Anthony Bourdain has gone pop.
We don’t want to believe it, trust us. Tony is the renegade that we all needed to counterbalance the rise of the Food Network and the age of the celebrity chef, and he’s provided plenty of entertainment along the way—spitting real talk on No Reservations, writing for Treme, using Paula Deen as a human punching bag, et al. But there are nervous whispers from fans about what will become of Papa Bourdain as the insider-turned-outsider becomes the establishment. With a CNN contract in hand and what appears to be a cookie-cutter cooking competition show with Nigella Lawson about to debut on ABC, this is an important moment for the Bourdain brand. Anyone with that much media exposure risks descending into shtick, and Bourdain himself has told Eater that, “It's when you find yourself answering the questions the same way that you hate yourself.” If this era of Bourdain fame ends up sucking, hopefully it will just turn out to be a brief flirtation with the mainstream, like when Nas dropped Nastradamus, and then he can get back on his Illmatic shit.