‘Cynical but Essentially Guileless’


A whole chapter follows parsing the advantages of selling out; it is as
torturous in its self-examination as a seminarian’s confession.
Bourdain isn’t famous because he knows so much about restaurant cooking
(though he does) or because he’s always cool (he isn’t) or even because
he hosts a popular show about liquor and piglets. Bourdain is famous
because he is vivid and real and mercilessly honest at every second —
in a sphere whose atmosphere consists of bombast, shilling, sanctimony
and the unholy alliance between marketing communications and social


You talk in the book about how you’re going to sell out, but for
some reason you still haven’t. Why not? What are you waiting for?

What did Molière say about writing being like prostitution? “First you
do it for fun. Then you do it for a few friends. Finally you do it for
money.” I’ve done “product integrations” for the show. In this brave
new world of TiVo and DVR, no one watches television as scheduled. They
fast-forward through the commercials, they delete them, they download
[shows] commercial-free. Advertisers-sponsors aren’t stupid. They know
that increasingly, the only way to get their product seen is in the
body of the show. Once I agreed to do that, for the cause, for the
budget, for whatever, I pretty much lost my cherry. As I said in the
book, it’s vanity that precludes me from doing actual ads. So far. Not
integrity. That surely will change. I think it was the Keith Richards
ad for Vuitton. I thought, Jesus! If he’s not too cool to do it, what’s
my problem?

One of the things I really like aboutNo Reservations (along with the delicious host himself, on whom I have a crush worthy of a high school sophomore) is that it doesn’t shy away from dealing with the essential poverty of many places the production visits. And when in a country, city or neighborhood that is significantly poor, when dealing with people who have been oppressed (the Laos and Cambodia episodes, I’m thinking of especially), the show doesn’t treat it or them any differently than it does the wealthy and well-connected. Everybody is viewed with the same skepticism, humor, and warmth.



5 thoughts on “‘Cynical but Essentially Guileless’

  1. Athenae – my brother gave me “Medium Raw” for my b’day! 🙂 I squee’d something fierce when I opened it yesterday!

  2. those two episodes and the one where they’re trapped in Lebanon are among my favorites.

  3. I love Tony Bourdain. He can be a callous asshole, by his own admission, but I like the way he showcases different cultures, and particularly, the oppressed ones. He goes into his hosts’ homes and shows them and their cuisine respect. His new book is really entertaining and something I wish I had read before going to culinary school (not that it would have changed my mind much, just lowered my expectations). I can’t wait for the new season and I agree, the Lebanon episodes were riveting.

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