No Reservations About Knocking No Reservations

(reposted from here)

It was no secret, among many around town, that Anthony Bourdain came to Columbus last November, and it was no secret that he brought his camera crew with him.  Thanks to the efforts of a several local foodies with connections, Bourdain and crew were directed towards Kihachi and Clever Crow pizza.  From November on, we waited in anticipation for the airing of the show, which was finally aired last night.

The results?  The bit on Kihachi showed their chef, Michael Kimura, for the exceptional talent he is, and relayed the impression of two seasoned TV food personalities (Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman) made very happy by his creations. The ingenuity and passion of the man behind Clever Crow was communicated, for us, with great resonance.  Each segment was a suitable tribute to each restaurant, and each will provide them with well-deserved attention.

With that said, in total, the segment on Columbus was not a credit to Bourdain’s franchise… and it was constructed so as to emphatically not be a credit to Columbus.

Why? The narrative was essentially as follows: Columbus is a wasteland of strip malls and chain restaurants (they showed plenty of footage of both). Isn’t it amazing – just entirely beyond the odds! – that there are a couple of guys fighting the good fight in such a godforsaken place!

It goes without saying, among those who actually have experienced the full Columbus food scene, that such a narrative is lazy, sloppy, and untrue.  And it is a shame that people such as Bourdain and Ruhlman, who are ostensibly committed to recognizing the excellence of places like Rigsby’s, Alana’s, and Dragonfly, are so casual about slandering them with such broad brush foolishness.

There are a few obvious reasons for this.  First, the nature of the show.  Did you see Bourdain anywhere in the Clever Crow bit? You did not.  Only his camera crew visited them, and he simply did a voice over based upon someone else’s observations.  The man was only in Columbus for an evening.  He knew nothing about us when he came here, and he knew little more than that upon leaving.

Such is the nature of show business… frustrating, but understandable, and I can forgive Bourdain for it.  He has a lot going on.

Much less forgivable was the appearance of No Reservations consultant and Cleveland native, Michael Ruhlman (shown dining with Bourdain in the Kihachi segment).  Bourdain, quite reasonably, relied on Ruhlman to provide background on our city.  And Ruhlman simply parroted every inane negative stereotype ever spoken of the city, on air, with remarkable economy.  ‘Strip malls’, ‘chain restaurants’, on and on…

What follows is pure comedy gold:

Twitter, being twitter, was atwitter with reactions to the show last night.  Ruhlman is also on twitter, and quite deservedly was on the receiving end of a lot of criticism.  This morning, he responded:

“@michaelcoyote et al, YIKES, I think I’ll have to watch the show! I don’t know Columbus well enough to have an actual opinion about it!”

Well, Mr. Ruhlman, it’s a shame that not having ‘an actual opinion’ didn’t stop you from expressing one.


22 responses to “No Reservations About Knocking No Reservations

  1. It would be great if Ruhlman follows though and comes down to Columbus to get a positive education about the food culture of the city.

    Great exposure for Clever Crow. Could have been better if Kihachi had actually been named during the program

    • Totally agreed. We’re among the many who have offered to show Ruhlman around Columbus’s great restaurant scene, and we hope he’ll take at least one of us up on it!

  2. Anyone born and raised in the midwest groans at the majority of comments made about our little piece of the pie. Most comments range from “just farms and trailer parks” to those of Bourdain’s complete disgust in visiting this place. He did visit more then a few restaurants while here, mainly the ones surrounding Kihachi (one restaurant has a photo of him with the owner, proudly displayed by the register). How about Columbus sends out an invite for both Bourdain and his little pal, Ruhlman, to return to Columbus for a proper show about our city.

    • We’ve communicated with Ruhlman, and he’s made vague noises about coming down this way. Hopefully we can snag him.

      Bourdain, though… now that’s a bigger fish. Frankly, I’d like to see the city be proactive in trying to lure the show back.

  3. Two things about the tiny bit that I noticed – there was no reference, in words, video, or credits, to the name of the Japanese restraunt that the two were shown visiting. Secondly, I am old and really forgetful, but I _thought_ that Mr. B had indicating that Ruhlman had moved to Columbus and that was why he had asked for a recommendation.

    • You’re correct, there was no reference to the name of the restaurant (Kihachi) in the show. We’ve had scads of google queries that found our blog by searching the name of the chef, Michael Kimura – obviously, people wanted to know the name of his restaurant!

      Regarding Ruhlman, what Bourdain said was this:

      “Voiceover (Bourdain): More recently arrived in Columbus – Ruhlman. Food writer, proud advocate of his home city of Cleveland, food snob of the first order… and frequent co-conspirator in some of my more lurid and shameful misadventures.”

