Wednesday, 27 February 2013


August 28, 2011, 10:36 AM  |  Comments (443)  |  Permalink

I just got back from family vacation, where, for ten days, I violated all my rules and everything I’ve ever preached about how to travel.  I stayed put. I rarely left the hotel grounds.  I ate in the same two restaurants for most of my trip—rarely deviating from pasta, pizza and gelato. Though there was a lake a few hundred yards walk down, I never put so much as a toe in it—spending the bulk of my days instead, splashing around in the shallow end of the pool with a Barbie pail , an inflatable porpoise, and a relentlessly energetic 4 year old girl. It was marvelous.

I missed—or was at least physically absent from—the monstrously overblown “controversy” about the dietary choices of  “regular people” and the larger question of whether I am  a cruel, horrible, snake-eating, Yankee liberal elitist—or just an occasionally obnoxious guy making a point.  Or a bit of both. Without revisiting a week where I found myself in the rare, worrying– and yet strangely  satisfying position of having both FOX News AND the New York Times drop a deuce on my head, I’ll let this Monday’s episode of NO RESERVATIONS make my argument for me.

The show begins in New Orleans, a city I feel very connected to—and continues deep into the heart of Cajun country and culture. The South—particularly (but not exclusively) Louisiana, is where “American” food comes from.  There are certainly other uniquely regional cuisines and specialties in this country—but creole and Cajun constitute uniquely American-born mutations. They could not have occurred anywhere else.  Like the birth of jazz—they were created  at bizarre yet magical intersections of cultures and circumstances—the end products of long journeys, much pain and simple pleasures.

One of the things I’m always looking at as I travel around the world is “where the cooks come from”.  And if there’s a regular feature, a common thread wherever you go in this world, it’s that the best cooks and often the best chefs come from the poorest or most challenging regions.  And it is without doubt that the greatest , most beloved and iconic dishes in the pantheon of gastronomy—in any of the world’s mother cuisines—French, Italian or Chinese–originated with poor, hard-pressed, hard working farmers and laborers with no time, little money and no refrigeration.

Pot au Feu , Coq au Vin, Sup Tulang, Cassoulet, pasta, polenta, confit, —all of them began with the urgent need to make something good and reasonably sustaining out of very little.  So many of the French classics began with the need to throw a bunch of stuff into a single pot over the coals, leave it simmering unattended all day while the family worked the fields, hopefully to return to something tasty and filling that would get them through the next day.  French cooking, we tend to forget now, was rarely (for the majority of Frenchmen) about the best or the priciest or even the freshest ingredients. It was about taking what little you had or could afford and turning it into something delicious without interfering with the grim necessities of work and survival.  The people I’m talking about here didn’t have money—or time to cook.  And yet along with similarly pressed Italians, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, Indians and other hungry innovators around the world, they created many of the enduring great dishes of history.

So the notion that hard working, hard pressed families with little time and slim budgets have to eat crappy, processed food –or that unspeakably, proudly unhealthy “novelty dishes” that come from nowhere but the fevered imaginations of marketing departments are—or should be—the lot of the working poor is nonsense.

The many Cajuns who were good enough to host us on this Monday’s episode make this case, I think, far better than I ever could.  Notice, when you watch the show, how everybody cooks.  Men, women—even the kids seem to be helping out.  Many aren’t cooks, per se, but everybody we met , everybody, was really, really good at at least one dish.  Cajuns proudly trace their roots to a particularly harsh and brutal diaspora, followed by a steep learning curve as they adapted to an incredibly difficult new environment.  Their culinary traditions reflect that.

At the traditional “boucherie” I  attended, an  entire community swung into action within seconds of me putting two  bullets into the guest of honor.   And one and all– everyone, from musicians, mechanics, to the town mayor—set about demonstrating the real guiding principles of  gastronomy. Slow cooked, “smothered” and “stuffed” turkey wings, a stew made from the backbone of the pig,  delicious, hot boudin made from the blood or less expensive bits, head cheese, cracklins. None of this was expensive. None of the cooks were professionally trained. But what I ate that day—and on other days—in Lafayette, Breaux Bridge and Eunice was some of the most delicious food I’ve had anywhere.

