Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown is different from other food travel shows. This is because the CNN connection makes it easier for his team of four to travel to a wider range of locations, including Congo, Libya, Gaza and Myanmar, which is where the first episode of the season was filmed.
“Looking back, I’m very proud of that first episode because it is incredible and such a privilege to be able to shoot in a place such as Myanmar,” says Bourdain during a phone interview from the Philadelphia stop of his speaking tour. “I chose Myanmar because I wanted to take advantage of CNN’s reach, as it had been on my list of places to go.”
Delicacies versus strange cuisine
Before the new show, Bourdain was the host of the Travel Channel's culinary adventure programmes Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations and The Layover. He also ran several restaurants in New York and was the executive chef at Manhattan's French bistro, Brasserie Les Halles. In 2000, he published a shocking behind-the-scenes look at the business in his book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.
Bourdain, who visited Dubai in 2010 for No Reservations, says his favourite place to eat in the emirate is a small seafood restaurant called Bu Qtair Cafeteria, a small shack with plastic chairs that's hidden away near Burj Al Arab in Jumeirah.
Despite having tried some questionable foods – including maggot-fried rice and goose intestines – Bourdain and his team makes sure to steer clear of restaurants trying to recreate American meals such as burgers and tacos. Such an experience, he says, can be “shocking”. Although Bourdain lists fermented shark in Iceland and warthog rectum in Namibia as some of the worst foods he’s eaten, mostly he believes tastes are all about -perception.
“I’ve travelled so much that words such as ‘strange’ and ‘bizarre’ have no meaning to me,” he says. “For example, in Thailand, some people see cottage cheese as strange, so it really depends on where you are.”
Bourdain, who in addition to Myanmar has so far been to Canada, Los Angeles, Colombia and Tangier, Morocco for the show, is soon heading to film in New Mexico and Gaza. He also hopes to go to Iran next year, a place he has long dreamt of visiting.
At least 16 episodes of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown will be broadcast each year, which means Bourdain is on the road about three weeks out of every month.
Libya and Vietnam
His favourite place so far was in Libya. “It’s because of the people I met,” says Bourdain. “I also spent time with some people in the militia who had returned to fight against Qaddafi.”
He credits a visit to Vietnam as being life-changing. “I thought I would never get to see Vietnam and spent many years fascinated by it and when I did go, it was even better than I had hoped,” he says. “It’s a culture where people are very proud of their food. It is very important in their lives and placed at the forefront.”
• Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown is broadcast in the UAE on Fridays at 7pm, Saturdays at 11pm and Sundays at 5am on CNN International
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