Anthony Bourdain Interview: No Reservations

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Fans of Anthony Bourdain have followed him from the printed page to the Food Network and to his latest show, No Reservations on the Travel Channel (Mondays at 10). We recently talked with Tony about his latest foray into television. Tomorrow we'll post part two of the interview.

How has working with the Travel Channel been a different experience from the work you did with the
Food Network?

As much as I hate to appear the corporate suck-up, I have to be honest and say that Travel Channel has been utterly wonderful from the get-go. They have pretty much indulged me in every way one could hope for. I go the places I want to go--and only the places I want to go. I make the shows I want to make. I make the show with a very creative, close knit team of friends. Essentially, I actually get paid to do what I want to do. Whatever I want to do--and wherever I want to do it. Content, location, music, I'm as involved as I want to be.

At the Food Network, there was constant pressure to do more domestic shows, to pander to their core demographic--meaning "more BBQ shows! How about you go to a dude ranch? Interested in showing your audience how they make a Twinkie?" that sort of thing. It's amazing they let me on that network in the first place. Travel Channel has been much cooler, much more interested in foreign locations--showing people what they HAVEN'T seen before. And they have a sense of humor. I think the Adult Advisory at the beginning of every segment of No Reservations says it all.

Which episodes of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations have viewers had the strongest positive and negative reactions to?
I think Malysia and the Asian episodes in general have provoked the strongest positive reactions--hopefully because I felt most strongly and passionately about those places myself. I like to think so anyway. While the snarkier episodes may be funnier, I'm always a little uncomfortable with falling back on that. It's a sign of failure. Most negative reaction? I don't know. Though very proud of it, I suspect that some people are going to be VERY upset with the Inuit scene in the Quebec show.

Do you ever feel the urge to recreate some of the fantastical things you've eaten on No Reservations at home, or is that impossible for reasons such as availability, technique, etc.?
Never. I am not so arrogant as to think that just because I've seen someone make Peking duck in Beijing--that I'll have something to add to the process after only a brief encounter. Most of the time, the dishes I see made or eat on the show are the end result of a lifetime of trial and error--and hundreds if not thousands of years of tradition. When I'm abroad I'm there to eat and experience the place. I'm not analyzing. I'm a French cook. That's what I'm good at. And it took me almost 30 years to get good at that..

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How does the current season of No Reservations compare to last season?
More exotic locations, better locations, a desire to always change, not repeat what we've done before, to say something new--and show the audience something new...Also--as me and my crew continue to travel and work together, we (hopefully) are getting better at what we do, as with any band on tour. And back home--the same goes for the editors. As we shoot, we know which editor will be working on the show--and we're getting better at playing to their strengths. It's like a kitchen in some ways--over time you get better at working together--at the choreography.