Friday, April 6, 2012

Uncle Tony

I'm not sure if you know this... but I like Anthony Bourdain. 

No... I'm serious... I really LOVE this man, seeing as I refer to him as Uncle Tony, respectively. 

Now, I will assume you dear reader are a tough audience. Tony is a standoffish man; he is lewd, brash, often drunk, opinionated, skeptical, condescending, hypocritical, and dare I even say... sarcastic? So, here I make my case, there are so many reason why Anthony Bourdain is the man and I will prove it to you.   And if I succeed... the new season of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations premiers April 9th at  9:00 on the Travel Channel (and no, the TC is not paying me for that little plug). 

How do I love thee? Let me count thy ways...

Cajun Country, United States of America
1. Anthony is big on the pig
Virtually every part of this animal: bacon (duh) sausage, gammon, ham, pork scratchings, head cheese, chitterlings, blood pudding, pig's ear etc. Maybe the topic of bacon (and the pig in general) has been a soft spot since I have given up meat (and when I say meat, of course I mean bacon) for lent. But not only does Tony eat the pig, he knows how to prepare the animal from the time you pull the trigger (and yes, the picture above is a pig that Tony killed and butchered himself). Pictured above is in Cajun Country with good folk music and a love for the cookout. 
Lucha Libre, Mexico

2. Anthony is fearless. 
This is El Octagon. And that is Tony on the floor, waiting to feel that churning feeling in his stomach.  That may have something to do with the 86kg (190lb) black belt descending upon him... or maybe it was that intestine menudo. Regardless, Tony doesn't say no and you know why? He does it for me... I mean his loyal viewers.
It don't matter where this is. 
3. Anthony sticks it to the man.
This photo is from Tony's blog ( his actual caption said that this is how he responds when the network asks him to give a shout out to his website... he gets someone to give the promo in Spanish. Tony went through a lot of inner turmoil when he was offered the job of a TV host because he feared that he was selling out of a business he held so dear. Basically he was terrified to be thrown in the same pot as Rachael Ray and really, can you blame him? But the profound love for the craft and the culture and the people make clear that Tony is in this for the right reasons and those reason do not include demanding his audience to check out his website. Sweet dreams Tony, sweet dreams. 

Quito, Ecuador
4. Anthony is artistic. 
When Tony is not prepping for a scene, or sleeping... see #3, he can often be found exploring more than they show on TV. Any one who has seen this show knows Tony's extreme, no-tourism policy and this usually includes snapping photographs of every street sign, shop edifice or blinding the locals. But many of the shots on his website or his books or those that capture his film crew are taken by Bourdain himself.  He has quite an eye and I really enjoy seeing his perspective in a visual way. 
Eating Oysters, Cambodia
5.  Anthony is personal.
One of the main reason this show was created was to promote a harmony that connects the world that is based off of the closeness that is a result of food.  Whether it is in the preperation, the actual eating or the talks after the meal is over, food is the gateway to learning, understanding, respecting and sometimes falling in love with a culture. Tony is big on what I like to call "face time" with the people who show him around the country.  He sits down, takes part in their life, their food and only through that is he able to project that harmony to his audience. So turn off the cell phones, lock eyes and see what you can learn from the next person you share a meal with. 
Commies, Cuba
7. Anthony is an educator. 
I can attribute about 1/2 of my knowledge of history and geography to No Reservations.  Rather than just soar through a episode, trying to find what makes "good" TV, Tony is also focused on preserving the reputation and integrity of the place he is visiting. That means being knowledgeable ladies and gentlemen. Being aware of the language, taboos, national dishes, and most importantly, the nations history is a big deal for travelers. If you are able to hold an intelligent conversation with the locals, you develop a rapport and lose the tourist label.  Tony is the master at this.  
Beirut, Lebanon
8. Anthony is a risk-taker. 
In July 2006, the No Reservations crew was filming in Beirut when the Israel-Hezbollah War or Lebanon conflict broke out. 1,326 people died and both sides claim victory over this event. The crew was lucky enough not to be counted in the 53 foreign civilians who were killed by the explosions. Anthony knew of the risk before arriving there, but he was committed to showing and educating the general public. It was a risk of course, I mean, the Marines had to rescue the team from the roof of their hotel and then take them to the beach, but the end result was a lasting memory, a need for closure (No Reservations: Back to Beirut 2010) and received an Emmy for Outstanding Informational Programming in 2007.  
Clockwise from top left: Slash, Tiny Tim, Joey Ramone, Chewbacca, Janis Joplin, Robert Plant, Howard Stern, Yoko Ono. Center: Anthony Bourdain.
9. Anthony has a past. 
Tony's success story (told in detail in his NYT bestseller Kitchen Confidential) starts from a grunge teenager, on every drug in the book in desperate need for employment. His saving grace was his position as executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles in New York City. Maybe the hair in the picture above can be blamed on his drug problem. I would certainly hope so. 

10. Anthony is the man. 
Ripped jeans, The Ramones t-shirt, kafiya thrown to the side, bracelet of Indian prayer beads, pounding back his 12th shot of pisco sours or clear Russian death (See any episode featuring the drunken debauch that is Zamir) Tony is indestructible and untouchable by any other so called "foodie" or TV host. 

I will leave you with some words of wisdom:

(After left in the hands of Zamir promising him an exciting night, "Aren't you supposed to lie to your wife about fun stuff you're doing? Instead, I'm going to Chernobyl."

(When in Singapore, or anywhere for that matter) "If there's another American there, leave. And don't you even think about visiting a Starbucks or Hard Rock Cafe."

"If some Birkenstock-wearing knucklehead driving around in a SUV and wearing sneakers someone was sold into slavery to make is sniffling about the poor animals, that person is clearly never going to experience the world."

"As you move through this life and this world, you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small."

So tune into No Reservations at 9:00 (which happens to be his daughter Ariane's birthday and respectively the day after mine, thus making the new season my birthday present from Uncle Tony to me. 

one lives to find out, 

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