Take it from me: it is really fucking difficult to tell people’s stories on screen without flattening them into caricatures. If you take anything from this tribute to Bourdain, I hope it’s this. What he did was so, so hard, and he did it so naturally that you’d never know it unless you’ve tried to do it, too. I’ve tried to do it and I’m here to tell you, it’s monumentally unnatural. Food/Groups was orders of magnitude less rich, wide-ranging, or complex as anything Bourdain ever did (and I am orders of magnitude less talented than he was), but even so, it was, without question, the hardest I’ve worked in my career to date.
The path of least resistance is to build stories with familiar blocks, those chefs, restaurants, and narratives that have already been established by coverage that precedes your own. It’s easier to do it this way. You can be more confident that you’ll get raw material that you’ll be able to mold into a story an audience will “get”.