No Reservations Chicago (2012)

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February 5, 2009 at 10:03 am

Rob Gardner

Anthony Bourdain, world eater, finally made his Chicago debut this week.  Foodies could quibble a bit over the lack of Italian beef or the over-exposure of Hot Doug’s, but for the most part they liked what they saw.  It helped that Bourdain had the service of a well-traveled Chicagoan, Louisa Chu.  But for all their city travels, did they hit any local food? Well no.  But I’m not saying this out of a sense of personal loss.  I’m saying this because not many people really associate Chicago with the local food movement.  I’m figuring Bourdain and Chu are due for another Chicago episode in about three years.  When they come then, local food will be such a big thing around here, it will bound to be the focus of the show.

And not just local food.  When the No Reservations crew films next time, they will be here in the middle of winter.  Bourdain was all big on his hepness for Chicago, but no one’s really allowed to be hep on Chicago until they’ve experienced a weekend where the high temperature is minus 3.  See how you like Chicago now my friend. 

See all the crazy cats going local in the darkest days.  Do a segment on some Roscoe Village couple who’ve dug a root cellar under their restored A-frame.  Segue that piece, which you’ve done as a homage to Red Dawn, playing up the survivalist aspect of urban storers, to a piece on some major grocery chain, maybe even Whole Foods, that is meeting the demand for winter foods by better handling the surpluses of potatoes, apples, beets, they get in the fall. In Paul Kahan’s kitchen, he makes an all rutabaga menu for you.

There’s the ten minutes or so on canning, with a little hillbilly music in the background.  Sure, you give a few minutes of exposure to famous local canners from the Beet’s own Melissa Graham, to our canning king, Paul Virant, but the gist of that time period is how eaters fill their winter baskets with heirloom tomato salsas made by River Valley Kitchen or the Serbian flavored vegetables mixed up by the Beet’s Vera V.

Somewhere in the episode is room for urban and indoor agriculture.  Filmed ala Hoop Dreams, Tony plays ball with Will Allen and talks getting fresh lettuce to city schools year-round.   No one looks more glamorous the whole episode than Cassie Green, who discusses how she can barely keep up with demand.  Robin, looking nearly as chic, talks about the many markets she throws together each weekend. 

Tony Bourdain, famous cynic, is, well flabbergasted that in this chilly metropolis, people are going gaga over local food.  Chicago may be a town of deep dish pizza, encased meats, and nearly forgotten fish shacks, but in 2012, it’s a town that likes its food local.

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One Comment

  1. Louisa Chu says:

    Thanks Rob!

    I just wanted to point out though that we did eat and drink local in the episode. Not exclusivel, but we did.

    Everything from Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale at Burt’s, to Midwestern smelts and trout at Calumet, to just about everything in Paul Kahan’s backyard – where they also made all their own sausages and pickled vegetables too. I’m not sure which products were local at Moto but I know Omar has been a big supporter of sustainable vendors.

    The *other* show I work on with Tony’s production company, Zero Point Zero, also makes Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie on PBS and I’ve been pushing for winter too.

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