Last night's episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations documented Cook It Raw, a gathering of the world's top chefs organized by Noma's Rene Redzepi. The 2011 installment was held in Tokyo back in November. Sean Brock received a last-minute invite and was singled out by Bourdain and crew. "It's a pretty intimidating line-up, especially for last-minute addition Sean Brock. Sean's restaurants Husk and McCready's (sic) in Charleston, S.C. have suddenly projected him into the full glare of world attention." From there, Bourdain and Brock sit side by side, eat, and gab.
"I love when I eat something that makes me realize that I don't know anything about food."
"Oh my God, that's good sperm... I'm going to eat more sperm now."
The chefs go off into the forest on a foraging trip with Bourdain in tow. He asks Brock if he ever dreamed as a kid that he'd be standing in the woods in Japan: "Not a chance in hell."
Later, Brock and Bourdain take a 3:30 a.m. fishing trip, a chance for Brock to get the protein for the dish that he'll be preparing at the upcoming dinner.
"The guy that we get all our fish from (Mark Marhefka) has a 40-foot boat, man, that's it. He goes out for like five, six, seven days at a time with two other guys."
"If we get nothing today, I'm gonna cry."
Bourdain: "I could go for a hot bowl of fish stew." Brock: "Fuck yeah."
Their fishing trip nets what looks like literally tons of fish, which gets quickly processed and sent off to the market. Brock and Bourdain sit down for some fresh fish at a nearby restaurant.
"Can you ask them if they're hiring here?"
Brock has decided early on to use duck as a main protein on his plate, and fortunately he's in an area that's famed for its fowl. Brock gets a lesson in hunting ducks with nets.
"We just crossed swords!"
Despite the lesson, "Sean comes up empty," says Bourdain. What will the young chef do now? Forage at the supermarket? It's a perfect bit of tension for the episode as he tries to figure out his dish.
"No duck. New dish. So I'm just gonna peel this citrus and meditate until it comes to me. And drink whiskey every once in a while."
"I have no idea what a filet of pork is.... A shank maybe?"
The dishes from the 17 chefs start coming out, and Bourdain gets down to eating. In the back, Brock is cooking like a madman.
Bourdain: "One source of fire is not enough for Sean so he commandeers the ornamental fireplace in the lounge.
"I love feeling scared. There's always something that makes it fun and that's why we do this to ourselves because it makes the whiskey taste beter at the end of the night."
In the end, Brock sends out a Jungian-themed pork dish with four elements on a square plate broken into quarters. At the table, Bourdain and some food writers judge the dish a winner. The next day, Bourdain and David Chang conduct a post-mortem, and conclude that Brock pulled it off and brought honor to his clan back home.
It's an episode that really gets to the heart of Brock. Bourdain sums it up: "Does one cook to create art as a creative enterprise or strictly to nourish and comfort people?" Ah, that is the question, isn't it?