And what about New Orleans? There’s nothing fancy or expensive about the wonderfully kooky Afro-Chinese hybrid street food, Yakkamein, or red beans and rice—or the fried chicken at Willie Mae’s.  A good muffaletta sandwich, an oyster Po’ Boy—these are not expensive luxuries, they’re birthrights—and no one who’s eaten them can ever say they are any less delicious than anything served in a Michelin starred dining room. Made well, by someone who knows what they’re doing, they are unimprovable by man or God.  They are also, one would assume, quite delicious and quite fattening enough without squeezing them between two Cinnabons.

For ****’s sake, the South pretty much taught us all to cook.  They know what good, affordable  food is—having pretty much written the book on the subject. All I’m saying is that Macaroni and cheese is a good and noble dish.  Deep fried macaroni and cheese is no better and certainly no more affordable.

This is the last episode of NO RESERVATIONS of this season.   We begin shooting a new season  in September, but in the interim period, while we’re out there travelling, I hope you’ll find amusement—and maybe even some useful information– in THE LAYOVER, a ten episode, high speed mini-series we just shot in an alternately thrilling and exhausting bounce  around the world, from New York, Singapore,  Hong Kong, Rome, San Francisco, Miami,  Montreal, Amsterdam, London, and Los Angeles.

And for the NOLA/Cajun episode, I want to thank Lolis Eric Elie, Wendell Pierce,  David Simon and everybody from the HBO series “TREME”, upon whose previous works and extensive research and experience we shamelessly piggybacked.

Posted By: anthony bourdain

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November 1, 2012, 1:00 PM  |  Comments (98)  |  Permalink

As our final episode of NO RESERVATIONS approaches, I’ve been asked to write a top ten list of personal favorites.  That’s hard to do. It’s been a mixed bag—and deliberately so.  Travel and food shows necessarily tell more or less the same story:  somebody goes someplace, eats and drinks a lot of stuff, comes to some kind of conclusion (rightly or wrongly) then goes home.  My partners and I—a rotating band of cinematographers,  producers, editors and post production people—have worked very hard over the years to mess with, expand,  undermine and subvert that basic narrative and the conventions that go with it.  Sometimes we succeeded.

In a 140 episodes of NO RESERVATIONS, there have certainly been shows that I regard as failures.  Some, like PUERTO RICO, were entirely our fault—where through bad choices, inadequate preparation, sheer lack of understanding of our subject, we ended up giving short shrift to a place that deserved better.  GREECE was a disappointment.  CHARLESTON overlooked the amazing Sean Brock, probably the most important (then still emerging) phenomenon in the South—who was, unforgivably, literally right under our noises during the whole shoot.

The weak SOUTH PACIFIC and MARQUESAS show was the result of pure bad luck. One scene after another went by without anything useful or compelling recorded. One day after another passed with each intended scene turning out to be something other than what we’d hoped. Two full days where nothing worked.  That we were able to cobble together shows at all in cases like these was always a triumph of great camera work and great editing (technique) over content. Sometimes it was a close run thing.

Responsibility for some failures rested entirely on me. They sucked because I sucked. BERLIN should have been a good show: great producer, great shooters, great fixers, great city. But for no good reason at all, I just wasn’t “into it.” And the show reflected my unhappiness and my unwillingness at the time to even try.  The disastrous AT THE TABLE—a lunatic attempt at a one-off talk show format—was an absolute shit-show. I’m obviously no good at a talk show format—and clearly shouldn’t have tried.  Bad idea. Wrong host. Bad show. When you let down a lot of talented people who work their asses off to make you look good—there’s a price. In my case it was appropriately universal revulsion.

Some disastrous shoots, through the sheer weight of misadventure turned out, like SICILY, to be good shows. Though not in the way we intended.  The scenes that were supposed to be “great” ended badly—but the ones for which we had low expectations (the caper farmers in Pantelleria) became magically real, spontaneous and fun.  ICELAND was certainly improved rather than hurt by running into a blinding blizzard—and a general overlay of depression and darkness.  A near life – ending rollover on an ATV in NEW ZEALAND, however uncomfortable for me, became instant comedy gold.

