In the Weeds

Around the World and Behind the Scenes with Anthony Bourdain


By Tom Vitale

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**Nominated for the 2022 BookTube Prize in Nonfiction**

Anthony Bourdain's long time director and producer takes readers behind the scenes to reveal the insanity of filming television in some of the most volatile places in the world and what it was like to work with a legend.

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 curiosity about the people and cultures he visited made the world feel smaller and more connected. Despite his affable, confident, and trademark snarky TV persona, the real Tony was intensely private, deeply conflicted about his fame, and an enigma even to those close to him. Tony’s devoted crew knew him best, and no one else had a front-row seat for as long as his director and producer, Tom Vitale.

Over the course of more than a decade traveling together, Tony became a boss, a friend, a hero and, sometimes, a tormentor.In the Weeds takes readers behind the scenes to reveal not just the insanity that went into filming in some of the most far-flung and volatile parts of the world, but what Tony was like unedited and off-camera. From the outside, the job looked like an all-expenses-paid adventure to places like Borneo, Vietnam, Iran, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Libya. What happened off-camera was far more interesting than what made it to air. The more things went wrong, the better it was for the show. Fortunately, everything fell apart constantly.



I DON’T KNOW IF MY LIFE ENDED OR IF IT BEGAN WHEN I STARTED WORKING with Tony. Whatever the hell I did for a living was so vivid and spectacular, it all but consumed me. Then, without warning, it was over forever, reduced to nothing more than a memory.

In my case the old cliché that life has a funny way of turning the tables when you least expect it rang uncomfortably true. Each two-week shoot contained a lifetime’s worth of adventures, and there’d been so many trips, I’d lost count. Accustomed to the adrenaline rush of making split-second decisions with far-reaching consequences, I now found myself unemployed, with nowhere to go and poorly suited to handling simple everyday tasks. I still wrote 2006 on checks. I still wrote checks, for Christ’s sake. Even more disorienting, I went from the comfortable position of hiding behind the camera to struggling to articulate my own story.

And by struggling to articulate, what I really mean is that I found every excuse not to write this damn book. I grew a pandemic mustache. I consolidated, then organized, my extensive matchbook collection. I researched the nesting habits of a threatened species of birds that I didn’t have the heart to evict from my chimney. I learned how to make mulberry jam. The one thing I didn’t do was write.

It’s not like I had a lack of stories to tell. In fact I had too many and spent almost all of my waking hours silently reliving them. Truth told, I was afraid I wasn’t up to the challenge, worried I’d get the story all wrong. When I eventually did the math and realized procrastinating would only lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, I stayed awake for days straight in an attempt to make up for lost time. In the process I inadvertently discovered the only way I could get anything down on paper was by replicating the extreme intensity and overstimulation of my old job. Like an unhinged detective determined to crack a case, I surrounded myself with souvenirs from my travels, scoured the four corners of my house for transcriptions, travel itineraries, even old receipts. I cross-referenced everything against shoot notebooks, logs, schedules, and emails. But none of it compared to my vast archive of unedited raw film footage. Much of my entire journey with Tony, my whole life really, had been recorded. It was a TV show, after all. I sat, curtains drawn, oblivious to the passing of time, obsessively watching my life play back on an endless loop.

Some memories were so powerful that I was convinced they should have yielded documentary evidence; but of course not everything was filmed, or preserved via email or text. What follows is my best attempt to paint an honest picture of my experience traveling with Tony, the highs and lows, and the bizarre as shit situations in which we constantly found ourselves. It’s a story told by someone who is still trying to make sense of it all.

P.S. INCIDENTS INCLUDED IN THIS book are not intended to glamorize or endorse acts of cannibalism, drug use, smuggling, torture, extortion, bribery, wire fraud, attempted vehicular manslaughter, or the poaching of endangered species.