      While there may be a bit of ambiguity in it, rest assured that Ruhlman merely visited Columbus.

  4. Is the video clip available? I couldn’t find it on Travel Channel.

    This is a great opinion piece. I’m impressed you could be so charitable. I feel like tossing Ruhlman’s book in the trash. Bordain dropped down to shithead status too. No excuse for being uninformed.

    I heard him rant the other day in an interview about Medium Raw. He was saying when a chef becomes big and opens many restaurants, there are no problems, as long as the quality is maintained.

    His rise to stardom is similar. If he can’t maintain his objectivity, he’s just another popularity whore. Sad.

    • I haven’t found the video clip anywhere other than at the iTunes store.

      But yeah – Ruhlman has become marketable and he’s probably doing too much in too little time just to make a buck. Objectivity and concern for facts become casualties.

  5. Don’t forget about Ruhlman reminding Bourdain that he had asked if we had indoor plumbing…

  6. Dear Citizens Of Columbus,
    The rest of the country will start respecting the cities of Ohio, when you the people who live there stop complaining about all of the bad press you get and continue to make a fool of yourselves all across the nations media in the process. Lebron James leaves Cleveland after seven years of loyalty and commitment and what does America see? Images of fans burning his jersey and letters from a billionaire owner comparing him to Benedict Arnold. Bourdain does his second round to the state, first being Cleveland, and instead of praising his mention of the heart land, you write articles about how he only speaks of strip malls and chain restaurants. This man has visited every corner of the earth, from Namibia to Ecuador , Saudi Arabia to Shanghai, Venice to Vietnam, and he still brings the Travel Channel through the midwest to do episodes on Columbus and Cleveland. Do you think most of his viewers would rather see him tour Easton and Granview or Sardinia and Sicily? Take a minute to realize the praise and recognition the city and state gets, rather than continue to focus on the negative that berates the area. Maybe then people will stop thinking of Ohio when they need to create a Worst Cities in America list, stop thinking of Cleveland as the mistake on the lake, or Columbus as a wasteland, and start realizing that it is a place with wonderful history, cuisine, and people.

    • That’s a curious point of view… never would have thought to equate the whole Lebron thing with No Reservations, and still can’t see how it makes any sense.

      Why do you think that praising any mention of the state is preferable to taking issue with factual mistakes related to coverage of us? You seem to assume that simply being unconditionally gracious will magically change perceptions. Why?

  7. No Reservations initial portrayal of Columbus as a hick town or strip mall laden wasteland is an unfortunate case of perception becoming the reality. This is the view that most of America, those living in the major cities or on the coasts share with Bourdain. These feelings are beyond our control and will not change by creating food blogs or writing articles meant to discredit someone whose entire purpose for the visit was to show the inaccuracies of his and the public’s initial perceptions. Did you watch the rest of the show, or were you solely concentrated on the fact that he didn’t visit your favorite gastropub? His purpose for eating in Columbus, was the same as the other cities he visited during the show- Denver, Milwaukee, Ann Arbor, or in fact any city across the globe where he travels. To simply change people’s perceptions, to educate the masses, to show them that great food exists outside of what’s familiar to them, and to do it in a satirical style and manner which has made him a best seller the world over. Now, if you take just one moment and remove yourself from the cloud of pity that you and many Ohioans continually bask in, you would realize that the show might have actually cast a positive light on our food scene. As another comment above mentioned, many people instantly searched for Kihachi and Clever Cow. Their interest in our food scene actually grew, their perceptions changed, their notions which were initially shared by Bourdain were altered.
    To parallel this to the fiasco which was the Lebron James “Decision”, the city of Cleveland and its heroic defender in Dan Gilbert, took every rational consideration out of the equation and made the people of our state seem like the victims of an unthinkable treason. How on earth could he leave the state that he has lived in for the last 25 years, that state that has made him The Chosen One, The Savior, The King, and erase our dreams of a NBA championship? Rather than focusing on the positive elements which he brought Cleveland- the years of national media coverage, the millions in endorsements and business which he brought our cities, the charitable donations and development that was made possible by his contributions as a Cavalier, we once again accepted our role as the countries scapegoat and in turn only fed the perception that we are a dying city in a state with no hope.

    • You seem a bit too enamored with your idea to actually stop and consider whether or not it makes any sense. Perception becoming reality? Of course not – the number of strip malls or quality restaurants in a city doesn’t change based upon any individuals perceptions of them. It’s about an incorrect perception becoming perpetuated… reality does exist separately from perception.