Maybe the best single example of this was the ROMANIA show, where absolutely everything was ****ed up beyond all hope or recognition: wrong fixer (the inexplicably addled Zamir), unfriendly populace,  officials looking for backhanders,  and guides with other agendas who did their best (in the hope of portraying their country in a desirable light) to ensure that absolutely every genuine moment was quickly  smothered under a thick scrim of artificiality, falsehood and staginess.  It was a nightmare to shoot. An utter failure on all our parts—and yet it became a timeless classic of Travel Gone Wrong—unintentionally hilarious. It may have made all of us Public Enemies in Romania (and the subject of scandal and speculation in their national press)—and it may have been terribly unfair to the country and to the many Romanian expats who tuned in, looking to see something beautiful of their beloved homeland…

But it was an accurately gonzo—if unflattering– account of what it’s like to make an utter failure of a show,  a masterpiece of incompetence on our part—and misguided good (and bad) intentions on the part of some of our hosts.  It was at the same time our greatest failure as professional travel and food television producers—and our greatest success as technicians—and absurdists. We might never be able to repay the good  people of Romania for our offenses against their national pride; but no small number of them recognized at least the worst of their country.  I can assure you, by the way, that what we DIDN’T and could NEVER have included in the show, would have been even more painfully hilarious. To this day, in the hours after a shooting day, veteran crew members sit in hotel lobbies around the world, and tell the young ones about what really happened there.

But, of course, there were bright spots too. Shows of which I will always be proud.  Favorites, both personal and professional where everything (or most things) came together.

HONG KONG, particularly the scene where a third generation noodle maker practices his craft, rocking painfully and disfiguringly on his bamboo pole under the faded photos of his parents encompassed everything I believe to be good and true about people  who choose to make food the very best they can.  It was a beautifully shot and edited sequence– one of our very best. If our show is principally in the business of celebrating cooks—wherever they may cook—and in whatever circumstances—then this was as good an example of our work as we could ask for.

VENICE was where we were really hitting a golden period for cinematography I think.  Using film lenses and adhering to a stylebook shamelessly  lifted from works like DON’T LOOK NOW and COMFORT OF STRANGERS, we’d do things like wake up very early in the morning to shoot in Piazza San Marco—intending to make the usually crowded Venice look empty and haunted.  It’s an example of a show that came out just as we’d planned, looked and sounded like we wanted it to , and it also had the advantage of being  filled with great characters and food. A lot of attention was paid to color balances (in scenes like the painter’s studio) and to the music and it  paid off big time.

I’m happy with all our VIET NAM shows—probably because I’m always so ludicrously happy to be there.  I could just watch the B-roll from those shows all day.  Everybody who works on the show seems to feel the same way.  It’s a good place to work, a good place to eat. A good place to be.

MONTANA.  Which opens with the great American author and poet, Jim Harrison reading from his work would have been a proud achievement for that alone: Jim Harrison is in it. That’s enough.  But it’s also where I started to look at those parts of America so different than my own—cowboy country, gun country, red-state, Palin bumper sticker America , with  a genuine  affection I’d previously only felt for Vietnamese and South Americans and Europeans. Like the Asian rice farmers and ex-guerillas I tend to over-romanticize , the cattle ranchers and hunters I met there, though as far from me on the political spectrum as could be, were caring, generous and proud too. I started to feel—and hope I captured—the beauty of their lives –and what a lot of us who live in the bubble of big city, East Coast America are missing—not just about these places, but  the people who live there. .

SARDINIA was a risky show, because it was so personal, and I had a whole new Italian/Sardinian family looking over my shoulder—and more perilously—I had chosen to include my wife. I anticipated some angry blowback from fans. But my wife’s father’s family in the mountain towns of that incredibly beautiful island were the best “fixers” any one could have hoped for. The cinematography was incredible. And the editors, in spite of the fact that I was sitting in their laps for much of the cut and making their lives miserable, responded with a beautiful and heartfelt love letter to what is for most people an unfamiliar culture.  Warm and fuzzy and family friendly  was NOT what fans of the show had been led to expect of me. But I was grateful for the opportunity to be a Dad on camera.  It paid off in a good story and good show—and as an honest reflection of the facts.

ROME Is probably my favorite show of all of them. My proudest achievement. Why” Because it was so suicidally stupid. Because no one wanted it. Because everybody thought it was a bad idea to do a show in Rome—that most beautiful and colorful of cities—in black and white.