Chapter One


JUNE 8, 2018, I WOKE UP AT FIVE A.M. TO MY CELL PHONE AND LANDLINE ringing at the same time. It was Chris, owner of the production company. In a quivering voice he said, “Tom, I’m so sorry… Tony killed himself last night…”

Hanging up the phone, I couldn’t make sense of what he’d just said. Tony had just emailed me a routine note about the edit we were wrapping up; he’d confirmed a haircut appointment, leaving as we were in a few days for India. When I’d seen him last week for a voice-over session, he’d been jovial, asked me to join him for a smoke in the men’s bathroom. “What are they gonna do, fire me?” he’d said.

I stumbled over to the TV, turned it on, and there was Tony’s smiling face along with an incongruous banner headline reading, “CNN’s Anthony Bourdain Dead at 61.” My hand shaking, I lit a cigarette, called the producer Josh on location with Tony in France, and asked him what the fuck was going on.

“Tony’s gone,” Josh said through tears. “He hung himself; we’re flying back to JFK.”

The room started spinning. Tony was bigger than life. Superhuman. This couldn’t be happening, but somehow it was.

“I’m going to hang myself in the shower stall” had been one of Tony’s longest running jokes, the sort of dark humor he might have interjected on any occasion he found even mildly uncomfortable or displeasing. As in, “My hotel room is so awful I’m going to hang myself in the shower stall if the cheap-ass curtain rod doesn’t collapse under my weight.” When he said that sort of thing, I’d always laughed.

THERE WAS NOBODY ELSE LIKE him. College dropout, sharp-tongued, anti-host, Tony was the accidental celebrity, an honest voice in a field of saccharine, an “I’ll do whatever the fuck I want,” wild kind of guy. God forbid the network conducted a focus group; he’d instinctively go the opposite direction. But whatever he was doing, it was working. Tony had transformed himself from chef to author, then again into a television personality, ultimately maturing into something resembling an elder statesman, all while maintaining a countercultural New York City punk rock hard edge.

Starting life as the Food Network’s redheaded stepchild—low-budget and almost exclusively about food and travel—the show had shape-shifted into a bizarre cinematic geopolitical mashup that won Emmy Awards for CNN. Tony was constantly increasing the stakes. Each season he pushed further, slowly steering toward less traditional (and often riskier) destinations. For those of us on the show, Tony wasn’t just the guy with his name in the title, he was a friend, mentor, and more.

I didn’t know who Tony was when—back in 2002, fresh out of college—I got a job on his first TV show, A Cook’s Tour. At the time Tony was new to TV as well. The surprise success of his book Kitchen Confidential, an insider exposé on the restaurant industry, had landed him a deal with the Food Network. Tony wasn’t famous yet, at least in a recognizable TV personality sort of way. Bondain, Bonclair—back then everyone always messed up his name.

My official title was “Edit Room Assistant,” a fancy name for logger, which meant I made notations on the raw footage for the editors. It was an entry-level position, but I was electrified at having landed a job in the industry so quickly. From pretty much the first tape, I was hooked. I remember watching Tony fight with the producer over a walk-in shot at a beach bar in St. Martin.

“Walk-in shots are totally conventional man, free your mind,” he said in a mock hippie falsetto. But Tony lost his cool when the producer made the mistake of asking for the shot a third time. “Oh my god! Why can’t you get this through your thick little dinosaur skull?!” he shouted. “Film the kids playing by the fishing boats, the surf, or even a fucking palm tree, for Christ’s sake. Literally everything else here would make a better and more interesting introduction shot than my bony ass!”

Tony was naturally telegenic, possessing an unmistakable star quality; that much was clear. But even more alluring was his antagonistic, devil-may-care, combative relationship with the very machine that created his fame. The more Tony shirked the camera, the more I wanted to see. It wasn’t that I enjoyed watching him squirm; he was just so brilliantly witty and sarcastic when backed into a corner.

In addition to logging tapes, my job responsibilities included doing anything else I was asked. Pick up dry cleaning for the producer, manufacture props for a fake infomercial, and on occasion assist with research for upcoming shoots. I didn’t have to wait long for the most exciting assignment yet. When I heard that a rough cut of the St. Martin episode I’d been working on needed to go to Tony’s apartment, I jumped at the chance. Naïve, impressionable, twenty-two years old, and desperate to make a good impression, I spent the whole taxi ride clutching that VHS tape for safekeeping while nervously rehearsing what I hoped was something intelligent to say.

