Don't call Anthony Bourdain a "foodie". There's too much history as a renowned New York City chef to warrant such a fad gadget moniker. And don't call him a travel expert. He's been lucky enough to circumvent the globe in search of culinary adventures, yet his passion has always been a combination of location AND lunch. But whatever you do, don't call him a TV personality. He abhors the kind of cook with benefits that advertises themselves on various specialty networks. Instead, the well known epicure and entrepreneur views himself as an edibles archeologist. Bourdain believes in the by now age old adage that to understand a culture, you must indulge in its cuisine. Centuries of heritage and food folklore can be readily found in a loaf of crusty bread or a bowl of piping hot stew. After a less than happy stint on Food Network (which saw the suits filter his fire through some grating goofball approaches), he's found a solid state on sister station The Travel Channel. No Reservations, now chugging along for six seasons, has been the perfect showcase for his unique insights and ideas. Presented by Image Entertainment in a three disc compendium, Collection 4 continues his journey across this big blue marble, making sense of the various ways we quell our hunger.
Disc 1: Vancouver/ New Orleans/ London - Edinburgh/ Greek Islands/ Jamaica/ Hawaii
Disc 2: Into the Fire NY/ Laos/ Tokyo/ Uruguay/ Columbia
Disc 3: Spain/ Egypt/ Saudi Arabia/Washington DC/ US Southwest
Inside the DVD case is a list of all episodes, including a brief write-up regarding what happens in each one.
With most of the growing pains out of the way (this is a far cry from the Food Network's Cook's Tour) Bourdain begins Collection 4 in Canada, not necessarily acknowledged for its haute cuisine concerns. But Vancouver holds as many surprises as the gourmet givens of New Orleans, the next stop on our digital dinner buffet. Filmed post-Katrina, it is a poignant, sobering, and frequently uplifting overview of a city struggling to come back. The upscale delights of London and Edinburgh lead to the Greek Islands, where Tony really discovers the magic of the Mediterranean. Jamaica is another stunning example of brilliant food wedged into a world of wonders - as well as poverty and poetry. The nation is indeed as beautiful as it is destitute. The first half of the three DVD set rounds out in Hawaii, New York City (for a compelling detour as our host tries to relive his old double shift days at Brasserie Les Halles) and of all places, Laos. It is here where Bourdain discovers yet another Asian cuisine that defines itself on ingredients, the application of same, and the desire to be defiantly different that its far more famous neighbors.
From there on, it's over to Tokyo for some post-modern musings on high tech taste treats, Uruguay (and some of the best food of the series), Columbia, and the classic cooking of Spain. A trip through the Middle East, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia provides as much politics as perspective, especially in the area of gender equity and "Ugly American" consensus, while Washington DC and the American Southwest open up whole new worlds of culinary concerns. All the while, Bourdain narrates in a kind of cynical beat Jack Kerouac cadence. With tasty tell-alls like Kitchen Confidential under his belt, the man knows how to write. Yet if there is one flaw in his presentation, a glitch that gives No Reservations its sole strategic misstep, it's Bourdain's belief that everyone is exactly like him. He's not out to make some universal statement or four course meal maxim. Instead, it's all about insular observations and pleasures that only he can partake in. Like Michael Palin exploring the planet one massive world tour at a time, Bourdain lives a life few could even imagine. This leisure time envy combined with his sometime surly approach doesn't outwardly detract from No Reservations. It just makes it an acquired taste, like so many of the dishes our tour guide discovers.