As a purely creative enterprise, we did it anyway, shamelessly and very painstakingly doing the exact opposite of what we had established we were good at: Instead of run and gun hand held cameras and fast editing, we shot stationary, with film lenses. Instead of no lighting and barely acceptable sound, we lit as if in a studio, made frequent use of subtitles. Instead of wearing whatever clothes were clean that day, I, for the first and only time,  actually bought wardrobe.  Shamelessly aping films like LA DOLCE VITA and L’AVENTURRA—which we were pretty sure few of our audience had ever seen, we  tried to paint a nostalgic, romantic, heavily stylized ode to another side of Rome. It was the most self indulgent, deliberately reckless venture to date and it looks gorgeous. We fully expected to be pilloried for it. But we didn’t care. In the end, it was shocking to us that so many people ended up appreciating it.  As a hand crafted labor of love, I think it stands alone, a testament to all the incredibly talented people who worked on it.  It all started in a hotel lobby, with cameraman Zach Zamboni suggesting that  he and his colleagues were “so damn good we can make food porn in black and white”.  The question that always hung over the planning of every episode being, “What’s the most ****ed up thing we can do?”

EL BULLI . It was the most important restaurant in the world—in its last days.  And the greatest culinary artist of this or last century, Ferran Adria,  had agreed to open his life and his kitchen to us. So it was important to get it right. We threw everything we had at it. Every camera, every technical innovation—every creative idea we could come up with. We got the right guy—the best guy– Jose Andres—to come along and show us, through personal reminisces, what it all meant—and why it was important. We tried to show where the brothers Adria came from,  give a sense of the relentless wind on the coast of Catalonia—and what effect that might have on a person, day after day, night after night in a (then) mostly empty restaurant in the middle of nowhere. And we captured a precise moment in history that will never happen again.  Everybody who worked on the show felt enormous responsibility to our  subjects—and brought their very best game.  EL BULLI is gone. But the show we made depicts a Ferran, a menu, a never-to-happen-again establishment—as they were.

The pig slaughter and boucherie in the CAJUN COUNTRY show is a personal favorite.  It starts with a prayer. And it’s a scene I’m most grateful to the network for—for leaving it alone.  Pretty disturbing stuff to see a pig shot close-up to the brain. It’s ugly, and painful. But that’s what happens when you take a life for your dinner.  And somebody, somewhere does—every time you order a pork chop.  The beauty AND the ugliness of a meat we all love and take for granted was nicely delineated, I think—a savage slaughter, a lot of blood—and a community coming together, cooperating in an enterprise that was both joyful and a sacrament of sorts.  It showed where dinner comes from—and what it requires—and also, what it can be.  We always work extra hard whenever we shoot in New Orleans or Louisiana—to do right by them—as they have been egregiously failed by so many others. That’s always foremost in our minds when we visit.  Also, we love the place ferociously.

CLEVELAND: Harvey Pekar. Harvey Pekar.  We wanted to celebrate and step inside the life of Cleveland’s greatest chronicler in the style of AMERICAN SPLENDOR.  It took a lot of work and pre-production to do that. But I’m very proud of the result. Not least because I believe so fervently that the late, great Pekar was a uniquely American, wonderful and important man whose life deserves celebrating and remembering.   Ruhlman, Michael Symon, Marky Ramone and the entire extended Pekar family made it a very special hour ,  and in many ways, shows what we did best—cover ground nobody else does with genuine affection and respect for subject.  We worked very closely with Pekar’s longtime artist Gary Dumm to be able to “step inside” frames of a graphic novel—and were lucky enough to arrive in Cleveland in the middle of a snowstorm, a factor that (in spite of what some local boosters may have thought) only highlighted the bittersweet, gorgeousness and faded grandiosity of that most beautiful of cities.  My love for Cleveland is absolute. I may not love it for the reasons some might like—but I love it just the same.  I am honored that Harvey, may he rest in peace, liked the show.

Our last in a series of HOLIDAY SPECIALS was a high watermark of sorts. It has always been my belief that the pursuit of excellence in television is impossible if one does not regularly seek to cause terror and confusion at one’s network. In this respect, the show was a smashing success—setting a new standard for unasked-for weirdness.

You can imagine how happy some at the network were to hear Andrew Zimmern and Adam Richman parodying themselves on a flickering television screen, while the network’s sweetheart, Samantha Brown, playing herself as a crazed, vengeful, alcoholic and homicidal shut-in, pumped a bullet into my leg (spraying blood on a stuffed kitten) between pouring schnapps into a bowl of Frooty Pebbles.  Norah Jones sang about poop, the band ****ed Up sang Jingle Bells—the whole show was ugly, squalid and magnificent.  Christopher Walken cooked octopus! We didn’t just bend the rules, we killed them dead—then went to the funeral and shot the mourners.

