Frank Bruni Takes Aim at Anthony Bourdain, Misses the Point

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Over at the New York Times, Frank Bruni has fixed his righteous gaze on the dust-up last week between Anthony Bourdain and Paula Deen. And the former restaurant critic is not happy with Bourdain, who in an interview with TV Guide called Deen "the worst, most dangerous person in America" and accused her of "telling an already obese nation that it's OK to eat food that is killing us."

Bruni chastises Bourdain -- who has made a career out of verbally eviscerating the likes of Alice Waters, Sandra Lee, and vegans -- for his "ill-timed elitism," and writes that putting aside Deen's disingenuous "one-with-the-masses pose ... she's otherwise 100 percent justified in assailing the culinary aristocracy, to which even a self-styled bad boy like Bourdain belongs, for an often selective, judgmental and unforgiving worldview." If the two were political candidates, Bruni continues, Bourdain would be a "blue-state paternalist" and Deen a "red-state populist" fighting over "correct living versus liberty in all its artery-clogging, self-destructive glory."

But while we certainly agree with Bruni's observation of the hypocrisy of self-appointed culinary sophisticates who blanch whenever Deen fries a chicken but salivate when David Chang does the same thing, his characterization of these two TV personalities -- at this point, no one in their right mind would call either a chef -- strikes us as both superficial and inaccurate.

Although Bourdain pals around with elite chefs and certainly isn't shy about describing the privileges he enjoys in their restaurants, the places he visits on No Reservations typically vary from the modest to the dirt-cheap, and he seems happiest when he's eating street meat or the home cooking of some local family.

Deen, for all of her folksy, I'm-just-cooking-for-all-of-y'all-who-can't-afford-microgreens charm, has made many millions thanks to her partnership with Smithfield Foods, the pork producer and processor that's made headlines for abusing unions, animals, small farmers, and the environment. (It's also given plenty of campaign contributions to the GOP, that bastion of fairness to the working class.) Deen is no less a member of the culinary aristocracy than Bourdain -- they just belong to country clubs with different rules.

Bruni argues that "getting Deen to unplug the waffle iron doesn't strike to the core" of our country's obesity problem; rather, it's the dearth of fresh, healthy food that's to blame, and changing that requires a level of public intervention that's unlikely "in such pinched times." But that's a half-truth: While many people certainly lack access to the healthy food that should be a given in any community, they're instead eating the processed foods that people like Deen and Sandra Lee champion. And those products, as has been pointed out over and over again, are just as responsible, if not more so, for building a nation of fatties.

But perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised by Bruni's defense of Deen: This is, after all, the same guy who gave a pass to George W. Bush, that other great champion of the li'l people. While following Bush on the campaign trail, Bruni seemed all but intoxicated by the future president's charms. In defending Deen, he appears to have breathed a few too many of the fumes emanating from Smithfield's hog farm.


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64 comments
Ratm435
Ratm435

I just watched bourdain pop two caps in pigs head take that y'all.

Keeffan77@gmail.com
Keeffan77@gmail.com

The only thing more idiotic than 2 tv chefs bickering in public are the idiot food critics wjo come to the defense of those personalities. Ask any chef his/her opinion of food critics. They are the water boys of the football team.....always wanted to be (a chef), but knew they couldnt cut it.As for Deen and the Food Network, to hell with both. The network is no longer fir cooks and foodies, but for bored housewives and retirees. Deen is merely furthering the Southern food stereotype.BTW, I am a southern chef.....gotta go with Bourdain on that call though.......

Tomjensen
Tomjensen

Don't forget to book your fantasy draft party at Hooters.