Arriving at Tony’s rent-controlled Morningside Heights walk-up, I took a deep breath, but before I even knocked the door opened. There he was, barefoot, wearing a black Ramones T-shirt with the sleeves cut off, looking just like he did on TV. Tony never looked up; instead he took the tape from my outstretched hand, and before I could say a word, slammed the door in my face. Despite that inauspicious first impression, I would work my way up the ladder, ultimately producing and directing nearly 100 episodes of TV with Tony. In the process I traveled to more than fifty countries and won five Emmy Awards. It was pretty much the definition of a dream job.

On paper I would’ve seemed like an unlikely candidate: a camera-shy introvert desperately afraid of flying, meeting new people, food with bones, and terrified of things with scales. Like snakes, and fish. Yes, fish. Yet somehow I ended up spending my entire adult life working on the four incarnations of Tony’s ever-evolving travelogue, flying on countless puddle jumpers of questionable airworthiness to almost every snake-infested corner of the globe, constantly meeting strangers, often at some sort of barbeque involving ribs or a seafood extravaganza. Though the job required regular exposure to all of my known phobias (and added a few new ones to the list), the whole insane adventure beat the hell out of working for a living. I felt like I’d run away with the circus; I realized I’d been living my whole life in black-and-white.

Growing up, my sister Katie and I replayed The Wizard of Oz from a well-worn cassette tape. It was my favorite movie despite my problem with the ending. Thirty years later and I still didn’t believe anyone would choose to go back to Kansas after having experienced Oz in Technicolor. That’s what travel was like for me. Transported by mechanical tornado to adventures through colorful, amazing, and sometimes scary lands, I hadn’t worried about a return to black-and-white because the trips to Oz didn’t end, and Tony was the wizard. But better. He was a humbug with a supernatural power to control the forces of nature and alter reality. All the dazzling places we went seemed like a fitting backdrop for the most fascinating person I’d ever met.

This isn’t to say the job was all tap dancing on sunshine, but I worked well under pressure and found the emergency-room intensity addictive. I guess in a way the whole thing gave my life purpose. Although I wouldn’t have dared admit it, deep down I was Tony’s number one fan. Which was sort of a precarious place to be, because he didn’t really like adoration. But over the years I became adept at rationalizing a host of seemingly mutually exclusive contradictions.

“How do I get a job like yours?” is something you get asked a lot when you travel the world for a living. Roughly five times a year I experienced the sort of trips that someone might work their whole life to experience even once. From the outside it looked like an all-expenses-paid vacation—and in a lot of ways it was—but watching the show was nothing like living it. For all the outward simplicity of the show’s concept—a camera crew and I followed Tony around the world while he basically did whatever he wanted—it was actually quite complicated behind the scenes. By the time I worked my way up to the role of senior director, “just another day at the office” had come to include a host of wildly varying responsibilities depending on the time of day, type of scene, country, Tony’s mood, or even the prevailing headwind. It kept you on your toes and required a strong stomach, a tremendous amount of planning, negotiating, cajoling, and winging it off camera. Basically, each shoot often meant actual blood, sweat, tears, and doing absolutely anything that was necessary to get the best results. Between all the high-octane escapades in far-flung locales, navigating a constant minefield of “international incidents,” not to mention countless other challenges involved with working in a new and unfamiliar environment each episode, the job demanded I be part diplomat, part labor leader, and part strike buster. Oh, and as the director, the ultimate creative success or failure of the show was riding on my shoulders.

We regularly worked in unstable or outright hostile countries. Each year we took Hazardous Environment Training that included checkpoint exercises and hostage-situation training. It was a given that the production team would be followed by government minders in communist countries and harassed by tourism boards in others. I found myself in morally dubious positions when our objectives were at odds with the locals who helped us make the show; in fact, sometimes just our presence could endanger their lives.

