill what I love").
With regards to the Rome episode, the issue of "killing what [he] loves" is part of the overall tongue-in-cheek "Anthony's existential dilemma" theme of the episode, a la Federico Fellini (which he was trying to invoke by shooting in black and white)
He refused to go to the freaking Pyramids of Giza just because he felt it was over-hyped and had too many tourists.
Hypocritical Humour: After "executing" Anthony in Mafia fashion and dropping a SopranosShout-Out, the two New Jerseyite guests (one being Mario Batali) complain about how hurtful Anthony stereotyping them as mobsters was.
I Call It Vera: In the 2011 Holiday Special, a fallen Samantha Brown introduces Anthony to "Paula," her pistol (which she then blasts him with). Cue a candle beside a Anthony cutout getting blown out, and her sobbing or laughing. (With Anthony becoming big and the rise of Andrew Zimmern and Adam Richman in his wake, the "guys and food" thing pushed her "perky and cute" shtick to the side.)
It Came from the Fridge: The New Orleans episode has (thankfully) brief footage of someone cleaning out a walk-in freezer upon returning to the city in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Just for the Heli of It: Subverted in the Sao Paulo, Brazil episode: Anthony Bourdain and his friend hop in a helicopter to fly across town rather than drive. It's set up as gratuitous until Bourdain mentions in a voiceover that people who stick to the street need armored cars and defensive driving courses because street crime horrific traffic are such serious problems there.
Anthony's extensively covered his bad years and the dues he'd paid in Kitchen Confidential. While the book and TV deal was definitely a big break for him, it's not as if he hasn't suffered the consequences of his decisions.
Knife Nut: At a chef-friendly bar in New Orleans, Anthony and another chef compare their knife sets.
The chef's whites (coveralls) at Les Halles feature a skull with a chef's hat and a knife in its teeth.
Meat Versus Veggies: Anthony falls squarely into the meat camp and mocks vegetarians frequently, except for the rare ones that can actually cook well.
Motor Mouth: Ishad from the Istanbul episode. Producer Nari Kye.
Must Have Nicotine: To the point that his visit to The French Laundry included a nicotine sorbet made out of Anthony Bourdain's favourite brand of cigarettes, exclusively for him. He eventually did quit when his daughter was born.
Mystery Meat: On one installment set in a backwoods joint somewhere in southeast Asia, the usually-up-for-anything Anthony Bourdain was visibly nervous about a butchered small animal carcass referred to as "sqweezil." Apparently, it's porcupine.
Odd Friendship: With right-wingers like Ted Nugent; Anthony explained that only talking to people with the same opinions as yours is boring. A good example is how he bonded with right-wing radio host Howie Carr in the Boston episode over Mob history (Carr was a staunch enemy of Whitey Bulger and was almost rubbed out by him at one point) and food. When Carr has Anthony on his show, Nugent even calls in!
One Head Taller: Anthony to nearly everybody, including all the chefs at his old job.
Paper Fan of Doom: Anthony was smacked with one while in Osaka while spending the day with a manzai duo. According to Anthony, it really hurts.
Polar Opposite Twins: Anthony and his younger brother Chris: Anthony is full of nervous energy, Must Have Nicotine (and booze), was until recently a bachelor, had a high-energy job as a chef and is currently traveling around the world; Chris on the other hand is very easy-going, is not known as a party animal, has a nice family, a respectable job as a stock broker and settled down on a farm in South America. Additionally, Anthony has white(ish) hair and brown eyes while his brother has brown hair and blue eyes.
Product Placement: Anthony rather obviously pays for some meals with a Chase Sapphire card. Possibly lampshading it, as he tends to make a big gesture at it, with no attempt at making it seem coincidental or natural.
The concept is parodied too. In Vienna he mentions that he's being paid no money at all for namechecking Jagermeister. Then a minute later drinks from some "convenient, airline sized" Jagermeister shots.
Joked about it in the Singapore episode, where he claims the food at the Hyatt is amazing and is not being paid to say that.
Rant Inducing Slight: At a restaurant in Rome. The waitress, who's also the daughter of the owner and the chef's cousin, is extremely proud of her restaurant's cooking and was kind of annoyed about them removing the seasonal cucumber flowers from the meal, and then her father got annoyed that she got annoyed, which then annoyed her cousin. Additionally, at least one patron was annoyed at the crew shooting during meal time.
Record Needle Scratch: Used about 5-6 times over a few seconds when Anthony was in Italy, when New York City's Italian population and their cooking skills were brought into question and doubt by the locals.
Sacred Hospitality: Serious Business for Anthony. As so many people (often from cultures that hold to Sacred Hospitality themselves) let him into their homes and go out of their way to cook meals for him, in return he strives to be a gracious guest. Even if the food is bad or if he has to drink way more liquor than he would really care to. (When the offered meal is around the fire of bushmen in Namibia and the meal is rubbery ostrich egg cooked in ashes and the barely-cleaned anus of a warthog, this becomes quite the struggle.)
In the Malaysia episode, he learns that it is customary for the guest to kill the pig used for the feast that night. Anthony expresses his dread for having to do this in the voice over, though doesn't seem too put off by it on camera. Later on, in the New Orleans episode, he's asked to slaughter the pig for a Cajun feast by shooting it, and he doesn't appear to display any serious qualms about doing so on this occasion either.