The notorious “Krampus segment”, censored by the network, went on to become a stand alone YouTube sensation.  Do check it out.

The 2006 BEIRUT show obviously holds a special place in the memories of all who were involved.  Like the war that broke out around us, it happened unexpectedly. Those of us trapped in that heartbreakingly troubled city never expected there to even be a show—but we kept shooting anyway, and the footage that was artfully put together afterwards told a story we are all very proud of.  I learned—in a way I’d never had to learn before—how terrible, terrible things can happen to good people, sweeping up the good and the bad together.  That experience changed those of us who were there. And it changed subsequent shows. We never, from that point on, forgot how arbitrary life and death can be, and how harsh life can be for the people we leave behind when we head safely home with our cameras.   My daughter was conceived the day after I was evacuated from Beirut—a fact that has given me a lifelong love for the US Marine Corps—and connected me to that city (and this episode) in a special and very personal  way.

It could be argued that for the last 8 or 9 years, Travel Channel has allowed me to make 140 wildly self indulgent home movies that only a few very close friends and directors of photography could be reasonably expected to enjoy.  That it’s worked out for all of us remains a mystery for which I’m very grateful and proud.

I’m also grateful to the staggering line-up of chefs and cooks, the famous and the not at all, who’ve been kind enough to appear on the show over the years:  I doubt any show has ever had such a line-up of talent. They all took time they did not have to let us see what it is they do—how—and to the extent that we were capable of explaining it: why.

See you all at the next rodeo.

- Anthony Bourdain

Posted By: Rani Robinson

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August 18, 2011, 3:22 PM  |  Comments (304)  |  Permalink

In the end, we were all fine–as untouched and untroubled as we’d been before Iraq.

If anything changed, if there was a single takeaway from what we saw in Kurdistan and what we learned during three days of “Hazardous Environment Training” in what our British instructors called “Virginiastan”, it was the absolutely jaw-dropping realization of exactly how physically difficult it is for our military personnel on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.And I’m not talking about the fighting. I’m talking about just being there, moving about in regulation gear, training. the day-to-day. Watching on TV and in films, perhaps you realize intellectually that the standard issue body armor, with the ceramic plates weighs around 45 pounds, but until you actually wear the stuff, much less try and help carry the slippery dead weight of an unconscious man across broken ground, you have no idea. Add the additional burden of an M-16, ammunition, pack and gear, Kevlar helmut and you’re already humping about 95 pounds of additional weight through heat that, in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, reaches well over 110 degrees. The body armor doesn’t exactly breath. You’re running sweat within seconds–just standing still. Presumably, you are being trained to–at moment’s notice, hoist a similarly attired buddy over your shoulder and carry his weight as well. It’s damn near superhuman. And that’s before you’ve ever had to fire a shot in anger. In the back of your mind too, I came to find out, is the certain knowledge that none of this heavy armor–not the Kevlar vest, not the ceramic plates—and not the helmut–will protect you in the slightest from an AK-47 round. Nor will a cinderblock wall. A bullet from an AK, the most widely used weapon on the planet, will cut through all of it like cheddar.

The vests we wore in training were decidedly lighter (except Tom, who got standard issue). We were, at all times, properly hydrated. Nobody was shooting real bullets at us–nor was anyone likely to in the wilds of Virginia. While it was uncomfortable in our vests, being asked to treat realistic but still fake sucking chest wounds while being spoken to harshly by our trainers, we knew at all times that we’d be retiring at night to comfortable hotel beds and air conditioned rooms. In the event, our Virginiastan training ended up being a lot harder than Kurdistan in Iraq. And Southeastern Turkey, which judging from recent events, was even more dangerous, couldn’t have been lovelier.

This show is complicated. The Kurds in Iraq are our greatest friends. We have used them (often badly) as our instrument many times-and if there has been any upside to our adventures in Iraq, it has been that the Kurdish people have, at long last, enjoyed a measure of security and autonomy unheard of in this century. Iraqi Kurds are more pro-American–and pro-Bush in particular than just about…anywhere else. And it should be pointed out that since the beginning of hostilities in Iraq, there have been exactly zero coalition deaths or injuries in Kurdish areas off the country. Whatever your feelings about the rightness or wrongness or strategic value of invading Iraq, it is very hard to see present day Kurdistan and not be happy for them.