At the beginning, at least, I either didn’t mind or didn’t realize how isolating, all-consuming, overstimulating, and morally taxing it could be having “the best job in the world.” Growing up, I’d been a quiet kid without a lot of friends, so being part of Tony’s pirate crew was an alluring proposition, to say the least. But traveling for work is a lot lonelier than you would imagine, especially when you get home. Frankly, the whole thing was a mind-fuck. I’m fully aware how many people would kill to have these sorts of problems, but I’m not sure the human brain was designed to handle such a rapid succession of extreme experiences and emotions. For me—as well as for Tony and other longtime members of the crew—the show increasingly seemed like a one-way ticket to insanity. By the end, the work was taking a heavy personal, physical, and emotional toll, and it felt like there was no escape, even if I wanted one. But who could walk away from a job like this? Who on the outside would even understand?

AFTER NEWS OF TONY’S DEATH broke, it didn’t take long for the condolences to start pouring in from everyone I knew as well as a significant number I didn’t. When my message icon blinked above 100, I turned off my phone.

That afternoon I headed to our production office just off Herald Square. The new grand entrance framed an impressive Apple Store–like floating steel staircase, and light from two-story-high windows shined off highly polished concrete floors. The reception kiosk was empty, and I’d never heard the place so quiet. There was the distant hum of midtown traffic, and from somewhere down a hallway lined with framed posters of Tony I could hear the repetitive whirrrshhhhhhhcccchhh of a document shredder. Zero Point Zero, or ZPZ, as everyone called it, had grown over the years as the company branched out to produce other food- and travel-centric shows and had recently completed an ambitious expansion and renovation project. There was a staff of about seventy-five now, including a full-on equipment department, accounting, and office management in addition to countless other changes. But Chris and Lydia, the husband and wife team who’d worked with Tony since A Cook’s Tour and subsequently started ZPZ, were still in charge. From across the atrium I stood staring up at them in the fishbowl conference room one floor above. The plate glass walls did a good job of isolating sound, but seeing Chris pace and Lydia with her head in her hands, I could imagine what was being discussed.

“My father killed himself last year,” said a voice from behind me. Startled, I turned around to find a guy named Austin who did something with computers and was the only person at the office who knew how to operate the espresso machine. “Dad was about Tony’s age, he had a good job, well respected in the town where I grew up.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know,” I said.

“It’s gonna get harder. This is the easy part, when everyone is together, all grieving at the same time. But a couple months from now, once everybody goes their separate ways, and life settles back into a normal routine—but you don’t feel normal—that’s when it’s really gonna suck.”

The full weight of things hadn’t sunk in yet, and some part of me must have wanted to keep it that way. I stiffened at his words, not liking the way Austin was talking to me as if we were now in the same sad club. At that moment there was only a very small group of people I wanted to be around, and I knew exactly where to find them.

Along with much of the road crew, I set up shop at a nearby bar we jokingly referred to as our New York office and embarked on a week-long bender of an Irish wake. A general state of intemperance and liquor-soaked disbelief prevailed.

“When Tony wakes up tomorrow, he’s really gonna regret what he did last night,” I recited between double shots of Johnnie Walker Black with a Coke chaser. There was confusion, sobbing, and anger too.

“We fucking risked our lives making that show,” someone slurred. “And do you think Tony even knew your kids’ names?”

“How could he do this to his daughter, she’s only eleven,” came another whinge.

“This is all Asia’s fault, she fucking killed him,” was a popular opinion.

The name Asia Argento came up a lot that evening. Tony had started dating the beautiful and mysterious Italian actress after meeting on our Rome shoot two years before. It was a passionate and volatile on-again, off-again relationship that had supposedly ended for good a few days before when paparazzi photos surfaced of Asia with another man. And then Tony had killed himself.

