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"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. To his and everyone else's surprise, it became a hit sensation. (It even spawned a short-lived TV 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 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.
As of June 2012, Tony 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 Tony despised) recently purchased Travel Channel, the new development is not exactly surprising.
Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, now in its 7th season, 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. 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.
Contains examples of:
- Added Alliterative Appeal: The Seven Ps: "Proper prior preparation prevents piss-poor performance."
- Apron Matron: Not quite Once an Episode, but close, and frequently glamorized. Reliable source of a good meal.
- Author Appeal: The Tokyo episode? Spain? Totally blatant self-indulgence, in a good way. Generally places Tony 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 Tony gives off a lot of good telegenic energy in these episodes. As you might figure, these are the "Good Tony" episodes.
- Nari Kye is shown practically begging Tony to go to Korea.
- Cameraman Zach Zamboni talked Tony into visiting Maine, where Zamboni grew up.
- Author Tract: Tony 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.
- Badass Adorable: Tony's daughter Ariane once plucked a crab off her parents' seafood platter, said "Ooh, Sebastian!", then dismembered and ate him. Dad was disturbed but proud.
- Biting the Hand Humour: 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 Tony" 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 Tony into going to Korea and later had him do outdoorsy things in Vancouver.
- Catch Phrase: 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.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: Tony getting dragged to a noraebang (karaoke room) by Nari in the Korea episode. The shot of a despondent Tony hugging a giant pink teddy bear surrounded by perky Korean girls is just the capper.
- As Tony demonstrated (most likely for the Rule of Funny), it's implied that merely not liking ABBA will get you thrown in prison in Sweden.
- Cool Old Guy: Anthony, arguably. Most of the older chefs (IE Mario Batali's dad the sausage maker, the grill specialist from Italy, the mad gastronomist of Washington DC...)
- Conspicuous Consumption: Tony certainly feels conspicuous when his classic Hawaiian shirt turns out to be
2,0003,000 dollars (this was before the Chase card).
- 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. Tony almost felt guilty.
- Combat Pragmatist: In Indonesia, Tony 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". Tony 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.
- Cluster F-Bomb:
Guide: Tony, I used to be really afraid of you...cause...you would use the F-word all the time!
- Continuity Nod: The political unrest during a visit to Thailand reminded the crew of "an earlier misadventure", alluding to the Beirut episode.
- Crossover: His time with Adam Richman in the special Exploring America.
- Deadpan Snarker: Tony 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 Tony's childhood, with only the food and drinks in color.
- Different As Night and Day: Tony and his younger brother Chris: Tony 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, Tony has white(ish) hair and brown eyes while his brother has brown hair and blue eyes.
- Disney Acid Sequence: Tony has one in the southern California desert, to the sound of 'Spiders and Vinegaroons' by Queens of the Stone Age.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Tony 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 Tony.
- Despite being an atheist, Tony 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: Tony 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 Packer's undefeated 2011 season.
- Follow the Leader: Gordon Ramsay's World Travels, Independent Film Channel's Man Shops Globe (their guy even looks rather like Tony).
- 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".
- Foreign Queasine: See Extreme Omnivore above.
- Genki Girl: Nari Kye from the Korea episode ("Are you always this cheerful? You're really starting to annoy me"), who's also a Big Eater and a Bottle Fairy. She becomes much more solemn as she spends time with her grandfather, which does not escape Tony's notice.
- Grandpa What Massive Hotness You Have: Seriously, look at the dude. A Tall, Dark and Snarky, tattooed former hard-living badass chef, who still wears the hell out of a pair of jeans and once posed naked (NSFW) with only a large piece of meat covering his - well, you get the idea.
- Going Native: One thing Tony 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, Tony 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. Tony 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 Tony visits a location/tries something a tourist would.
- 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 are more to Arabic people than terrorism and oil.
- Holiday in Cambodia: Thoroughly averted: Tony 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.
- Homage: The Godfather and The Sopranos in New Jersey, black & white French New Wave and Fellini films, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, for starters.
- Honor Before Reason: One of the better uses of this trope. Word Of Tony 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.
- Hot Dad
- 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").
- Tony 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 Tony, 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 "Tony's existential dilemma" theme of the episode, a la Frederico 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" Tony in Mafia fashion and dropping a Sopranos Shout-Out, the two New Jerseyite guests (one being Mario Batali) complain about how hurtful Tony stereotyping them as mobsters was.
- I Call It Vera: In the 2011 Holiday Special, a fallen Samantha Brown introduces Tony to "Paula," her pistol (which she then blasts him with). Cue a candle beside a Tony cutout getting blown out, and her sobbing or laughing. (With Tony 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.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Tony, himself.
- Karma Houdini: The guy who admitted to stealing money from his own mother to buy crack winds up being paid to travel around the world and eat amazing food (though his good brother's life wasn't bad either).
