Watch Anthony Bourdain’s Free Show, Raw Craft Where He Visits Craftsmen Making Guitars, Tattoos, Motorcycles & More (RIP)

Why has food become such an object of inter­est in recent years? One pos­si­ble expla­na­tion is that it rep­re­sents one of the last pur­suits still essen­tial­ly untouch­able by dig­i­tal cul­ture: for all you can write about and pho­to­graph food for the inter­net, you can’t actu­al­ly expe­ri­ence it there. Food, in oth­er words, means phys­i­cal­i­ty, dex­ter­i­ty, sen­si­bil­i­ty, and hand-crafts­man­ship in a con­crete, vis­cer­al way that, in the 21st, cen­tu­ry, has come to seem increas­ing­ly scarce. But anoth­er, short­er expla­na­tion sums the phe­nom­e­non up, just as plau­si­bly, in two words: Antho­ny Bour­dain.

Ever since he first entered the pub­lic eye at the end of the 1990s, late chef-writer-trav­el­er-tele­vi­sion host taught a read­ing, and lat­er view­ing pub­lic to appre­ci­ate not just food but all that goes into food: the ingre­di­ents, sure, the intense train­ing and labor, of course, but most of all the many and var­ied cul­tur­al fac­tors that con­verge on a meal. Bour­dain found robust cul­tures every­where, those that devel­oped cart-filled streets of cities across the world to the kitchens of the most unas­sum­ing-look­ing restau­rants and every­where in between. He deeply respect­ed not just those ded­i­cat­ed to the mak­ing and serv­ing of food, but those ded­i­cat­ed to crafts of all kinds.

Bour­dain’s nat­ur­al kin­ship with all crafts­men and craftswomen made him a nat­ur­al choice to car­ry Raw Craft, a web series spon­sored by the Bal­ve­nie, a pop­u­lar-pre­mi­um brand of Scotch whisky. In its four­teen episodes (each of which finds a way to fea­ture a bot­tle of the Bal­ve­nie), Bour­dain goes char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly far and wide to vis­it the stu­dios and work­shops of real peo­ple mak­ing real suits, shoessax­o­phones, drums, gui­tarshand­print­ed books, fur­ni­ture, motor­cy­cles, and “tra­di­tion­al­ly fem­i­nine objects.” That last may break some­what from Bour­dain’s swag­ger­ing, mas­cu­line-if-not-macho image, but as the series’ host he dis­plays a good deal of enthu­si­asm for the sub­ject of each episode, includ­ing the trip to the spon­sor’s own dis­tillery in Dufftown, Scot­land.

Nat­u­ral­ly, Bour­dain can engage on a whole oth­er lev­el in the episodes about food and food-relat­ed objects, such as pas­tries and hot choco­latekitchen knives, and, in the video at the top of the post, cast-iron skil­lets. Ever the par­tic­i­pa­to­ry observ­er, he fin­ish­es that last by prepar­ing steak au poivre with one of the work­shop’s own skil­lets on the flame of its own skil­let-forg­ing fur­nace. He takes it a step fur­ther, or sev­er­al, in the episode with Japan­ese tat­too artist Takashi where, despite “run­ning out of room” on his own much-tat­tooed skin, he com­mis­sions one more: a mag­nif­i­cent blue chrysan­the­mum on his shoul­der, drawn and inked with only the most time-hon­ored tools and tech­niques.

We even, dur­ing one of Bour­dain’s ink-receiv­ing ses­sions with Takashi, glimpse a true crafts­man-to-crafts­man con­ver­sa­tion­al exchange. Bour­dain asks Takashi about some­thing he’s seen all of the many times he’s been on the tat­too­ing table: a junior artist will approach to watch and learn from the way a senior one works. Takashi, who had to go through a minor ordeal just to con­vince his own mas­ter to take him on as an appren­tice, con­firms both the uni­ver­sal­i­ty and the impor­tance of the prac­tice: “If you stop learn­ing, you are pret­ty much done, you know?” Bour­dain, who could only have agreed with the sen­ti­ment, lived it to the very end. “I’d like it to last as long as I do,” he says of his Takashi tat­too — “Which ain’t that long,” he adds, “but long enough, I hope.” But sure­ly no amount of time could ever sat­is­fy a culi­nary, cul­tur­al, and intel­lec­tu­al appetite as prodi­gious as his.

You can watch the com­plete series of Raw Craft videos here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

20 Mes­mer­iz­ing Videos of Japan­ese Arti­sans Cre­at­ing Tra­di­tion­al Hand­i­crafts

Japan­ese Crafts­man Spends His Life Try­ing to Recre­ate a Thou­sand-Year-Old Sword

The Mak­ing of Japan­ese Hand­made Paper: A Short Film Doc­u­ments an 800-Year-Old Tra­di­tion

The Art of Col­lo­type: See a Near Extinct Print­ing Tech­nique, as Lov­ing­ly Prac­ticed by a Japan­ese Mas­ter Crafts­man

Brooklyn–Based Mak­ers of Arti­sanal Water Let You Sip From America’s Great Cul­tur­al Waters

David Rees Presents a Primer on the Arti­sanal Craft of Pen­cil Sharp­en­ing

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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