Never bite off more than you can chew. – Anonymous
Since our post on Mr. and Mrs. Bourdain was driving so much traffic to the site (a five fold increase in hits) we were told by people in the know (and by “in the know” we mean “our staff“) to leave it up as the lead story for a couple of days. First of all, we want to thank all of our loyal readers for the traffic and for the thoughtful comments. ….which almost all of them were.
All we really did was something Eater.com and (let’s face it) no serious journalist would do, which is question Ottavia Bourdain’s trashing of a steak dinner she had in our humble burg, and speculate about who or what could have pissed her off so much with such an inferior performance from such a name chef. In a town internationally renowned for its steakhouses, and its celebrity chef steakhouses at that, it read as quite a shock that a top-flight meat emporium could fail so miserably, especially when serving an even more famous guest in the rarefied air of the food world.
That the offending steakhouse in question turned out to be Charlie Palmer STEAK did not surprise us at all …but that’s another story.
In hindsight, we should’ve confirmed what we had been told, namely that the Bourdains were staying at the Venetian/Palazzo, but other than that, we put forth the only explanation we could think of for why a famous person (let’s face it, really, really famous in the small-bore food world) would go out of their way on a national food blog to gripe, in detail, about a dinner, and then coyly hide behind the “you’ll just have to guess who I’m talking about” camouflage of high school girls and gossip columnists everywhere.
If Ottavia Bourdain were a high school girl, or a gossip columnist, or just some schmoe with an axe to grind, no one would’ve given a rat’s ass who she was talking about. But she isn’t. She’s Mrs. Anthony Bourdain and she’s writing for a well-known food blog (they don’t get much bigger that GrubStreet.com), and thought she could drop these bombs, and still protect herself and her husband from any public or private fallout.
Had she identified the offending restaurant, that fallout would’ve mainly been private, because she (and by extension her husband) would have violated the number one rule in international chef relations: Thou shall not speak ill (publicly) of any chef. In this regard, chefs, all chefs (even preening, posturing macho assholes) are the biggest bunch of spineless weenies on the planet. They’ll eviscerate someone’s food for years, but don’t ever want their names associated publicly with any criticism — lest the same happen to them someday — JUST LIKE A BUNCH OF HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS! Yeah, we’re talking to you, every chef ELV has ever talked to.
But with great power comes great responsibility, and sometimes a person’s reach exceeds their grasp, and everyone deserves a voice, but not everyone deserves a microphone (insert your cliche here), and when the spouse of someone famous decides to start going public with things she hates — smack dab in the middle of the world he operates in — she needs a level of discretion and thoughtfulness way above the pay grade of a casual Yelp-ster or food blogger.
Props to Charlie Palmer for stepping up and going public and thereby letting both the Bourdains off the hook. As the Chinese would say, he loses some face, but allows them to save theirs.
Lady Gaga said it best. (ELV cannot believe he’s actually quoting Lady Gaga, but here goes.) In an interview last year she summed up perfectly the difference between being famous and not. “When you’re trying to be a success,” she told New York magazine, “you’re constantly shouting to be heard. Once you get there, everyone is leaning in to hear what you have to say.”
Ottavia Bourdain knows this, but wanted to have her steak and eat it too. That’s not the way it works, Ottavia. Not for Mrs. Anthony Bourdain. If you want to write about the waters your husband swims in, your opinions are like chum for the sharks, and he won’t always be able to get you off the hook.
You should’ve just kept your mouth shut, in more ways than one.