      Which, of course, was the entire point behind what I wrote. I gave credit where credit was due – the restaurants were rightly observed to be deserving beneficiaries of the show – and took issue when I thought the show was unfair. Is that level of discernment too sophisticated for you?

  8. Oh gosh stop it… Columbus is more of a Diners Drive Ins and Dives town than a worthy No Reservations stop. Hell, almost all of the restaurant links under the categories tab are located in a strip mall. No level discernment necessary, and clearly the only error he made was not asking for your sophisticated opinion of local hot spots. Now go on and write a few more critical food blogs while I drum up my next brilliant reply : Olive Garden & Outback- Why OSU always loses in the NCAA Championship game.

    • “Oh gosh stop it… Columbus is more of a Diners Drive Ins and Dives town than a worthy No Reservations stop.”

      Not sure I agree, but both are certainly welcome. Do you actually know enough about Columbus’s restaurant scene to draw such a conclusion?

      “Hell, almost all of the restaurant links under the categories tab are located in a strip mall.”

      True, but there are plenty of worthy restaurants (my post up top, which you seem to have not even read, listed a few…) that aren’t. So what’s your point?

      “No level (of?) discernment necessary, and clearly the only error he made was not asking for your sophisticated opinion of local hot spots.”

      Who is he? Bourdain? I have no beef with him. Ruhlman… yeah, I do hold him accountable, but I doubt that whoever he asked for info on where to go had any bearing on the outcome of the completed production. It was, as far as I could tell, a story wrapped around the recording of Ruhlman’s biases.

      Perhaps you should stop taking pot shots at straw men. You’d come off much much better if you had – drum roll please – actually read what I wrote and was responding to that content rather than whatever silly string of thoughts you feel like incorrectly inferring.

      “Now go on and write a few more critical food blogs while I drum up my next brilliant reply : Olive Garden & Outback- Why OSU always loses in the NCAA Championship game.”

      Can’t wait!

  9. I lived in Columbus for 15 years and finally was able to move out thank god. I thought the No Reservations episode was spot on. AltEats Columbus, get out of Ohio and try dining at any real foodie city. That way rather than rave about the “food scene” of Columbus, you’ll have some perspective as to what a real food scene is.

    • London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo, Bangkok, Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur, Sydney… I could go on… might any of those count as ‘real foodie cities’? One or more of us has lived in and/or eaten extensively in each of them, and one of us is actually from London (yes, UK) while another is from KL.

      I’m curious – where did you move to that you think is so much more ‘real’ by comparison?

    • I guess I am a little late getting into this one. I’ve been around the world – 15 countries (many repeatedly), 42 states, every major US city, most twice. I am a certified BBQ judge, attended countless cooking and wine education classes and a I’ve been a food writer for over ten years. Columbus has a lot to offer and can hold it’s own with most cities our size (yes size does matter) and many larger cities. Jenn, if you find yourself in Columbus again, I hope you might consider giving the city another try, it seems you may have missed a lot when you were here before. And Alex – well there is nothing I could say to de-snark you, so thanks for taking time to read the blog, we might not be worthy.

  10. taco drew are you saying that Columbus is on par with the cities you mention??
    Yes, we have some good food in this city and it has gotten better in the past 5 years I have lived here, but the food truck craze has been going on in LA and Portland way longer. People love Anthony Bourdain because he is so snarky, yet when he is talking about their beloved city, all of a sudden it’s not cool. I moved here 5 years ago from Los Angeles, and frankly had never even heard of Columbus. In general, his perception about this place is correct and the fact that we do have gems like Kihachi is a surprise. Just take a look at the best of lists in local newspapers and you will see readers voting Haiku as best sushi and Marcella’s as the best Italian.

    • To answer your initial question – no, not particularly. My point was to respond to this – “AltEats Columbus, get out of Ohio and try dining at any real foodie city.” – by suggesting that the participants in alt.eats are far from lacking in such experience, and that we speak of the places we blog about from a perspective that includes that experience.

      Regarding Bourdain – as with all snarky types, their appeal hinges on whether or not they’re going after worthy targets and uncovering useful truths. I don’t believe what was portrayed had much of a bearing on who we are as a city – it wasn’t the truth. Hence the writeup above.

      And, yeah – I cringe when I see those reader’s choice ‘best of’ lists. But, if you’re smart enough to avoid using them as your guide, you may be surprised by what you can find in this city.

  11. OK, so it looks like maybe Mr. Bourdain & co.’s hit on Cols. may have paid some unexpected dividends – check out this article in the Washington Post:

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