It’s a side effect of Anthony Bourdain’s moonlighting on the “Treme” writing staff, but a tasty one. For Monday's (August 29) “No Reservations,” airing at 8 p.m. on the Travel Channel, Bourdain taps his new connections in the Crescent City and beyond to introduce his viewers – who are conditioned to expect the most exotic possible culinary destinations – to Linda Green’s ya ka mein and the transcendent fried chicken at Willie Mae’s Scotch House in New Orleans before heading into Cajun country.
There, Bourdain hits Poche’s in Breaux Bridge, digs into a crawfish boil, and participates in a boucherie staged in Lakeview Park in Eunice.
Bourdain kicks off the boucherie, the hour’s centerpiece, by capping the hog of honor. On camera.
“It’s a uniquely American mix out there,” Bourdain said. “I’ll tell you, I was really surprised by the food. I knew it was going to be good. I knew about gumbo. I knew about crawfish boils. But I was really thrilled by the smothered dishes and slow stews. Those rich, deep, dark flavors they get going out there. I had a great time.”
Bourdain, interviewed a few weeks ago by phone (and well before his more recent tweetting match with Paula Deen) said he was also impressed with the mechanics of a boucherie, whereby teams of cooks descend on a butchered hog to prepare a bounty of different dishes.
“It really was like this clockwork operation,” he said. “As soon as the pig was dead, an entire community hacked off a different part of it and got to work, really professionally making an individual specialty. It was really something to see.”
Familiar faces from “Treme” can be seen throughout the episode. Wendell Pierce joins Bourdain for a music-history lesson at the Eagle Saloon before enjoying some of Miss Linda’s specialty old-sober noodles.
Story editor Lolis Eric Elie tours the neighborhood that gives the series its title.
And co-creator David Simon tags along to Eunice.
“He showed up at 6 a.m. when the pig got the good news, and hung out eating and drinking and playing music all day long,” said Bourdain, who consulted for “Treme’s” first season and joined the writing staff for season two.
The “Treme” experience, said the chef-turned-author-turned-TV-host, “is the most fun I’ve ever had at a job.”
Bourdain added he’ll be on-staff for season three, the writing of which in getting cranked up pointing toward a November shooting start and spring return of new episodes.
Bourdain said he watched the episodes as they aired, still slightly awed by his own role.
“I can tell you, my heart was pounding the first time I saw my name up there on the same screen with Eric Overmyer and David Simon,” he said. “I still can’t get over it. I feel honored and grateful and excited.
“To see characters moving their mouths with my words coming out of them is an entirely new and really, really exciting experience.
“It’s intimidating sitting down at the writing table with the people they have working on that show, who are all heroes to me. It’s fun and easy to write for the show because you know there are smarter people than you waiting to fix any mistakes.”
News of Bourdain’s continuing presence on the show’s writing staff may be a tip on story vectors for certain characters.
It also signals to the world’s superstar chefs to polish up their diction. The show’s chef cameos so far have included David Chang, Tom Colicchio, Eric Ripert, Wylie Dufresne and John Besh. Also seen, in smaller roles, were several New Orleans chefs, including Domenica’s Alon Shaya.
“The guys were so easy to recruit for this show,” Bourdain said. “David Chang has no time, zero time, to do anything, ever. Five seconds after asking if he’d be in it, he pretty much cleared his schedule.”
And so now Bourdain has to clear his own schedule to help write another season of “Treme.”
“I’m looking forward to the writers meetings, where you have these terrible god-like powers over these characters,” he said. “I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next.
“I work on the show, but I’m also its biggest fan-boy. On one hand, I’m watching my words come out of the characters’ mouths, but other times I’m hanging on to see what happens to LaDonna and Antoine and all those characters.
“I love them. I’m hooked.”