Raise your hand if you’re an Anthony Bourdain fan. If I am channel surfing on the television, it’s a pretty sure bet that I’ll stop on one of his shows if I spot it. No Reservations is his longest running series, but there is also The Layover and now Parts Unknown. By chance I ran across Parts Unknown a few weeks ago and I was instantly hooked. Classic, tell-it-like-it-really-is Bourdain, without all of the explicit language beeps on The Travel Channel shows.
You see, I find Mr. Bourdain inspiring. Yes, he is the poster child of bad boys, handsomely gaunt with a tumultuous past and acerbic wit. I’m sure many fellow writers have used him as inspiration for a character. The thing that draws me to his TV shows, though, is the other people. He has conversations with chefs and that is the key. He interacts. His literary background is apparent in every episode. He doesn’t dance on the pretty surface. He provides backstory and social commentary.
How many shows have you watched that are the equivalent of chef eye candy? The chef is introduced, maybe a few words are said about his/her background and then the show moves on to preparing recipes. Sure, as a writer you can pick up physical details for characters, maybe find some inspiration for recipes if you write books that include recipes like I do. But appearance is only part of a literary character. I actually tend to be quite vague about character descriptions, preferring to let the reader “do the work” and produce their own, unique version of my character in their minds. Bourdain’s shows are a mine of character personality traits. The eccentric chef who puts his restaurant in a hard to reach spot, so only the diners who really want to eat his food come. The community activist who trains impoverished youths to work in restaurants. The matriarch living in a remote village who pulls together a meal from the resources outside her door. Those are the types of stories I like to interweave into my own fictional stories.
Are you a Bourdain fan? What do you find appealing, or unappealing, about him?