The truth of the matter is that it was not "Great to the power of ten." It was a commendable, ballsy, kinda tipsy visit with apparently slightly lonely guy who had crafted or had thrust on him the facade of a fast living, truth telling, big hearted, humorously caustic, 2 pack a day, Manhattan bon vivant. He was the foodies favorite erudite bad boy and what he seemingly was after was in a word, "authenticity."
Even though his shows had a direct and sometimes negative effect on some of the places they shot, Bourdain himself bemoaned the homogenization of "the exotic" and in turn I guess, "the authentic."
Can one really find "authenticity" with a camera crew in tow? With world savvy fixers finding "colorful" central casting locals to populate a segment? Can one drop in, chow down, shoot the shit with a native and grab some "B" roll and the find the real deal? Perhaps, but maybe it's like the observer effect in physics, whereby the act of observing a situation changes the situation. In other words, if you make an unknown joint globally famous and armies of tourists who are woefully unaware about nuances, subtleties and garlic, start flocking there, there's a good chance things are probably going to get messed up.
The bigger issue is why do Americans and to a slightly lesser extent Canadians and Brits gobble this stuff up? What are "foodies" armed with with pre-loaded google maps and dissected episodes of "No Reservations" "Parts Unknown" and "Somebody Feed Phil" really looking for? Will eating cap-i-pota (stewed pig face) in the Boqueria along side other's with similar demographics allow them to fill that big hollow spot in their chest that craves human connection, depth and community? Hmmmmm... I explored this with Catalan journalist and consultant Cesc Castro on an episode of Hardboiled, my fairly infrequent food related podcast. You can listen here.
Next up Gordon Ramsey in "Uncharted", will swoop down on unsuspecting and unsophisticated peoples of world and then kick their unsuspecting and unsophisticated hineys and show them how he can cook their own chow better than they can. Thank you National Geographic.
In the interview Bourdain said he was always liked to hear about folks getting lost, wandering off the foodie trail and stumbling into their own adventures. Hear hear, Mr. Bourdain, hear hear.