Tomjensen
Tomjensen

I don't have a dog in this fight but there is a serious obesity problem in this country that is steamrolling out of control. When I was a kid, there might have been one or two fat kids in school but that was it. Today, I see fat kids and fat parents everywhere I go. Tony Bourdain has gone from Chef to TV personality. I'm sure he spends way less time in the kitchen than he once did. If you've read his books, you can see that the man is completely nuts. So, when he comments on people like Paula Deen, you have to remember that he was probably laughing when he said it and he probably half meant what he said. He likes to get a reaction and he likes to get a  laugh. Knowing this, I can't take his comments too seriously but I have to peek at the underlying issue which is obesity and the contributors to the problem. I have seen the Paula Deen show maybe 2-3 times. Not crazy about her food. I remember her saying something to the effect of, "I'm your cook, not your doctor," when she was slathering something with butter and then laughing about it. Her cooking is completely irresponsible when it comes to health and she doesn't care. Her recipes seem to call for more butter than it needs and she thinks it's a joke. I have family members with diabetes, I have friends that are overweight. My brother had a heart attack and personally, I'm about 15 pounds too heavy. It's an issue that effects everyone in some aspect. Paula Deen is over weight, her husband is overweight and one day, it might catch up to them and me for that matter. Hopefully, it won't be too late. I think the networks and producers of cooking shows also have a responsibility to the viewer. As viewers, we like to think that everything we see on TV is great and good for us. We believe it. Last night, I went to a restaurant in Reno, NV that was on Diner's, Drive-ins and Dives. I remember seeing Guy Fierri wolfing down plate after plate, oohing and ahing how great it was. The place was horrible. It was greasy and fatty. Really no better than anything else that is out there. But, TV made it special and mysterious. The cashier said the last 20 people he sat had just watched the rerun. He also said that he met people who go to all these restaurants like Deadheads following the Grateful Dead. TV is a powerful medium and with great power comes great responsibility. (That was from a movie.) So, if I had to choose between Bourdain and Deen, I'm going with Bourdain. His show transcends food, it transcends racial, cultural and social barriers. He takes us into places we will never go but always shows people for being who they are, no matter where they are and that they are  simply being human. Food is our common bond throughout the world that makes us alike and brings people together. Paula Deen's show tells us to "use a stick of butter unless you think it needs two." I'm siding with Tony even if he is a little boorish.

Sarawood87
Sarawood87

Why even bring politics into an argument about food personalities and America's obesity. The blame doesn't belong on Paula Deen. The blame is with every individual in the united states. It is our own choice to eat healthy or fatty foods. Also I dont understand why bourdain is picking on deen. I'm pretty sure sausage on a stick from a food vendor isn't heathy.

Arlenecov
Arlenecov

2 words to describe Anthony Bourdain... pompous a$$....enough said. 

romel espinel
romel espinel

Thank you Rebecca Marx for shedding this light.

romel espinel
romel espinel

@franklbruni shows his "true colors" in defending Deen in spat with Bourdain.

Lawrence
Lawrence

You forget to mention that Bourdain travels thousands of miles on an airplane for his street food and home cooked meals. Not sure how many of us can jet off to Vietnam when we want authentic Pho from a street vendor....

Realism
Realism

Maybe the GOP isn't a bastion of fairness for the working class - maybe it is- but somebody has to prevent this country from going bankrupt. Your friends the democrats certainly act like they care, and that certainly helps them get elected.

在上海
在上海

Dear "Author",

Wow, where did you learn to write? Absolutely excruciating. Please, learn what a run on sentence is; perhaps you need a summer writing camp to give you that little push to reach the quality of a 12th grader's book report. Oh. And of course, way to use George Bush to needlessly stoke hatred for a woman just making a living the way she knows how. It all hers' and Bush's fault!!! Kill yourself, idiot.

Otter909
Otter909

I personally like both of them, the chef and the cook. But to chastise Bourdain because he spoke the truth offends common sense. Yes, these TV food personalities want to show us how to cook their way, but does it have to be at the expense of someone's health. I personally have watched Paula when she cooks. How she bows before the BUTTER and MAYO gods, but she is cooking from her heart and from her past. She is relating from cooking from 30, 40 and 50 years ago when we knew less of the health hazards from fatty foods and carries that over to todays' cooking. Could she say, "Well ya'll, I know that I am using 3 tubs of butter on this single muffin, but if you would like to do this the smarter way, use something like smart balance", might be more appropriate. BUT THIS IS AMERICA!!!Where she can do as she pleases, and he can speak as he pleases. THE DECISION FALLS UPON THE CONSUMER.

stephaniemanley
stephaniemanley

My question is simply going to be who has sold more books?

