From feasts under fire to dining in Trump's America, Anthony Bourdain is back from Parts Unknown

What Anthony Bourdain started nearly two decades ago, a crudely honest travel show still abides by the same spirit despite a change of channels, shows and cables


                            From feasts under fire to dining in Trump's America, Anthony Bourdain is back from Parts Unknown
Anthony Bourdain (Getty Images)

Travel and cooking shows don't give themselves easily to binge-watching, but the genre is popular enough to have racked up one million views per night on the Food Network.

A quick search about the number of such shows displays about 152 categories. As American households cook less and less meals at home, more and more culinary shows are coming up star rated.

Perhaps because there is much more to food than just looking at the step-wise process of cooking it. Cooking shows observe an exchange of cultures on tables and there is one particular chef who did it first and did it best: Anthony Bourdain.

Chef and television personality, Anthony Bourdain attends 'WASTED! The Story Of Food Waste' premiere on April 22, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for WASTED! Documentary)

 

The 61-year-old has maintained the reputation of "culinary bad boy" ever since he started the food and world-travel show, 'A Cook's Tour' in 2002.

The offer he received for the TV show came from The Food Network, shortly after his book 'Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly' topped the New York Time's bestselling book list.

And ever since, despite being one of the first to host such a culinary and travel show, he never put a foot wrong.

His quick wit, thorough knowledge and an open mind sailed him through the hottest of kitchens and toughest of challenges. What he started nearly two decades ago, a crudely honest travel show still abides by the same spirit despite a change of channels and cables.

Anthony Bourdain's now anticipated Season 11 premiere of CNN’s Parts Unknown will be aired on April 29.

A staunch critic of President Donald Trump, Anthony pays a visit to the West Virginia coal country, an area where the majority voted for Trump.

In his recent interview about the upcoming show, Bourdain said he was "utterly moved" by the experience as he approached the coal mining place with an open mind, similar to what he does with other countries he visits.

Every episode of Bourdain's travel and food show, irrespective of the title of the series or network is an endearing one.

When he started with 'Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations', on the Travel Channel in 2005, which ran nine seasons till 2012, he ensured a raw and honest representation of culture in food that did not exactly always look appetizing and TV friendly.

He did not care and viewers did not mind. The premise of what Bourdain was doing was clear. It was not anything commercial. Rather it was a message that what people eat is an expression of their culture, their history, how they live and sometimes, how they have to live.

Bourdain has taken the show to familiar and unfamiliar countries.  

The first episode of Season 7 'No Reservation' had Haiti as the food destination, soon after the 2010 earthquake that claimed the lives of 230,000 people.

Who would have thought that an underdeveloped Caribbean country would become the subject of a food and travel show, wherein people tune in to participate in the luxury of finer things.

It was in stark contrast to his previous seasons where he highlighted culinary delights from rather posh countries.

This particular season also magnified Bourdain's conflict of what he was doing hosting the food and travel show, which made no sense in the light of the millions who went to bed without proper food in poverty struck countries such as Haiti and Nicaragua.

While his humanity shines through in his understanding of cultures, one of the prime reasons why he is so loved by his audience is because of his liberal use of profanity and sexual references, especially in 'No Reservations.'

There is an unavoidable viewer discretion advisory on each episode because you never know when he is fuming and saying things like, "Don't touch my dick, don't touch my knife."

However, it is this very series that landed Bourdain his first Emmy nomination. Just a year after the show was launched, he and his crew were in Beirut filming an episode when the Israel-Lebanon conflict broke out.

The producers compiled behind-the-scenes footage of Bourdain and his production staff, including not only their initial attempts to film the episode, but also their firsthand encounters with Hezbollah supporters, their days of waiting for news with other expatriates in a Beirut hotel, and their eventual escape aided by a fixer (unseen in the footage), whom Bourdain dubbed Mr. Wolf.

