Some Final Thoughts on L’Affaire Bourdain

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 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, 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.

21 thoughts on “Some Final Thoughts on L’Affaire Bourdain

  1. As usual, an honest and well thought-out summation. Thank you, again, for being a dependable source of criticism and subjective truth.

  2. I think Lady Gaga said it best when she said “All we care a bout is: runway models, Cadillacs and liquor bottles.”

    I think chefs’ unwillingness to speak ill of each other in public is what’s known as “professional courtesy.” Otherwise, boy, Todd English’s ears would be singed beyond repair ;)

    I also think that inadvertently did Chef Palmer and Four Seasons a favor, because CPS has been a weak link in his chain for quite some time. [Just dined at his new Burritt Tavern in SF and it’s awesome].

  3. And yet leaching onto this and the success of others has made you seem bitter and resentful for the sake of internet traffic. I find this nothing more than inwilled dogmatic prose, nonsensical puffery at best. You are better than this John.

  4. “Can we all get along?”

    OK, now that this whole steak issue has been put to rest, can we get back to the hot hostess watch? Oh, and the restaurants too.

  5. It’s been fun to watch this saga unfold! While it’s never fun to watch some of the better dining establishment’s in town squirm and point fingers at each other, it was nice to see the truth come out. I’ve never been a huge fan of CPS, but it was good to see a tactful response to all the drama.

    There are lots of lesson’s to be learned from this, and for us lowly diners, it’s to let the manager know if your meal is not to par prior to bitching about it online!

  6. Do you know who comes out of this whole kerfuffle looking best? Charlie Palmer! The guy whose joint served up the offending steak shows grace and class. Kudos to CP.

    And John, if you get into a wrestling match with a pig, you should not be surprised to get muddy. Revel in the snooty attentions of the ex-heroin addict whose ego is bigger even than the steaks they serve at the Golden Steer.

  7. “They’ll eviscerate someone’s food for years, but don’t ever want their names associated publicly with any criticism” ~I seem to remember multiple instances of Anthony Bourdain publicly criticizing other chefs over the years, publicly and unrepentantly, so I’m no so sure this is a fair criticism to level at him. There’s plenty of other reasons to criticize him for those who don’t care for the man, but a hesitancy to call other celeb chefs out on the carpet has never been one of them…

  8. Thank God, (or whatever deity you believe in), ELV is as strong as ever. Stirring the proverbial pot of soup with this Bourdain business is good business–and having the balls to say what most people know but don’t fess up and put it in print.

    Sure, it may spark another Bourdain feud, (remember, Bourdain and Uncle Alan fought for years), which I suppose could create some good press, but we know it’s deeper than that. Ottavia, (not to be confused with Octopussy, ca. 1983), pooped in the middle of a casino–then stepped in it. You just happened to be there to call her out and tell her to clean up after she sh++t, and that opened the door for you to bring up the dreaded conspiracy that we see committed everyday by some in this curious food business–nobody wants to step up and tell the truth. Truth and honesty always win out in the end. Well, at least some of the time.

  9. For those who think Chef Charlie Palmer showed grace and class by coming forward to self-disclose his name was on the offensive steak served to Queen Bourdain–think again.

    Chef Palmer didn’t show any grace or class on Sunday, May 13, at the “Steak and Eggs with Charlie Palmer,” brunch at Aureole, (part of Vegas Uncork’d). While the food, setting, service and beverages were superior, one element was missing at Steak and Eggs with Charlie. Charlie. He wasn’t in the front, back or center of the house. No excuse, explanation or apology was offered, which in my book shows both a lack of class and grace. In all honesty, none of the guests seemed to care, (no less even notice), and the event was a success without him.

    Saving grace by admitting you served a bad steak is petite peas compared to not showing up for an event with your name on the top of the bill.

  10. As always great article. To bad this spouse could not stay a spouse and leave us the pleasure of never knowing her. Senor Curtas I patiently wait for the day you have a food show and I long for the Bourdain of season 1 when he still was a bitter crackhead.

  11. Wow! It’s a big f–kin deal about a shitty steak. The lady had every right to bitch about it. I mean really, John, some of the crap you have eaten, and praised is really insane. Vegas is a bullshit food town. Yeah, yeah, yeah, the fancy joints and super star chefs. The quality is not sustainable. Mr. Bourdain is doing what you wish you could do. Only he knows what he is taking about.

  12. JC: the rabbit hole into your douch-baggery goes deep indeed. I love how you thank Tony for the free publicity then blame his (hot) wife for the whole situation. If I were you I would walk the other way if you see Bourdain coming toward you, lest you soil your Colonel Sanders track suit and are forced to tell the tale of how you got pimp slapped (using your usual alliterative vocabulary).

  13. #19 is pretty funny. One would think its AB himself is logging in on his Misc. gmail account and writing such nonsense. AB doesnt have the balls to bitch slap shit. Maybe a Kathoey after destroying his ass after a hot night in Bangkok of spicy food and black tar heroin.

  14. New to this blog and find the article quite interesting. The comments even more so. Never thought I’d see “pimp-slapped” and “Colonel Sanders” used in the same sentence but the comments are are flavorful, that’s for sure.

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