- Tony'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, Tony 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: Tony falls squarely into the meat camp and mocks vegetarians frequently, except for the rare ones that can actually cook well.
- Milestone Celebration: "100 episodes isn't enough, but we're celebrating it anyway."
- 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 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 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; Tony explained that only talking to people with the same opinions as yours is boring.
- One Head Taller: Tony to nearly everybody, including all the chefs at his old job.
- Paper Fan of Doom: Tony was smacked with one while in Osaka while spending the day with a Manzai duo. According to Tony, it really hurts.
- The Password Is Always Swordfish: To the private poker game in the Las Vegas episode.
- Poorly-Disguised Pilot: At The Table, a foray into the talkshow format.
- Product Placement: Tony 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.
- 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.
- Reality Subtext: The Lebanon episode took a dramatic turn when Israel started bombing Beirut mid shoot. The crew was trapped in a hotel for weeks. They still did the show, using pre-conflict footage, as well as footage of the host and crew dealing with the stress of being in the war zone and Anthony cooking a meal at the hotel, and the escape from Lebanon. If the TV Info is right, they're going to give Lebanon another shot.
- Also the Tuscany episode, when the guest director, with a background in artistic cinema had a vision for the episode clashing with Anthony's one on a basic level, they spend half the episode fighting, until they make peace at the end. Although Word of God is that this was entirely staged.
- In the latest Vietnam episode, his trip there is partly spurred by the death of Madame Ngoc, restaurant owner and Apron Matron he first met in A Cook's Tour. One segment also showed him house shopping - he's said in interviews that he intends to move his family to Southeast Asia and live there for a few years.
- Record Needle Scratch: Used about 5-6 times over a few seconds when Tony was in Italy, when New York City's Italian population and their cooking skills were brought into question and doubt by the locals.
- Running Gag: The stunt fish.
- Sacred Hospitality: Serious Business for Tony. 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.)
- Scenery Porn: The No Reservations camera crew have netted themselves two Emmy Awards for cinematography (2009 and 2011) and this is partly why.
- Screw the War, We're Partying: The Beirut episode. Until it gets worse.
- Self Deprecating Humour: Whenever his ego isn't filling the screen, Tony resorts to this. In later seasons, the ego gets less airtime, and the self-deprecation gets more.
- Shown Their Work / He Really Can Cook: Tony goes back to his old kitchen in Les Halles Brassiere to work the line for a day. Doubly hilarious as all the other cooks are Mexican ("Mexico is the best part of France") and Tony is One Head Taller then all of them. For the dinner rush he enlists the help of a four-star chef partially because he really needs the help and partially because he wants to watch the guy go down in flames since he'd never been a line cook, ever. To Tony's relief/annoyance the guy does superbly and almost considers the night fun.
- 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. 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 Tony himself.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Bourdain is a cynic at heart but his travels around the world have tended to add more weight to the idealism side of the scale.
- As noted above, even Travel Channel notes this in its advertising for the show ("Good Tony" vs. "Bad Tony")
- Smoking Is Cool: Tony does NOT hide his love of cigarettes. However, he did finally quit by necessity when he and his second wife Ottavia had little Arianne. He gets a reprieve in Egypt where he gets to enjoy a hookah, offering Blatant Lies about how much he most certainly isn't enjoying this.
- Sophisticated As Hell: Oh god, just read the man's writing.
- 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 Tony (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 Tony'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".
- Sound Effects Bleep
- Spin-Off : Arguably Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Food/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 Tony is snarking away at hard-boiled poetics, Andrew is optimistically waxing nostalgia.
- Take That: He frequently takes potshots at Rachel Ray, The Food Network, and mainstream chain restaurants like TGIFridays and Chili's.
- Tall, Dark and Snarky: Tony, and HOW.
- Tastes Like Chicken: In the Uruguay episode, Tony begrudgingly admits that Armadillo does taste like chicken.
- Too Much Information: The stress of the first Beiruit shoot led to Tony and the future Mrs. Tony to create their daughter. It's sweet, in a PTSD sorta way.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Tony loves pork, sea urchin and any "meat in tube form."
- He also loves the parts of cows and pigs that aren't normally eaten.
- Not to mention his oft-referred to "death-row last meal": beef bone marrow.
- Training From Hell: In preparation for a visit to Kurdistan AKA Northern Iraq.
- Travelogue Show
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Tony and his wife, mainly because she really doesn't want to be on camera and is always wearing giant sunglasses when she is.
- Tony and Nari in the Korea episode.
- Writer Revolt: If Bourdain doesn't like something, the audience will hear about it, loudly (generally as an aside or in voice over if he needs to not insult a host). One memorable rant occurred when the producer/cameraman asked him to say something eloquent about waterfalls while they were filming one in Indonesia: the response can be summed up as "It's a *bleep*-ing beautiful waterfall, it doesn't need commentary!"