Michael Breyette
Michael Breyette

Our perception of 'healthy food' is so screwed up (grains, and polyunsaturated oils are good for you?...NOT!  A low fat diet is healthy?  Wrong again) It serves no purpose to pinpoint Paula Deen as the perpetrator of our obesity, diabetes, cancer and heart disease epidemics.  We have a medical community, nutritionists, big agri-biz and big pharma we should be pointing our fat little fingers at.  P.S. if anyone suggests counting calories to you as part of a weight control regimen, stop listening.

Brendan
Brendan

Tony enjoys food and on his show, he admits when it is "abusing his liver".  I watched Paula on YouTube make a big greasy-looking cheesy lasagne and then put it in a HUGE buttery garlic bread sandwich .... and it was bigger than she was.   God she attacked that thing like she was on EpicMealTime.

Difference is that one says what is bad for him but he will eat it and enjoy it, and also healthy street food snacks that are not bigger than his head.Processed foods are a modern man-invented problem, our bodies are not designed to cope with the overload of massive amounts of sugar and fat.   We should eat what people have eaten for generations (and yes that includes milk and butter and eggs).

By the way I love meat and vegetables and the odd pig-out with a chilli-cheese hotdog so I am no Saint.

Clayvessel
Clayvessel

Processed food is one of the sources of our disease epidemics, no doubt. It goes back to the 1960's and 1970's when there were books, articles, classes, etc. about how to spend less time in the kitchen. It was part of the feminist movement and changed our culture profoundly. Processed food was the savior to get women out of the kitchen and free up our precious time for more hedonistic pursuits than cooking and preserving food. Our culture is changed and distanced from the more healthy ways of feeding ourselves.

Matthew Koogler
Matthew Koogler

"Whole grain pasta..." cheap enough, check.. "fresh veggies..." can be pricey, but not if you buy the right ones or know how to shop... "parmesan cheese to make a nice dressing..." huh? 

3 bucks for lettuce?  I'm trying to imagine it being that much... i've never seen a head of iceberg lettuce crack $1.99, i've seen it expensive but I grab it on sale. 

I think there is an art to cooking well AND cheaply.  There is eating well and eating what you want.  A burger from McDonald's costs a buck, but a two dollar can of beans can give you 4-6 meals...

MNightShannalan
MNightShannalan

The way I see it, the problem is that Paula Deen and Sandra Lee are encouraging people to eat like this every day, that this food is in your "go to" weeknight rotation. It shouldn't be, and it can't be, and that's what I hear Bourdain saying. 

I think people of all classes/backgrounds/levels of "real American"-ness salivate when they smell anything fried. They just don't go to Momofuku every night for fried chicken in buns every night of the week. That's the real difference -- high art, as Bruni optimistically puts it, that you eat as a special treat every once in a while, versus eating processed crap every night of the week.

big ben
big ben

Great, the pettiness amongst our politicians has spilled over into TV Chefs. See how influential Washington DC can be  ?

Amadi
Amadi

Suggesting that Paula Deen champions processed food is a stretch. Cured meats, yes. Full fat dairy products & mayonnaise, yes. Stuff from boxes and cans? No. Not like Sandra Lee, the woman who lives from doughs from a refrigerated can, coats chicken in crushed breakfast cereal, and skips the spice cabinet in favor of copious use of those overpriced "seasoning packets" that are 97% salt.

And while Paula Deen's affiliation with Smithfield is deemed immoral, Bourdain's pal Mario Batali spent time on Twitter today singing the praises of something called bacon jam. Sauce for the goose isn't sauce for the gander, though, clearly.

Paula gets flack for using real butter in her baked goods, but Ina Garten does not. Paula is wrong for putting mayonnaise in a potato salad or cole slaw type dish, but Giada DeLaurentiis endless combos of white flour pasta, red meat and metric buttloads of cheese are a-ok. Emeril Lagasse had a deep fry vat as a part of his set, but if Paula makes a fried dish she's destroying American health.