Bourdain and his crew were finally evacuated with other American citizens, on the morning of July 20, by the United States Marine Corps. The Beirut 'No Reservations' episode, which aired on August 21, 2006, was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2007. Then in 2009 and 2011 the series won the Emmy for Outstanding Cinematography For Nonfiction Programming.

TV personality Anthony Bourdain poses in the press room during the 2014 Creative Arts Emmy Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on August 16, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

The show ended in 2012, while another new show of Bourdain was airing on the Travel Channel in 2011 called 'The Layover'.

The one-hour ten-episode was about an exploration of a city that can be undertaken within an air travel layover of 24 to 48 hours. The series ran for 20 episodes, through February 2013. 

Then in May 2012, Bourdain announced that he would be leaving the Travel Channel; he took to his blog to explain his departure, explaining his frustration with the channel's new ownership using his voice and image to make it seem as if he was endorsing a car brand.

Throughout his career, Bourdain has strongly criticized commercial celebrity chefs such as Paula Deen, Bobby Flay, Guy Fieri, Sandra Lee, and Rachael Ray, for their lack of culinary authenticity. 

Then in 2013, he went on to host a show titled 'Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown' for CNN and is currently on it with its Season 11 premiering this month.

This show treads the same grounds as that of 'No Reservations' and its predecessor 'A Cook's Tour' focusing on other cuisines, cultures and politics.

Former President Barack Obama was featured on the program in an episode in Vietnam that aired in September 2016. This show has won 5 Emmy Awards, garnered 11 nominations for writing, sound mixing, editing and cinematography and received a 2013 Peabody Award.

But was Anthony Bourdain always so efficient? Looking at his career since the 2000, it seems he was born a master striker, doing the right things at the first go.

Well, he was a rebel at the age of 10 and a drug addict at a very young age "dropping acid and having sex with hippie chicks."

Born in New York and raised in New Jersey, Bourdain said that he grew up in "the Mad Men era," struggling after the Vietnam war. In 1985, Bourdain married his high-school girlfriend, Nancy Putkoski and divorced in 2005, after which he married Ottavia Busia, when he met her on a blind date. Together, they have a daughter, Ariane, born in 2007.

"I was 50 when I became a father of a little girl. I was finally old enough to be qualified for the job," he tells in an interview with The Guardian

In 2016, he divorced the second time and is currently dating an Italian actress Asia Argento, whom he met when she appeared on the Rome episode of Parts Unknown. He recently took to Instagram to express his love for the 42-year-old.

 

Asia Argento (Getty Images)

Irrespective of the show's title or channel, he has approached every episode with the same award-winning delivery, putting food at the center of every culture's mainstay and representation.

He is quick to criticize and does not look back at his opinion with any regrets. The globetrotter chef is crystal clear when it comes to his dislike for vegans and vegetarians.

He calls them a “persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn” in his book 'Kitchen Confidential.'

In a recent interview, when he was asked about the "lab-grown meat-free" Impossible Burger, a plant-based burger alternative that replicates the sizzle, smell, texture, flavor, and bleeding of a real burger - without the environmental consequences, he said, “Look, there are a lot of hungry people in the world. I guess if it is a means of providing must-needed protein to people who need protein to live, I guess I’m all for it,” he said. "But, you know, as somebody who spent 30 years as a chef, of course I’m going to be resistant to the notion that there’s any replacement for the texture and musculature and funk of real meat,” he continued, stating he is “resistant” to it.

“I hate the idea that people are selling this at a premium at hip restaurants.”

When almost everyone's bucket list has the mention to travel the world and eat different types of cuisine, Bourdain's pretty much ticked it all.

In an interview he said; "If I were hit by the proverbial ice cream truck, sucked up in the wheel well and dragged down the street, as I lay there bleeding out, I wouldn't have a lot of regrets about things I missed. I've ridden an elephant, I've jumped out of a plane, I've seen the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia, I've been to Vietnam, I've seen a lot of things. But as is so often the case with someone who's successfully gotten away with robbing a bank, I'd like to keep doing this as long as I can get away with it."