It didn’t make sense. I played back a litany of “lasts.” Last scene I filmed with Tony on my shoot in Indonesia a few weeks ago. We’d had our last “real conversation” that day. The last time we talked had been at a voice-over session the day he left for France. A few days before that he’d invited me to dinner for the last time. I’d declined, a decision I was very much regretting. Our last communication was an email about my Bhutan edit sent only hours before he died. “I don’t like the cold open and would replace it,” was all he wrote.

The shock and alcohol were bubbling a lot of emotions to the surface. “Tony hated me,” I professed to anyone who would listen. I knew that he’d kept me around because I worked hard; I was confident of that. But as a human being, I was sure he hated me. Now, so consumed by grief and denial, I didn’t have the capacity to think about what any of it really meant.

In the real world—the one that made sense, where the sky was up and the ground was down—I was supposed to be getting ready to leave to direct an episode in India. Instead I found myself in a totally fucked alternate reality standing in front of Tony’s former restaurant, Les Halles. The shuttered brasserie on Park Avenue South had become a makeshift memorial, overwhelmed with pictures, chef paraphernalia, flowers, letters, and a mix of fans and restaurant industry professionals. Seeing it all, arrayed there against the windows and door of the storefront, I was confused. Who were all these people carrying on like it was Christmas Eve and Santa Claus had just been killed in a fucking suicide bombing?

I read a note left by a woman who drove all the way from Tennessee:

Thank you for being real in a world where everyone seems so fake. I hate to idolize “famous” people that I don’t know, but you are different. I love you and thank you for giving me hope. Thank you for showing me how I want to live my life, you set a great example for some of us “misfits.”

Tony meant the world to those who knew him personally, and I was aware he possessed a militant faction of superfans, but they couldn’t account for such a large number of complete and total strangers. Could it be possible that Tony really was that famous, beloved, and inspirational on such a mass scale? If true, had Tony even been aware of this development? Because if he was, he certainly never acted like it. As long as I knew him, Tony seemed to exhibit a real inferiority complex, under the impression that the attention was fleeting and could disappear at any second. Blindsided by the tremendous outpouring of grief, I might have been forgiven for thinking Tony had been mistaken for some kind of Kitchen God. And maybe he was. Nearby stood a group of line cooks who’d arrived after their shift, still in uniform. They were quietly sobbing.

The next day I took a taxi to JFK to meet the crew returning from France. I couldn’t imagine what it had been like that awful morning, getting set up for Tony, expecting him to arrive any second, but instead getting the news that he wasn’t coming. He would never be coming… I both wished I’d been there because maybe I could’ve done something, and was so thankful I wasn’t.

In the roughly hundred shows and thousand scenes I’d filmed with Tony over the years, he’d only ever missed his call one time. We were shooting in Manila, and when he didn’t show up at our location for the day’s shoot, I’d called him up and gotten no answer. This was unusual, but not unheard of. I dialed him back five minutes later and five minutes after that. His phone just rang and rang. His hotel phone also went unanswered. I rushed back through Manila’s painfully slow gridlock traffic and in a panic explained to the front desk I needed to get into Tony’s room immediately. While riding up in the elevator I thought about how easy it had been to convince them. I hadn’t been asked for ID or any corroborating evidence that I wasn’t some “Squeaky” Fromme or Sirhan Sirhan type. I rang the buzzer and knocked loudly; no answer. I stepped back, and the bellman unlocked Tony’s door. Inside, the room was pitch black, blinds drawn. A shaft of light from the hallway illuminated Tony lying motionless in his bed. As my eyes adjusted, I could see he was naked, partially covered by twisted sheets. Something smelled like sour milk, and I was convinced he was dead. Maybe it was the light or my involuntary exclamation, but Tony finally woke up. He looked right at me, blinked, then bellowed, “Get the fuck out!!!”

Practically running downstairs, I wiped the tears from my face and tried to steady my breathing. Not ten minutes later, Tony strolled into the lobby, ready to be on TV. He didn’t mention anything about what had happened, and I never brought it up. From what I understood, that’s pretty much how it happened in France. Except this time, Tony wasn’t in the lobby ten minutes later.