In Turkey, however, we see the same people as terrorists–and our policies reflect this. Until recently, Kurds in Turkey were not allowed to even refer to themselves by their true ethnicity. They were officially called ” mountain Turks who have forgotten their language”. To even use the word “Kurd” was to invite prison–or worse. Often much worse. The Turkish government has been at various times despicably oppressive in their campaigns against Kurdish attempts at finding a political voice. And, to be fair, Kurdish groups, often armed and trained across the border, have attacked Turks and Kurds seen as too sympathetic to the Turkish authority with lunatic ferocity. In Turkey, the Kurds don’t like us too much. In Iraq, well, you’d hardly realize you’re IN Iraq.

Three British security experts with years of “on the job” experience in some of the nastier conflict zones on earth. Four heavily armed Peshmergas. Body armor. Training. And in the end, we were fine. A few tense moments, perhaps, a misunderstanding here and there. But fine. I’d recommend Iraqi Kurdistan to anyone looking for beautiful scenery and some off-beaten track adventure tourism.

And I have to say I’m pleased with my training. That will last a lifetime. Knowing that I can set a compound fracture, apply a tourniquet, stop a sucking chest wound, tell how long somebody’s got before bleeding out, administer CPR, identify my position and call in a Medevac or an airstrike, pick my way across a mine field, find cover, behave intelligently at hostile roadblocks–surely some of these skills might serve me well someday on location or at the supermarket. My “situational awareness” alone, is much improved. If you find yourself dismembered on the produce aisle at Whole Foods someday and I happen to be nearby? I’m your boy.

Posted By: anthony bourdain

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December 7, 2011, 3:57 PM  |  Comments (189)  |  Permalink

by Anthony Bourdain

What do Norah Jones, Christopher Walken,  the band “ ****edUp”, Vegan Black Metal Chef,  Sam Brown, nightmare of Eastern European folklore Krampus, the Catalonian Pooping Log, Dave Arnold, chefs Lidia Bastianich,  April Bloomfield, Kurt Gutenbrunner, Eder Montero, Alexandra Raij, Carlos Llaguno Morales and the voices of Adam Richman and Andrew Zimmern have in common?

They all foolishly agreed to appear in our scandalous, dark, action-packed fever dream of a Holiday Show which airs this Monday, December 12th at 10PM—when, presumably, the kiddies will be asleep.

Frankly, I think it’s our finest (and most disturbing and deranged) hour yet, a holiday classic. The above artists were—all of them—heroically good humored and generous with their time. And I’d like to give particular thanks to Sam Brown—whose appearance is particularly fearless, frightening  and so far from her “brand” as to make us all look like wussies. Thank you Sam. Never shall I make another snarky remark. You ****in’ rule.  Now wash that mouth out with soap. Your language is appalling! Thanks Norah Jones for learning to sing scatological ditties in Catalan—and for all your work on the show.  Christopher Walken. Now I can scratch a major item off my bucket list. And the rest of you…I am forever grateful.

Do NOT miss this. Christmas has never been stranger.

Posted By: anthony bourdain

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Twitter Beaches competition: the winning picture

Last month we asked you to send us your best shots of beaches around the world via Twitter. We collated all your entries in our Beaches Photo Competition page and asked you to vote for your favourites to create a shortlist of entries from which our jury would select two runner ups and a winner. We had a fantastic response and received over 600 pictures in less than a week, so thanks to everyone who entered!

Our panel of judges have now reached a verdict on the winner and we wanted to share the news with you. But before we reveal our favourite beach shot, have a look at the runner ups:

Pichilemu beachPichilemu, by @galassi

Palmtree on beachMaldivian villager doing the dishes, by @azaliasuhaimi

And now for the big one… here’s the winner:

Boats on sun-kissed beachSunset at Lovina, by @yuniyyy. Our judges were swayed by the gorgeous sunset of this North Bali beach… wishing they were there themselves surely!

The two runner ups and winner have been contacted by Twitter and the prizes are being arranged. Thanks once again to everyone who entered, keep an eye on our Twitter account for any future competitions.

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April 15, 2012, 1:23 PM  |  Comments (62)  |  Permalink

by Anthony Bourdain

I’ve referred only half jokingly over the years to the early days of my television career when, after two seasons of making shows around the world for A COOK’S TOUR, I was advised that audiences just didn’t respond to all those foreign locations where people talked funny and sometimes (horror of horrors) even had to be subtitled. My cruel masters sat back in their chairs and with dreamy, wistful looks suggested how wonderful it would be if I could just confine my interests to shows about tailgate parties, pony rides and….barbecue. “Exotic” locations were problematic, they suggested. They didn’t fit in with their ” current business model.”

