Each episode begins with a teaser or overview of where he is and what is happening before taking his audience on an enjoyable journey of culture and food. Almost every episode starts with the audience being introduced to a local chef or guide and it is through Bourdain’s discussion with this host that the viewers get a feel for the food, time, place and journey.
Bourdain has built a great rapport with his viewers, many of whom are avid fans and also readers of his books. His relationship with the camera has somewhat of a no-nonsense and very easy-going approach with a touch of old bad boy coolness thrown in.
He eats at some of the world’s best restaurants and interviews chefs, but this is done on a personal level as if they are (and many times it is often the case) best friends. The food that is eaten in many of the episodes is always in context.
In Season 8, Episode 5 (Cook it Raw Japan), of No Reservations, part of the episode sees Bourdain taken on a journey through a convenience store by his good friend/ chef David Chang. Chang selects an array of deep-fried and pre packaged food, which Bourdain finds surprisingly good. The food and the place or the context in which the food is eaten always changes, but Bourdain always remains the same. Whether eating a hotdog at the baseball or dining in a restaurant in Paris – it is his continuity and enthusiasm which drives the show.
Bourdain never cooks the food himself but instead leaves it to the chef in the place he happens to be visiting. The camera often takes us into the kitchen to get a few shots of the food being prepared, and although the food, ingredients and process is described, a detailed recipe is never given. Sometimes the dishes are simple and sometimes complex, but the real complexity lies in the actual documentation of the space, place and time.
It is not just restaurants that Bourdain visits, a lot of the time he sees the food he is about to eat through the whole process – from visiting the farms and choosing the lambs for slaughter or going fishing at 4am with a flotilla of boats – there is no hiding behind the supermarket shelves on this show.
Inspirational motivation does not relay whether you wish to cook a certain dish tomorrow but more of how much you want to travel to the place he is in and eat that certain food.
Ideas and thoughts are communicated easily. Bourdain’s own voiceover often acts as a transgression between scenes or in many instances sets these scenes up by providing background information for the viewer.
Although he often dusts the show with his own dark humour and outwardly loathes vegetarians and hippies, on occasion Bourdain allows viewers into his own emotional space as well. At the end of many episodes he is often very reflective and in some instances almost spiritual. He tries to give each place he has visited a space in the overall meaning of life and as the show is now in it’s ninth season, his viewers and fans have joined him on this journey.
No Reservations explores and defines the relationship that food has with society. It outlines the links between food, people and place and helps us better understand different cultural values by breaking down the stereotypes and misconceptions that many people have about things that are foreign. The show is a vehicle (with Bourdain at the wheel) and it allows people to travel and experience something different from their everyday lives.
Has anyone watched this show before? Tell us what you think in the comment box below – hate it ? Love it ??
No Reservations finished production in 2013 but can still purchased on DVD .
Anthony Bourdain No Reservations. Japan Cook it Raw. Travel Channel. Air date May 7 2012.