He has no Reservations about the Cuisine in Baja California
text by Pat Tyson
photos courtesy the Travel Channel
Anthony Bourdain, host of the popular Travel Channel series “No Reservations,” has traveled the world, tasting its finest cuisines and making observations on the planet’s most exotic dishes. However, the American chef discovered new experiences awaited him on his first trip to Baja Califor nia—which was, he claims, “a real education.”
Tijuana is in the beginning phases of reinventing itself, he found. His guide, also named Tony, explained that “it’s now about the locals, not the tourists.” We wanted to know what Bourdain thinks of the city these days.
“A city that’s stopped caring, apparently, about catering to our vices and is now in the midst of a renaissance, especially on the culinary scene,” he says in his frankly outspoken manner. On his first stop, at Mision 19, he met with owner Chef Javier Plascencia, who concurs with Bourdain.
“We’re trying to create a food town,” Plascencia tells him. The Mexican chef is spearheading this movement toward making Tijuana into what he describes as “a gastronomic destination.” After sampling Plascencia’s “beef tongue sous-vide”, Bourdain moves on to a mezcal tasting, then hops into a limousine for a quick trip to “taco alley” where he tries the alley’s best campechano taco — a mix of carne asada and chorizo.
Before leaving Tijuana, he visits a little beach stand to eat what is, apparently, the first real fish taco he’s ever encountered. Then on to Ensenada where the seafood theme continues — though he learns that there it’s all about “carts over stands.” He is led to what is widely considered the best street cart in the world and has, he says, the “Le Bernardin-quality seafood in the street.”
“There are people there who have been doing great food for 35 years,” he says “A bunch of young chefs have traveled the world, come home and decided ‘Let’s move Mexican food forward.’” Bourdain then traveled through the wine country there and found it “awesome.”
“It’s like Tuscany down there — it’s amazing!” he exclaims. As he traveled around, he says he found it awesome. “It’s the great undiscovered wonderland. Rolling hills, grape arbors and great chefs cooking very forward, very subtle, very good food.”
Bourdain enjoys exploring cultures and lifestyles that challenge him with a greater understanding of human existence and the underlying stories behind a locale’s traditional cuisine. He studied at Vassar College and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. He resides in Manhattan with his wife, Ottavia, and daughter, Ariane. When he visited Baja, he was surprised at what he found there.
“I had no idea it would be that beautiful, that the food would be that good, that the ingredients would be that exciting, that they are creating the Amazonian world in Baja California. I was shocked by how delicious the food was and that they have a wine country.” he concludes. His trip to Baja California was recently presented on his award-winning — program about the most interesting destinations in the world.