Well, after 8 years of NO RESERVATIONS, in which I have been allowed to travel this world unfettered and largely without constraint, I found myself once again thinking, “What’s the most ****ed up thing I can do on the show?” The answer, it seemed, was to embrace the beast. Go right back and do what would have been unthinkable back then (or at any time since): make a show about a subject that every single travel and food show has done a million times, in a place that has been more than adequately covered (as least as relates to slowly smoked meats). Go right to the heart of core Americana—that uniquely All-American genre of cookery called Kansas City Barbecue. And while I was at it, I thought—why not go all the way—attend my very first tailgate party? What could be more unlike me? I’ve been to Saudi Arabia. Tribal Liberia. China. Why couldn’t I embrace this curious and much loved indigenous practice as I had this—just cause it’s American? The plan? To go to Kansas City—and challenge ourselves to making a single subject show—almost entirely about briskets, ribs, pulled pork, sticky sauce—and yet do it in a way that had never been done before. Meaning, I would challenge the fine ZPZ team of talented cinematographers to make Barbecue Porn so extreme, so hardcore, so enticing that we could bring life to even this tired subject.  And what would I say about all this? What would be my point of view?
It came to me over late night vodka shots in a Croatian parking lot: ZAMIR!

Who better to explore those most American of subjects than my always optimistic Russian friend? What better way to look at my first tailgate experience than through the fresh,  un-jaded eyes of my veteran sidekick for whom America is still a Wonderland of the unfamiliar, strange and fabulous?  Lured by possibly misleading promises that he would be trained and groomed to replace me as a television travel host, Zamir was flown to Kansas City where he would be (he was assured) instructed in the dark arts of hosting a food show.  On Monday night, you will see the results.

And we would need music. Good music. More importantly, we would need cheap good  music. Fortunately, I had recently become aware that the Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney of THE BLACK KEYS were very fond of a good meal and were, after many years on the road, susceptible to offers of free food. In return for a lunch of chicken wings and ribs, they quickly agreed to drive their van from their hometown of Akron Ohio, to Kansas City and join me for an afternoon of bourbon and barbecue.

The tailgate party, by the way, turned out to be something of a mystical experience. The Kansas City Chiefs had not been having a good season when we arrived. Even the most enthusiastic KC fans that day, huddled in the cold parking lot outside the stadium, did not give them much chance against the phenomenally streaking Green Bay Packers. But they hadn’t accounted for the Magical Powers of Zamir. He arrived fully decked in Chiefs colors, waving his giant foam hand and screaming “Let’s Pack the Packers” (while consuming Godawful quantities of Jello shots and bourbon). His unbridled, child-like enthusiasm proved contagious, urging the team on to an unexpected upset. Local talk radio the next day suggested that my Russian friend might have in some way, actually been responsible for this victory. Had he given the Packers the “Evil Eye”? Was he some kind of Eastern European Good Luck Charm? Did he have…”Powers?”  The next day, local sports radio spoke in hushed and respectful tones of the bearded Russian who had appeared—supernaturally—in the parking lot prior to the game, spoken in what were described as “tongues” (or possibly gibberish), invoking through some ancient Dark Art, a force that swept across the gridiron that day, and crushed the sons of Lombardi under the Chief’s mighty hooves.

There is a lot more to see—and to eat— in Kansas City than barbecue.  But that’s not what we were there for. We had other business: To go where many had gone before. Only do it better. And weirder.

I think, I hope, we succeeded.

Posted By: anthony bourdain

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Spend an Evening With Anthony Bourdain

September 21, 2012, 1:09 PM  |  Comments (51)  |  Permalink

Calling all Anthony Bourdain fans in Birmingham, AL, Memphis, TN, San Antonio and Midwest City, OK: Your time has come to see the host of No Reservations and The Layover up close and personal. An Evening With Anthony Bourdain kicks off Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012. Find a location near you — and quickly, because tickets are selling out fast.

Tune in for the final season of No Reservations every Monday at 9|8c. And don’t miss the series finale of No Reservations, on Monday, Nov. 5, at 9|8c.

Posted By: Rani Robinson

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