Thoughts On At The Table

Last night I watched Bourdain's At The Table, which, according to comments on his blog, didn't go over well with his fanbase. The format of the show is simple enough. Take five food and journalist industry veterans, plop them down at wd~50, and ask them a bunch of questions, round-table style. It could work. It really really could. It is like John Favreau's Dinner For Five, only with debaucherous restauranteurs, authors and tv stars. I truly believe there is value in this show. But first:

Why it didn't work

  1. Bourdain is not a natural facilitator. This is a surprisingly difficult task, and not everyone is suited for it. Let's face it, he is typically in a role where he is central to his books or tv shows. The hardest part about this job is stepping out of the way. In his defense, he may not have been able to do this because:

  2. Most of the guests didn't do their job. Guests on this type of show are obligated to be interesting. It was pretty obvious that most of the guests were unable to really open up. I am sure it was in part a combination of the questions asked, being in front of a bunch of cameras and self-censoring so as to maintain their reputations, but ultimately, you need to find a way to be interesting. Even if they were able to be more candid, the combined lives of all of these guests are going to be less interesting than:

  3. The Fucking Food. You had five unbelievable palates dining on some of the most interesting food in New York. I know this isn't actually a food show in the traditional sense, but this is one place where we actually needed more lip service. And while we are at it, why didn't you:

  4. Include More Wylie. This is a guy who actually has something very important to say about food. And we got half an answer out of him. Also, like it or not, the average viewer would want to hear more from the chef than from:

  5. Too Many New Yorkers. Don't get me wrong. 212 in the house. But I think the average viewer can nt even relate to some of the subjects. Especially around the difficulties of getting tables, or whether there are guilty pleasures in being a VIP in a restaurant.

Why We Need It

Ok, that is a lot of complaints. You probably think I hated the show. I didn't. In fact, I think this has the ability to be an Important television show for the culinary world. That's right, capital-I motherfuckers. It is incredibly difficult to find an intelligent conversation about food. Sustenance is Important. Cuisine as Art is Important. The Economics of Food is Important. There is a lot to say, and there are smart people who are saying it. A forum where I can listen, learn, and find inspiration would kick ass.

Good luck finding all that on the Internet (Sorry Internet, but you suck for intelligent conversation). It certainly isn t going to be on the Food Network (The demographic excludes it). PBS could do it (but no one would watch it).

This could work. Bourdain could do it. If he chooses not to, I hope someone else does.


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