After an emotional reunion at the airport, we all went back to the Brooklyn home of our longtime director of photography, Todd, where we started drinking or, more accurately, continued drinking. While we got plastered, Tony was waiting. Tony hated waiting, he’d be furious, I thought. But this time he was waiting on a refrigerated tray in a far-away morgue while his family figured out who was in charge. Word eventually came that he was to be cremated in France and sent home via messenger. There would be no body. There would be no funeral. He just… disappeared.

Tony had always been fascinated by Eastern legends of the hungry ghost—a spirit stranded in the netherworld due to a tragic death or lack of a proper burial—and in keeping with everything in his life playing out like a book, movie, or legend, now in some horrific twist of fate he had become a hungry ghost himself.

Eventually I went home to sleep off what was sure to be a Godzilla of a hangover. At the door was my suitcase, ready for the trip to India. That’s when I all but came unglued. Even though by this point I was a travel professional, I habitually waited until the day before leaving, then in a frenzy I’d haphazardly grab whatever was at hand and stuff it into my luggage. Strange irony that I’d packed early for a trip that would never happen.

Over the years, few others had clocked more miles on the road with Tony or had as much opportunity to know, trust, fear, admire, and learn from him as I did. Tony was complex, so much had to be gleaned by paying attention, by filing away some offhand remark, or cataloguing some slip of the veneer, details to be analyzed and interpreted at a future point. In more than a decade and a half, what had I learned? Staring at that suitcase, I thought about how my privileged position, my years of access, also meant I had something else few others had: an opportunity to see the warning signs. So how had it ended up like this? What had all of it really meant? Tony used to say that the questions were more important than the answers. I had plenty of questions. Answers, however, were in short supply.

Chapter Two


“YOU CAN’T FUCKING BREATHE A WORD OF WHAT I’M ABOUT TO TELL YOU!” Tony said when he spotted me waiting for him curbside at Santo Domingo Airport. In accordance with post-flight ritual, he lit up a Marlboro Red, taking a long—nearly half the cigarette long—drag before continuing, “If this gets out the WHOLE deal could BLOW UP. I just came from a meeting. It was so, so beyond secret they brought me up in the GOD DAMN freight elevator. It was total cloak and dagger ass shit!”

Tony’s eyes darted back and forth as he talked, one slightly larger than the other, giving him the tweaked-out look of a squirrel on amphetamines. This was an unusual greeting—even for the predictably unpredictable Anthony Bourdain.

“We can kiss those fuck-tards at Travel Channel goodbye… No Reservations is… OVER!” Tony said, finishing the smoke and tossing it to the pavement.

Struggling to keep up, I lit a Red and noticed my hands were shaking.


  • "A gripping and deeply personal book....[Vitale's] book details the utter frenzy and chaos of the shoots but also of his relationship with an incredibly complex but extraordinary man. The writing is truly sensational and visceral--I feel like I was there. And now I need a drink, or two."

