Yes, it’s true. I’m going to see An Evening with Anthony Bourdain & Eric Ripert this Saturday night at the Hippodrome. As you’ probably could have gathered, I’m super ridiculously excited. The ticket I got also includes admission to a post-show reception in the Hippodrome’s Pavilion that will feature samplings from Baltimore’s top restaurants.
The evening will feature “storytelling and observations” from Bourdain, who before his “No Reservations” show on the Travel Channel was best known for his frank and funny memoir/expose “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.” Ripert, executive chef and co-owner of the three-star Michelin restaurant Le Bernadin, has his own show on PBS, “Avec Eric.”
“No Reservations” will include a question-and-answer session, which, considering how some Baltimoreans have taken Bourdain’s published and recorded observations about the city, could get real juicy.
… My own view had been negatively (and entirely unfairly) skewed by an unhappy period in the 1980’s when I was briefly employed in Charm City. I was the one junkie in Baltimore too dumb to find heroin there — and had to commute to New York for my ever increasing needs. I told this story to “Snoop” Pearson by the way– to peals of laughter. I gathered from our conversation that in the past, she has some familiarity with the retail end of that business. As we cruised West Baltimore in her white Escalade, much merriment was had at my expense. In spite of the fact that she was raised in the very worst part, under the very worst circumstances, she loves her hometown.
Jay Landsman, legendary murder police, role model for the Detective Munch character on Homicide and then Law and Order, also for the “Jay Landsman” character on The Wire — also (confusingly enough) an actor on that series, also loves Baltimore. Jay the cop and Snoop, the killer share that mutant form of only-in-America success, where one moves unexpectedly and seamlessly from the real world to television — playing (basically) oneself. In fact, between Jay, Snoop, Nelson Starr and Zamir, this process also became something of a theme.There has been predictable apprehension about this show on blogs and in the Baltimore press — from the same folks, I suspect, who were less than pleased with The Wire9 9s portrayal of their town. They probably don’t find much to love in the early, hilariously funny works of John Waters either.
Like it or not, I would say to them, those are your ambassadors. You made them. The greatest dramatic series in the history of television (whose subject, to be fair, is really much larger than Baltimore), and a great, filthily funny auteur — the John Ford of the American underbelly. Neither could have happened anywhere else. It was the uniquely Bawlmer sense of humor, the dark, cultish attractions of the sinister sounding “lake trout” (which I first heard about on The Wire), that brought me back to Baltimore, a city I once had little interest in revisiting. It was Multiple Maniacs and Female Trouble and Jay Landsman and Felicia Pearson and the world David Simon created that made Baltimore a “must visit” destination for me.
I think that troubled cities often tragically misinterpret what’s coolest about themselves. They scramble for cure-alls, something that will “attract business”, always one convention center, one pedestrian mall or restaurant district away from revival. They miss their biggest, best and probably most marketable asset: their unique and slightly off-center character. Few people go to New Orleans because it’s a “normal” city — or a “perfect” or “safe” one. They go because it’s crazy, borderline dysfunctional, permissive, shabby, alcoholic and bat shit crazy — and because it looks like nowhere else. Cleveland is one of my favorite cities. I don’t arrive there with a smile on my face every time because of the Cleveland Philarmonic.
I arrived in Baltimore apprehensive. I left a fan. And in case you’re wondering, blue crabs were out of season.
“No Reservations — An Evening with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert is a frank and provocative back and forth about what really goes on behind the kitchen doors. … Through illustrative anecdotes, stories and a Q & A, the night will include highlights from Eric’s career and lurid lowlights from Tony’s career and give you a real-world understanding of what it takes to survive in the cutthroat culture of fine dining restaurants.”