This is a class issue, but not about the class that the chefs are in, but the class their perceived audience is in.

YoonkiPark1
YoonkiPark1

What is the deal with some writers and absolute statements for sensationalism? How do people not expect Anthony Bourdain to eat some really upper-scale food considering his career, passion, and income? Affordable meals don't require a ton of butter or need to be deep-fried to make them taste better. I'm not a health junkie - nor is Anthony Bourdain for that matter - but he's basing Deen's influence on American culture off of her shows and media persona, which are laden with artery clogging suggestions. Being a southern peach from Savannah with a Georgia dialect doesn't make her food more affordable nor friendly to average Americans. Plenty of cooks spend just as little - or less - to make tasty dishes that are delicious. Is Bourdain a frequent offender of generalized comments of cynicism? Of course, but that's one of the reasons why his books, TV show, and interviews have garnishes so much admiration. Many of us feel the same way. Many of us just don't have the same media appeal nor are wordsmiths. Frank Bruni. Please, try doing some more research on your material. Your argument has more holes in it than the Gaddafi complex. 

mark brown
mark brown

bourdain is an old disgruntled ex foodnetwork host who is still pissed that show bombed,and it sounds as if marx has her nose stuck so far up tonys butt she has view of his nasal cavity

Kosuccess
Kosuccess

I was going to share, but you had to throw politics in there. Leave out the political opinions in Food!!!!!!

Producemanjg
Producemanjg

 Duck Confit and Foie Gras are probably no better for you than Red Velvet cupcakes with a pound of butter each. That being said Bruni shows what side of his bread is buttered by going after Bourdain. Both Deen and Sandra Lee are slowing down the evolution of America's eating habits. I don't see how Food Network can go from Tyler Florence and Mario Batali to these two. From squid ink and bone marrow to can of mushroom soup and Velveeta. I guess Deen is the Yang to Bourdain's Ying or the other way around.

Toddcr
Toddcr

Bourdain is just trying to keep his edge . He knows he sold out long ago

Tomjensen
Tomjensen

This is why 99% of America likes their pig in a plastic package and our fish without heads. There is a certain reality that the average consumer just doesn't want to accept. I liked Bourdain's comment that there is a point where the pig makes a transition from being an animal to food. It looked like little if any of the pig went wasted. A friend of mine told me the trick to raising pigs is to not name them.

anna
anna

Smart Balance is much much worse for you than butter. It is a plasticky processed tub of artificial nastiness and I can't believe vegans who think they're healthier by eating it.

murphmobile
murphmobile

Hitler sold more books than Mother Teresa...

O RLY
O RLY

I'd like to see you make dinner out of a $2 can of beans. Smh

RuthAlice Anderson
RuthAlice Anderson

Bruni compares restaurant meal costs to home meal costs and then says it's cheaper and more populist to eat the Deen home cooked meals. Well, you can make home-cooked meals for far less than Deen's cardiac catastrophes. The cost issue is a distraction, healthy cooking is affordable. In fact, all that butter, mayo, cheese and processed meats are far more expensive than a fryer and some white wine. The pasta costs more than dried beans or barley. You can eat perfectly healthy and delicious food without spending a fortune so Deen's entire premise is based on a lazy myth. 

If Deen really gave a damn about the people she's exploiting with her dangerous advice, she would make an effort to cook healthy and affordable foods. Instead, just like the FOX propaganda station she ran to with her whine, she promises you can have everything and not pay a price. She says you can eat all the fattening food with butter on top of mayo on top of burgers on top of doughnuts on top of pancakes and it's all good. They promise we can have a functioning society without paying for it. They go so well together. 

Texanne
Texanne

Paula melted a stick of butter in a cup of maple syrup, added a cup of chopped pecans and poured the bubbling mess over fried chicken.  I have made my living as a cook and caterer in the South for over 30 years and even I had to crunge at that one.  It's obscene.

sqweasel
sqweasel

P.S. To answer my own question, the bacon jam company uses pork from Niman Ranch, a far cry from Smithfield.

sqweasel
sqweasel

Just curious, do you know the source of the pork used in the bacon jam?  Please share if you know.