    Lisa Ling, host of "This is Life with Lisa Ling"
  • "That there still remain fresh, mesmerizing insights about life with Bourdain is astonishing, as revealed in the compellingly intimate new memoir by Bourdain’s longtime producer and director, Tom Vitale....In the Weeds is a fast-flying, deep-diving, funny, loving, tender, joyful, painful, jolting, twisted, tumultuous and shockingly wild ride. Reader: Hold on tightly....Details upon details unfurl, layer and build spell-binding and sometimes scary descriptions of TV-making goings-on of which viewers are mostly unaware....Spotlit are a sumptuous array of destinations....In the Weeds explores the tightrope of personal and professional longings and expectations; the complexities of borders and the people within them; the ache for mutual trust and the ache of distrust; the multiple meanings of home and family and friendship; the allure and intensity of lust and seduction. And Bourdain’s love affair with Asia Argento....Bourdain’s fans will find plenty to savor, think about and discuss. This is Vitale’s memoir, his singular account. Stones are lifted. Curtains are pushed back. An engaging narrative is woven. Vitale opens his heart and veins to create powerful, poignant, passionate prose. A page-turner, indeed."—Forbes
  • "Tom Vitale’s In the Weeds digs deep into how Bourdain lived....Mr. Vitale tells the stories others will not....Part memoir, part eulogy, In the Weeds is rambly and scattershot, big-hearted and engaging, all the qualities that fans loved best about Bourdain."—The Wall Street Journal
  • "In the Weeds is much more than a revealing behind-the-scenes peek at the making of two landmark television shows. It’s also a thoughtful and penetrating portrait of a man whose passion for life, curiosity about cultures, and love of a great meal revolutionized the way we think about travel. Best of all, Vitale’s own observations about each of the many filming locations are every bit as evocative as what viewers saw on screen."—Variety
  • “Bourdain's longtime director and producer shares stories and secrets from more than a decade of globetrotting with the beloved and complicated foodie/adventurer.”—Associated Press
  • "[Tom Vitale] captures countless obscure details of No Reservations and Parts Unknown, specifically honing in on how Tony perpetually raised the bar....And that's really the crux of the book — how challenging the show already was without the weight of people's expectations. Tony's were tough enough....With stunning detail and comedic timing that would make Tony proud, Tom drops us right into the action to explore what made his boss such a 'force of nature' and what it was like to lose him....The book is spit-out-your-tea funny....His account is the closest thing we'll ever have to being there in the weeds with Tony."—Huckleberry
  • "A fun book even as it’s tinged with grief and loss, as Vitale frames different sections with his present-day search for answers....Vitale resists the temptation to beatify Bourdain."—The OC Register
  • “A memoir of incomparable travelogues snatched from the clutch of chaos….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…. 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…. 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.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred)
  • “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.—Library Journal (starred 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…. As he reflects on more than a decade of working with Bourdain… Vitale shares mesmerizing recollections of their travels… while probing the fascinating and frustrating facets of the chef’s larger-than-life personality…. With this exhilarating travelogue, he paints a complicated portrait, packed with vibrant details.”—Publishers Weekly
  • “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…. Vitale’s account might be as close to an authentic portrait of the late chef-traveler as readers will find.”—Booklist
  • “A revealing snapshot of what a television director has to do behind the lens to turn raw, unpolished travel footage into a glittering Emmy-winning gem....In the Weeds is emotionally exhausting, exhilarating, and fascinating… the most intense I’ve [read] in ages.”—TheTakeout
  • "[An] incredible book."—Dean Deltray's "Let There Be Talk"
  • “A deep insight into how powerful, impactful television is made and a plunging dive into Bourdain’s complicated character and personality.”—The Takeout
  • "An insider’s account that is about as close as we will ever get to fathoming Bourdain’s complex and conflicted character....Vitale clearly has too many stories to tell to fit into a single book. But those he does relate — harrowing, hilarious and everything in between — seem as fresh as the day they happened. And that is one of the strengths of In the Weeds, the you-are-there feel. It’s as much about Vitale’s observations as Bourdain’s, though the author never comes across as self-absorbed. Bourdain remains front and center."—Post & Courier
  • In the Weeds is more than a behind-the-scenes peek — it’s a thoughtful and penetrating portrait of Bourdain, whose passion for life, curiosity about cultures and love of a great meal revolutionized the way we think about travel. Vitale, who narrates the audiobook, shares his own observations, which are every bit as evocative as what viewers saw on screen."—The Press of Atlantic City

On Sale
Oct 11, 2022
Page Count
304 pages
Hachette Books

Tom Vitale

About the Author

Season after season Tom Vitale traveled with Anthony Bourdain on a near-nonstop run of eighty trips—roughly five trips a year—to almost every corner of the globe, constantly meeting strangers, often through the context of their food and culture, in the process making over 100 episodes of TV. In addition to the adventure of a lifetime, personal enrichment, and experiences he would never have thought possible, his work rewarded him with a PGA Award nomination, five Emmy wins and four nominations, a Gold World Medal for Best Non-Fiction Program, and he is credited on Parts Unknown's Peabody Award.

Learn more about this author