Celebrity chef and media personality #Anthony Bourdain and a writer named Chris Baldwin have gotten into a social media feud of sorts. At issue is a “Parts Unknown” episode that aired on CNN last October which focused on some of Houston’s more obscure, ethnic eateries. Baldwin noted that Bourdain issued a “no #white people” edict when looking for restaurants to feature in a recent piece in Papercity. According to the Houston Chronicle, Bourdain snapped back on Twitter, “This is some shameful, dishonest race-baiting click bait.
All involved should take a hard look in the mirror.”
The episode in question was an absolutely fine revelation of some of Houston’s multiethnic food culture, somewhat tarnished by some snotty, ignorant comments by Bourdain about Texas “cowboy” culture and the alleged demise of the oil industry. In fact, the oil and gas industry is doing quite well, thanks to the fracking boom.
The problem with Bourdain and the episode was not his selection of restaurants or his revelation that Houston cuisine goes beyond TexMex and barbecue. Most people who live in the Bayou City had known this fact for years and are quite appreciative when someone from outside learned this and shared it with the world. The problem with Bourdain is that he is an elitist snob with an abrasive attitude that is off-putting to many people.
Compare Bourdain with #Guy Fieri, another celebrity chef who has made a career traveling the United States (and the wider world for that matter) to discover obscure but interesting eateries in his much more popular Food Network show “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.” Fieri is a laid-back Californian who bubbles with enthusiasm about the food every place he goes.
He has never denigrated anyone else’s cooking or culture. And he has visited a wide ethnic variety of restaurants without once issuing an edict to ban any ethnic group from consideration.
The first time Fieri came to Houston, he visited a Jewish deli, a Greek café, a Bosnian eatery, a high-end hamburger place, and an English style pub. His most recent trip included a Jamaican place, a Lebanese eatery, an Argentinian restaurant specializing in empanadas, a place that does fusion sushi and barbecue, and a venerable TexMex eatery. Fieri does diversity without being exclusionary or acting elitist.
Bourdain hates Fieri and has often denigrated his show and his various restaurants. Bourdain is apparently offended by Fieri’s flamboyant style and his approach to food that emphasized casual fun and taste. Fieri, for his part, is dismissive of Bourdain and has wondered what his “issues” are.