Sometimes it must be hard to be Dallas or Houston. You work hard, have wide-laned roads, make all the right moves in the global finance and petroleum markets, but you're still not — what's that word the kids use these days? — cool. To add injury to insult, your little brother — the stoned slacker who spent his summers tubing the Guadalupe rather than interning on Wall Street — is suddenly the darling of the nation.
First, it was live music, an understandably slackerish undertaking. That's fine. But then, you had to find out on Facebook that all of your best Saudi buds were heading to Austin for the F1 race? Something's not right.
Then, people started talking about the food scene in Austin. Something about trailers, so you didn't bother to listen. But it wasn't long before Food and Wine Magazine launched their second major festival in Austin (coming this April!). The top one and two spots on Texas Monthly'sWhere to Eat Now 2012 list are both in Austin, Tyson Cole of Uchi is the best chef in the Southwest according to James Beard, and just about everyone in the nation agrees that Aaron Franklin makes the world's best barbecue. What gives?
Let's just admit it: Austin is officially the foodie capital of Texas.
As far as Bourdain's philosophy, he sums it up when talking about Qui: "I want to eat that being the only rule, and I do want to eat that."
We were going to say the word "culinary," as in, "Austin is officially the culinary capital of Texas," but that's exactly the point. Dallas and Houston have culinary scenes. Austin has a foodie scene.
Culinary scenes are a dime a dozen. No one wants to film a TV show about a culinary scene.
Which leads us to Anthony Bourdain. Bourdain's show No Reservations is the best foodie show on television. Realizing that food is about more than just what is on the plate (and that, being TV, the viewers at home can't taste what's on the plate anyway), Bourdian jet sets across the globe in search of the sensational, the authentic, the downright tasty. He's as likely to eat a fetal duck egg or bull nuts and iguana as he is sushi and foie gras.
The upcoming season will be taking him to Penang, Malaysia and the Burgundy region of France, amongst his other exotic locales. Austin is one of two American destinations — the other being Kansas City (OK, now that's a real shock) — so there's obviously a story here deep in the heart of Texas that Bourdain wants to tell.
From his last televised stop in our city, as part of his episode on the American heartland, Bourdain called Austin "unlike any place in Texas I've ever been." After giving some on air love to Perla's, Bourdain turned to the trailers. He called them "probably the single most exciting, distinguishing factor in town right now," and, while he did well to hit up Gourdough's, Odd Duck, and East Side King, it just goes to show you how much has changed in the short two years since the show's original airing.
Critics are now falling hand over foot to give awards to Bryce Gilmore of Odd Duck (and his now-primary venture, Barley Swine), and Paul Qui of East Side King is now Paul Qui of Uchiko and the soon to be crowned (there's no way Sarah is winning) winner of Top Chef Season 9.
As far as Bourdain's philosophy, he sums it up when talking about Qui: "I want to eat that being the only rule, and I do want to eat that." Sums up Austin as well.
You can find Bourdain at his SXSW panel, the oddly titled Digital Debauchery on March 13th, or simply catch him and his film crew as he makes his way across town. Or, just check any nearby alleyway. To quote Bourdain, "Fuck making money; next time I come to Austin I'm going to eat my way across town, trailer to trailer, until they find me in a quivering, semi-conscious heap somewhere with a mouth full of kimchi and mustard stained fingers, wondering, 'What the hell happened?'"