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Editorial: Bourdain brouhaha

Anthony Bourdain, star of CNN's "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown"
Anthony Bourdain, star of CNN’s "Parts Unknown." — File photo

Well, the pots are long since washed and put away, the cameras packed up and the editing suite is busy with other work.

Chef and broadcaster Anthony Bourdain has travelled to other parts unknown, and we’ve proven, once again, that there’s no gift horse we won’t look in the mouth.

Two weekends ago, CNN broadcast Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” episode on Newfoundland. His show has been running since 2013, has won five Emmys, and is seen by hundreds of thousands of viewers.

Sounds like a great chance to showcase some of the tourism strengths of this place out to an incredibly broad audience, right?

Before the program even aired, a small riot of social media complaints arose over a tweet promoting the show that used the word “Newfie.”

Here’s the way Bourdain set the piece up in his online Field Notes: “Every once in a while on ‘Parts Unknown,’ I proudly and joyously embark on a bro-tastic bro-cation, a largely all-male adventure in fine dining and excessive drinking, all too often accompanied by an unsuccessful attempt at hunting wild game or fishing. And if one is to venture into the wild with two gentlemen of the world, few could be better companions in, say, the wilds of Newfoundland than noted chefs, restaurateurs, bons vivants, and raconteurs: Dave McMillan and Fred Morin of Montréal’s wonderful restaurant Joe Beef. OK, so they are not, themselves, Newfoundlanders — they hail proudly from Québec. But they are enthusiastic lovers of Canada, true patriots, and advocates for the unique culture of Newfoundland, the glories of its natural world, and its exciting culinary scene in particular.

“Get ready for a look at a place that is still, if not a part unknown, then certainly a part underappreciated.”

But no good deed goes unpunished.

Before the program even aired, a small riot of social media complaints arose over a tweet promoting the show that used the word “Newfie.” The tweet was taken down, apologies were extended for the failure to recognize that the term has divided acceptance here, but in some ways, the die was set.

Then, the show arrived.

Some people in this province liked it; some liked it a lot.

Others, well, they started a chain of online complaints. Bourdain had mispronounced “Newfoundland.” Oh no: he visited St-Pierre. Worse, he brought two Quebec chefs here.

We won’t repeat the tone of the offensive tweets people offered up about that choice, but suffice to say, if the complainers had bothered to fully watch the show or to read how the whole project came together, they might have understood why the chefs were here.

The complaints were broad enough to become their own media event. Both the Globe and Mail and the National Post covered the spat, leading Bourdain to dismiss the coverage as “more clickbait.”

But it is a bit of a provincial tradition: complain about being misunderstood, then find something to attack.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

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