No Reservations isn’t just another travel or cooking show. It’s more than an experience in watching someone else visit exotic places or eat delicious food. Rather, the show is an exploration of the many people and places on planet earth – from Iceland to the Ozarks – through one of culture’s most important ingredients: food.
Anthony [Tony] Bourdain spent several years working in kitchens. He made a name for himself by exposing the ‘back of the house’ in the restaurant industry through his book Kitchen Confidential. He then parlayed his success as a chef and writer into the creation of a travel show where he eats his way around the world. Smoking, drinking, and cussing like a line cook, Bourdain takes his viewers deeply into the communities and places of this world through their tubed meats, draft beers, and other culinary delights.
What Tony knows is that it’s not just what we eat, but how we eat it, why we eat it, when we eat it, and with whom we eat it that really matters. This is what makes us who we are and defines the world we live in. It’s what starts wars, heals wounds, builds and defines communities, exposes oppression, and expresses untold creativity. There are times when we eat food simply to survive. Beyond survival, however, we can quickly see that eating a meal with someone is formational – religious even. It is no wonder that food plays an important role in so many spiritual traditions.
In search of what has been and what is becoming, Tony eats from street vendors, grandma’s kitchens, and cutting edge culinary all-stars. With the food comes the stories of war, love, oppression, deliverance, life, and death. No Reservations isn’t really a show about food. It’s about people connected to place. It’s about food as culture and as a vehicle through which to study the creator of that culture.
Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the series: no one seems more interested to be where he is than Tony Bourdain, wherever that place may be. The wine, cheese, bread, intestines, blood sausage, vodka, and eggs are merely the inroads to a connection with people. By asking about the food, he asks intimate questions about people and the places where they live. No Reservations is a travel show that teaches you how to be present.
Watching someone else eat food doesn’t make for compelling or transformative television. Learning, however, to be present with other people who are different from you, can be. And Anthony Bourdain is a masterful teacher.