Scenery Porn: The No Reservations camera crew have netted themselves two Emmy Awards for cinematography (2009 and 2011) and this is partly why.
Not quite. Eric Ripert had been a line cook, for some of the best chefs in the world (Robuchon, Bouley, Palladin) - you don't get to be a 4-star chef without a strong cooking background. What he'd never done was cook at a place like Les Halles. A 4-star kitchen has a large number of cooks working on a small number of very complicated dishes each, ensuring that every detail is perfect; Les Halles has one cook per station, each cooking a large number of simpler dishes; the challenge is the volume. Anthony Bourdain thinks that 4-star cooks can't handle the pace of his world; unfortunately, Ripert was able to rise to the challenge better than Anthony himself.
In the Provence episode, Anthony volunteers to cook a meal for his local friends (including the sister of the woman whom he named his daughter after) and expresses considerable trepidation, given the excellence of Provencal cuisine and cooks, that he's bitten off more than he can chew. Happily, his efforts are received with great favor (particularly as Anthony made a conscious effort to stay away from trying to ape Provencal specialties).
Probably best exemplified by the omelet theory from the Techniques Special:
"I have long believed that it is only right and appropriate that before one sleeps with someone, one should be able - if called upon to do so - to make them a proper omelet in the morning. Surely that kind of civility and selflessness would be both good manners and good for the world. Perhaps omelet skills should be learned at the same time you learn to fuck. Perhaps there should be an unspoken agreement that in the event of the loss of virginity, the more experienced of the partners, should, afterward, make the other an omelet - passing along the skill at an important and presumably memorable moment."
So You Want To: Cook Good Meals The Best Possible Way: The "Techniques Special" shows the best way to make: a hamburger (demonstrated by a Frenchman), steak and beef bourguignon by Anthony (when the steak is done but still sizzling, leave. It. Alone.), roast chicken by Thomas Keller (the five-star chef who showed the Ratatouille crew how to make delicious food), authentic Italian spaghetti and red sauce (by Scott Conant, whom Chopped audiences will recognize), French fries (by Anthony's Mexican ex-grill man who is now the chef at Les Halles), and an omelet (by Jacques Pepin). Apparently, the secret to the latter is to crack eggs on flat surfaces to prevent bacteria from getting in. Also, "after a night out with a virgin, the one with the most experience should make it for breakfast the next morning".
Spinoff : Arguably Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Foods/ Bizarre World series is a spinoff of No Reservations. It debuted after the first season of No Res, and features a chef/food personality, who travel around the world to eat. However, Zimmern's show is much more earnest and much less snarky.
There's even an extended crossover episode (featuring New York) that ends (or is that begins?) with the two hosts literally walking from one show into the other. It also highlights the artistic differences between the two; while Anthony is snarking away at hard-boiled poetics, Andrew is optimistically waxing nostalgia.
A sublplot of the "Rio de Janiero" episode, which is focused on his wife. His wife started training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu after the birth of their daughter, and still is. Takes this further for the end-of-episode Brazilian Jiu Jitsu match. She wins.
Vitriolic Best Buds: Anthony and his wife, mainly because she really doesn't want to be on camera and is always wearing giant sunglasses when she is.
Anthony and Nari in the Korea episode.
In the spring of 2012, Bourdain Channel Hopped to CNN with his new series Parts Unknown. Tropes appearing in Parts Unknown:
Author Appeal: The Congo episode comes from Bourdain's fascination with "Heart of Darkness"
Disproportionate Retribution: Bourdain calls the Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist who accompanies him in Detroit a food-"Philistine" in the narration and says to him in person "If you ever did that in my restaurant (pour his gimlet into the soup and say it tastes better in front of the chef) I'd cut your throat"!
It's not a new fantasy — in his comic book Bourdain imagines a world ruled by food-mafias and anyone who can't eat a sushi properly forfeits his head.
Food Porn: The point of the Lyon episode, which is basically a paean to the culinary traditions of that French city and culminates in a visit with one of Anthony's idols, legendary chef Paul Bocuse. (Anthony's guide in this episode is another renowned French chef, Daniel Boulud.)
Homage: A factoid from the Koreatown episode is that the camera crew referenced Collateral for nighttime driving scenes.
Mad Artist: Hedonistic Korean-American artist Dave Choe. He paints Anthony's portrait while still in his bedclothes, then takes him to Sizzler (admittedly a place Anthony has never been) while wearing a bright red suit. Additionally, he's got weapons hidden all over his studio (it's in west LA after all) plus an AK-47 pinata and his portions feature low-riders and a gaggle of hot women in bikinis. His mom is just as creative and weird (if not weirder), drawing all over family photos and stapling doily angels to her son's portrait of Barack Obamathat hung in the White House.
Scenery Gorn: The abandoned Packard plant in Detroit, Michigan (horrible paraphrasing: "The only other place I've been to that looks like that — seriously — was Chernobyl") is called Scenery Gorn in all but name. The one guy who lives there reports that people come from all over to explore, do graffiti, and take pictures.