In the weeds Around the world and behind the scenes with Anthony Bourdain

Tom Vitale

Book - 2021

"In the nearly two years since Anthony Bourdain's death, no one else has come close to filling the void he left. His passion for and genuine interest in the cultures he visited made the world feel smaller and more knowable. Despite his affable, sometimes arch TV persona, the real Tony was intensely private, deeply conflicted about his fame, and an enigma even to those close to him-except for the crew following him around the world. And almost no one knew him better than his long-time producer and director Tom Vitale. Over the course of ten years traveling together, Tony became a boss, a friend, a hero and, sometimes, a tormentor. In the Weeds takes readers behind the scenes and behind the guise, to reveal not just the insanity tha...t went into filming in some of the most volatile places in the world, but the complicated man behind the Anthony Bourdain persona. Tom tells the stories behind-the-scenes of traveling to places like Borneo, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, and many more, all while trying to film a TV show"--

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Travel writing
New York : Hachette Books 2021.
Main Author
Tom Vitale (author)
First edition
Physical Description
x, 288 pages, 32 unnumbered leaves of unnumbered plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
  • Author's Note
  • Part 1.
  • Chapter 1. Aftermath
  • Chapter 2. Ready for Prime Time
  • Chapter 3. Appetizer
  • Chapter 4. Heart of Darkness
  • Chapter 5. Signs You're in a Cult
  • Chapter 6. Kill Your Darlings
  • Part 2.
  • Chapter 7. High-Risk Environment
  • Chapter 8. Shiny Objects
  • Chapter 9. Fame
  • Chapter 10. Jamaica Me Crazy
  • Chapter 11. Shooting Nightmares
  • Chapter 12. Roman Holiday
  • Part 3.
  • Chapter 13. The Quiet American
  • Chapter 14. Playing with My Food
  • Chapter 15. Polite Dinner Conversation
  • Chapter 16. Karma
  • Epilogue
  • Acknowledgments
Review by Booklist Review

[Boxed review with 9750614]Author Vitale worked first as a gofer, then as producer-director for Anthony Bourdain for 16 years, from Bourdain's Food Network show, A Cook's Tour, in 2002, through the final episode, on Indonesia, of Bourdain's popular, critically acclaimed CNN show, Parts Unknown, which ended with the host's tragic suicide in France in 2018. Accepting the impossibility of ever capturing the essence of such a brilliant, curious, darkly funny, loving, cruel, über-rebellious, wholly mercurial man, a shell-shocked Vitale still lays out an immersive narrative, rich with insight and detail, of their work together. Focus is given to the sociopolitical logistics of some of Parts Unknown's most consequential episodes, including those on Burma, Libya, the Congo, Vietnam (which included an interview with then--President Barack Obama), and Rome, where Bourdain began his ill-fated affair with the equally mercurial Italian actress and director Asia Argento. If not capturing Bourdain, Vitale's account might be as close to an authentic portrait of the late chef-traveler as readers will find.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Vitale's arresting tales of life as chef-turned-media star Anthony Bourdain's longtime director and producer offer a vivid look at a demanding, passionate, volatile man and "the highs and lows, and the bizarre as shit situations in which we constantly found ourselves." When Bourdain died by suicide in June 2018, a stunned Vitale refused to unpack the suitcase he'd just loaded in preparation to join Bourdain on another shoot. "What follows is my best attempt to paint an honest picture of my experience traveling with Tony," he writes. "A story told by someone who is still trying to make sense of it all." As he reflects on more than a decade of working with Bourdain--on shows including CNN's Parts Unknown--Vitale shares mesmerizing recollections of their travels through Libya (where routine car-bomb checks were followed by tea), Vietnam (on a "top-secret" shoot with former President Obama), and countless other locales, while probing the fascinating and frustrating facets of the chef's larger-than-life personality. "Tony's leadership techniques were CIA caliber: duplicitous, unforgivable, possibly criminal, and usually extremely effective," Vitale writes, admitting that while Bourdain's presence was stimulating, his "energy would suck you dry." With this exhilarating travelogue, he paints a complicated portrait, packed with vibrant details, of a man whose "best was enough for millions of fans, but... wasn't enough for him." Those fans are sure to eat this up. Agent: Steve Troha, Folio Literary Management. (Oct.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Vitale (longtime director and producer for Anthony Bourdain's television shows, including No Reservations and Parts Unknown) revisits the misadventures of filming a travel show and grapples with Bourdain's 2018 death. He uses stories of over 80 trips to film across the globe (in Libya, Iran, Vietnam, Borneo, Congo) as a backdrop to examine his professional and personal relationship with Bourdain. Vitale is an engaging and self-aware storyteller, who writes and structures this memoir in the style of the immersive documentary television he's known for. The timeline jumps back and forth between distinct memories of Bourdain and Vitale's attempts to process his emotions in the present. In a fitting nod to the ethos of No Reservations, Parts Unknown, and Bourdain himself, Vitale's book is ultimately about the people who shared in these experiences. Readers interested in memoirs that fuse grief and adventure may also enjoy Alexandra Fuller's Travel Light, Move Fast. VERDICT This adventurous and candid account is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at Bourdain's work and an honest story about persisting in the wake of loss. It will resonate with many readers as a travel and entertainment memoir, exploration of grief, and tribute to a beloved figure.--Kate Bellody, SUNY New Paltz

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

The food-and-travel icon's longtime director and producer delivers a memoir of incomparable travelogues snatched from the clutch of chaos. Vitale was consumed by his work with Anthony Bourdain (1956-2018), an adrenalin-fueled ride through three broadcast series in which recklessness was as much a virtue as creativity. Traveling up to 250 days per year, risking life and limb, often in some of the most perilous places in the world, the director of No Reservations, The Layover, and Parts Unknown flirted with nervous breakdowns and imminent catastrophe as Bourdain constantly increased the stakes on whatever project was at hand. Vitale's memoir of those years--and of the vacuum in his life following Bourdain's suicide--is a fascinating insider's account of the making of groundbreaking TV. It is also the most complete picture yet of Bourdain's complex and conflicted character--along with Laurie Woolever's oral biography, Bourdain, publishing in the same month. "Tony was naturally telegenic," writes Vitale, "possessing an unmistakable star quality….But even more alluring was his antagonistic, devil-may-care, combative relationship with the very machine that created his fame." Vitale's writing is seductively alive, pulsating with events and vividly rendered observations of people and exotic locales, hairbreadth escapes, and all the high-wire escapades, cultural revelations, and ethical questions that accompanied being Bourdain's traveling companion. Everything that could go wrong generally did, yet that frequently resulted in a better product than the original script. Vitale admits that he struggled to articulate his own story, but if he was worried he was not up to the challenge, he can put those fears to rest. Drawn from show footage, notebooks, logs, travel itineraries, e-mails, and old receipts, his book is thrilling, sobering, harrowing, and as entertainingly frenetic as the events described, a tale told by a survivor still trying to make sense of it all. Clearly, watching Bourdain's shows was nothing like living them, as this high-flying memoir amply demonstrates. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.