I just watched the Provence episode of Tony Bourdain’s travel/discovery channel show “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations”, and what a letdown! A few years back his book Kitchen Confidential made the rounds in my family and was a hit. He seemed hilarious, bashful, and the book demystified much of what goes on behind the scenes in New York’s upscale culinary world. The problem with this show is that it only seems to showcase Bourdain’s attributes that I did not like, while also having the most blatant disregard for the actual subject: the food.
This episode was so dull! Bourdain spends much of his time chatting with a local family about basically nothing (I was bored out of my mind), and when we do get to the food, it’s even more disappointing. First, we watch Bourdain observe an elderly woman as she prepares aioli the traditional way. That was okay but not groundbreaking. Next, Bourdain meets with the owners of a local vineyard who serve him something that looks delicious, and fails to tell us what this dish is! (FAIL). Finally, Bourdain attempts to prepare a provençal meal for the family we met earlier, and makes a dish he calls ratatouille but is nothing of the sort (trust me, I know about ratatouille).
What offended me most about this episode, however, was its negative portrayal of the region Bourdain is waxing poetic about. Instead of even attempting to convey what Southern France is like, the show follows the most blatant and obvious stereotypes you can imagine: men begin drinking at 8am, then play pétanque all day; in fact, the French appear to be drinking Ricard Pastis all day long.
Basically, this episode did not introduce its audience to the Provence I know so well. I am extremely disappointed. Given the way he botched a type of cuisine I know something about, I can’t be expected to trust him when he tells me about a place in the world I am unfamiliar with. Therefore, that is the first and last episode of No Reservations I will ever watch.