There is nothing wrong with you being an apologist, but Paula does use WAY more butter and mayo than any other TV cook of whom I am aware.  Can you name one?

You are turning this into a class issue, not Bourdain.  Get a clue.

P.S.  Giada is a midget with a giant head.  EVERYTHING in her kitchen looks gigantic compared to her, including the amount of cheese she uses.

Minus Manhattan
Minus Manhattan

Umm...I don't think he's too disgruntled. He has a hit show that features him traveling around the world in cool places and eating food. He's also got another show on the way.

O RLY
O RLY

Your description of Bourdain as a "disgruntled ex foodnetwork host" is a joke right? if not, then you must be the person with a head up your ass

Soopnan
Soopnan

You nailed it.  That loser get's to travel the world and see the truly amazing things it has to offer.  He probably makes a couple $mil doing it too.  You can see the disgruntledness in his eyes with every closing montage of all of the beautiful places that he has gone, and all of the wonderful food that he has eaten.  Good call, Bro.

WIpeout
WIpeout

Aw shucks, OK take your toys home.  Next time don't be such a sissy.

Joanneaverylong
Joanneaverylong

Food is political whether you choose to look at it that way or not. But I wasn't going for anything political in my comment. Just showing how we are a country of extreme tastes.

Joanneaverylong
Joanneaverylong

We live in a country of extremes, from food to politics and I would guess the Food Network wants to stay in business so they show it all.

Amadi
Amadi

Can you provide a link to that recipe in the food network archive somewhere, because I searched for it and I can't find it.

Snoogs
Snoogs

Damn. That sounds awesome.

Amadi
Amadi

I can't find commercial bacon jam for sale, but I can find several different recipes, none of which specify that only the premium Niman Ranch bacon must be used.

Amadi
Amadi

I think it's in large part perception. When Ina Garten puts two sticks of butter (1 cup) into a cake (meant to be 12 - 16 servings), she just treats it as one of the ingredients in a cake. When Paula Deen puts a cup of butter into a cake (meant to be 12-16 servings) she relishes the butter, celebrates and emphasizes it. "Take a sticka buttah, y'all and just cream it in there with yer shugah until it's nice and light and fluffy, don't that look good? You know what I say, buttah makes it bettah, y'all."

If you don't care for a rich recipe like chicken divan, baked in a creamy cheesy sauce, you can make Paula's "chicken georgia" which has just enough butter to saute chicken and mushrooms. If you don't want Wilmington Island Marsh Mud Cake with a very standard cup of butter and several eggs, you could have a fruit salad with custard or frozen yogurt pops. People remember her decadent recipes, but she has a variety of foods, all available on her website.

And this is a class issue because it's not people of means and resources who tend to make casseroles, let alone casseroles with canned cream soup bases, or messy chocolate desserts, or things you eat with your hands. Paula isn't making refined, fussy food. She's representing a different culture in her cooking and her presentation and it makes a lot of people very uncomfortable and they're using questionable leaps of nutritional logic to avoid interrogating the biases at play.

BullHubbard
BullHubbard

Your semi-literate criticisms have been made by Bourdain himself, on many occasions.  That's why he's so refreshing: he's as willing to criticize himself in public as he is to criticize others, and he does both in a highly entertaining way.

Tara McCain
Tara McCain

The pecan glazed fried chicken was made on the episode with two people from The Help.  It aired fairly recently.  It was actually 1/2 cup of honey and 1/2 cup pecans, but still 'obscene.' http://www.foodnetwork.com/pau...

sqweasel
sqweasel

I contacted the company.

"We use Niman Ranch bacon.

However, I wasn't aware of a tweet from Mario -- can you point me in the right direction?"

For the jam, check http://goo.gl/u8ijm. It is also on Amazon. Their website lists reseller locations.

Tomjensen
Tomjensen

Ina Garten can't be taken seriously either. She was reading a viewer mail that asked, "Ina, when substituting fresh herbs for dry, it there any ratio to use?" She said she didn't know. She has no business being on TV. She doesn't belong if she can't answer that. At lest Anthony Bourdain is a chef.

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