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SXSW 2012

Anthony Bourdain spills the beans on No Reservations' unorthodox social media tactics

When news broke that Anthony Bourdain would make his way to Austin for SXSW, techie and foodie mouths alike started to water. On Tuesday afternoon Bourdain fans got a chance to experience his no-bullshit edge — and crass discourse —in person, thanks to some creative SXSW programming.

Bourdain took the stage beer in hand (yes, it was a Shiner) along with his No Reservations team to discuss their self-proclaimed hijacking of the show’s social media channels. It was an hour of Twitter talk, YouTube clips and plenty of F-bombs.

 “People seem to really like the drunk tweets,” says producer Tom Vitale. “You’ll get really fucked up and wake up the next day with 8,000 new followers,” Bourdain chimes in. 

 “Holy shit, thanks for coming guys,” moderator Anthony De Rosa (Reuters columnist and Social Media Editor) said to whet the crowd’s appetite. It was the first (and most tame) of many curse words dropped during the discussion on Digital Debauchery. 

The panel started with a discussion on why, in December 2010, the No Reservations team decided to take over the show's social media accounts, which they all agree was a defensive measure. To put it simply, Bourdain says, “We didn’t want them to suck.”

Fueled by the bold, unfiltered personalities of a team that travels the world to find obscure, authentic food experiences, the channels now capture the true personality of No Reservations.

The team’s “social media tactics,” though varied, tend to be alcohol-induced. “People seem to really like the drunk tweets,” says producer Tom Vitale. “You’ll get really fucked up and wake up the next day with 8,000 new followers,” Bourdain chimes in. No doubt, that’s a reason for an extra whiskey shot or two.

And if booze isn’t in the cards, porn — the real kind and the food kind —  do the trick, too. “Any Ron Jeremy reference is good,” Bourdain says. Just as popular though are classic food pornography shots. An Instagram of a fish taco can yield upwards of 13,000 Facebook likes.

Porn jokes and booze aside, the No Reservations team is all about keeping the show fresh and using a cinematic approach to filming their show. Simple questions like “How can we shoot barbecue in a way that’s never been done before?” keep the team on its toes when shooting and consequently bleed into their management of the show’s other marketing channels.

Of course, Bourdain says, there are also questions like “What can we do that’s really fucked up that we haven’t done before?” 

The No Reservations crew did just that with a 2011 holiday special and animated short that the Travel Channel might view a bit begrudgingly in hindsight. The special, aimed to be as “disturbing, dark, unsettling” as possible, featured Christopher Walkin, Samantha Brown, punk rockers Fucked Up and a score by Norah Jones. It was offset by an animated short that explored the European folklore of the Krampus, an anti-Santa character that wreaks havoc on naughty kids.

The Krampus clip, which the crew showed during its SXSW panel, is definitely disturbing, and definitely still getting views on YouTube.

It was clear from the panel that Bourdain and his crew really are one tight-knit, fucked up family that relies on each other’s ideas to keep the personality of No Reservations alive — on camera and online. “We’ve worked together for so long, it’s really like a band,” Bourdain says. “Sometimes the bass player has an idea for a song.”

Sticking with the music thread, the team announced a Turntable.fm session called “Tony Bourdain and Friends” that will stream on March 22 at 10 a.m. CDT.

A panel featuring Bourdain couldn't be called a success without a local food assessment. And though he wouldn’t say where the crew would be eating during the remainder of their stay in Austin, he did give props to one of our shining barbecue stars. “We went to Franklin Barbecue this morning and it was un-fucking-believable.”

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