Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain’s life was like many of the exotic locales he visited--filled with both great color and danger. He visited Laos and ate the indigenous food with a peasant whose arms and legs had been blown off. He was in Lebanon sampling the cuisine when Hezbollah attacked. He ended up poolside at a luxury hotel while shells flew in the distance. He was in Libya. Kitchen Confidential, which made Bourdain, famous was not Julia Child or James Beard revealing their culinary secrets. His hugely popular CNN program Parts Unknown (which may have referred to breasts and thighs of animals or people as well as geographic places) was not Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. It was hardly the stuff of the Food Network. CNN was actually the perfect placement for the show, since it treated eating as an almost political act. Bourdain was fascinated by Apocalypse Now. His trip into the Congo, an area probably not the domain of too many food journalists, was a journey into his own Heart of Darkness. Is it the food you’re after when you risk your life to eat it? Ask anyone who has dared to try the potentially lethal form of Japanese blowfish, fugu. He dined on cobra and joined the abattoir chopping off the head of a chicken he held in his bare hands. He traveled to 26 countries covering 662,000 miles after he gave up being a chef at Les Halles on lower Park Avenue. Like many romantics, he relished the act of seeking, of imagination over actually living. He toyed with domesticity in his second marriage in which he became, for a time, a devoted father. But he eventually gave it up falling into an obsessional relationship with Asia Argento who apparently had become his drug of choice (he had been a heroin addict). Morgan Neville's Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain has all the ingredients of a hagiography, due to both his subject's charisma and the devotion Bourdain commanded. But the movie is curiously sad. For a colorful personage who believed "the greatest sin was mediocrity," Bourdain, a one-time ju jitsu champion, ended up falling victim to his own outsized appetites.

Read "Diasporic Dining: A Comparison Between Bouley and Lunetta" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

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