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Kitchen Confidential Meets Radio Confidential in San Francisco

If foie gras and tripe can stand in for quaaludes and mescaline, then Anthony Bourdain is the Hunter S. Thompson of food television. As a so-called “anti-celebrity” chef Bourdain is the host of the Travel Channel’s No Reservations, traveling to both familiar and exotic places in order to explore their culture via food, often with a focus on everyday dining, street food and traditional cuisine.

On this week’s episode Bourdain explored San Francisco, but started off the episode with a surprise, especially for a radio geek like myself. In an homage to the film Bullitt Bourdain races through the streets of the city in a black Mustang, then turns on the radio only to hear none other than San Francisco’s most well-known unlicensed radio station, Pirate Cat Radio.

As you can see in the clip below, Bourdain appears on air with Pirate Cat founder Monkey, then retires to the station’s namesake cafe to try a, well… porcine latte.

If Pirate Cat wasn’t already the most well known currently operating pirate station in the US, I’ll venture to guess that it is now. Monkey has been at the pirate radio game a long time and has never shied away from publicity or talking to the press. While that certainly increases the risk of running an unlicensed station, so far the FCC doesn’t seem to have seen fit to escalate enforcement with police action like it has with past Bay Area stations like San Francisco Liberation Radio.

I wish Monkey, Pirate Cat Radio and their cafe the best of luck in bringing community-style radio to a corner of the Mission. I just wish they’d stop justifying their right to broadcast using the tired “emergency authorization” clause of Title 47. I think a better case lies with declaring civil disobedience and pointing to the provision of better public service broadcasting than most other stations in a crowded radio market closed off to low-power FM or any other new community-focused broadcasters.


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