Anthony Bourdain was beloved for his television show Parts Unknown in which he shared his adventurous explorations with the world. We went through the series to find the top ten moments of Parts Unknown to share with you, so get ready for some beautiful countries and crazy foods!
10. The Best Restaurant in the World
In his second season of exploring the world, Bourdain paid a visit to Copenhagen to do a bit of sightseeing and a lot of taste testing. While he was in town, Bourdain couldn’t resist paying a visit to chef Rene Redzepi, a famed Danish chef. Redzepi is the proud co-owner of Noma, a famous restaurant which has been awarded two Michelin stars and was voted the best restaurant in the world for four different years by Restaurant magazine. Bourdain was impressed by Redzepi’s culinary success and sat down to enjoy a meal at the so-called best restaurant. He was blown away by the inventiveness of the dishes, as he was served a huge green Nordic drink straight out of a coconut, followed by a bunch of flowers that he chowed down on. Other fancy dishes available at the restaurant included two-year-old cherries with five-year-old roses, reindeer moss with mushrooms, and lobster topped with nasturtium leaves. Bourdain admitted that no restaurant could be compared to Noma, and that it was in a completely different realm of culinary expertise. As a guy who had the opportunity to dine at hundreds of restaurants throughout his life, that was big praise from Bourdain!
9. Heart of Darkness
Not only was Bourdain a food fanatic, but he was also extremely well read, with a particular interest in the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. In fact, Bourdain was so inspired by the story about traveling along the Congo River that he decided to recreate the activities of the novel by journeying through the river himself. Bourdain explained the importance of the river throughout history and to the Congolese citizens in modern times. He also profiled the locals’ daring fishing methods, as they performed energetic acrobatic flips and dives into the roaring river. Once they were swimming, the fishermen would plow through the rapids to catch fish in elaborate contraptions similar to a basket. This was a bucket list trip for Bourdain, who was fascinated by the Congo and was thrilled to be recreating one of his favorite books. Of course, there were several challenges, like the scarcity of food on the boat with no fridges. Bourdain and his companions struggled to prepare the food that they had brought with them on the boat, as their knife wasn’t even sharp enough to cut chicken. All of the challenges aside, nothing could stop Bourdain from loving his dream boat trip!
8. Dining up North
While Parts Unknown examined diverse cultures and personalities, it also stayed true to its origins of finding the best foods for Bourdain to sample and share with his audiences. One of his most unique food moments happened in the province of Quebec when he traveled up north to participate in a traditional dining experience. There he sat in a small wooden hut, on top of a mere three feet of ice, which in turn was on top of approximately one hundred feet of water! Bourdain didn’t seem at all concerned with the situation, however, and enjoyed a meal that was both hearty and fancy at the same time. Comfort food like mashed potatoes and cheese were combined with foie gras and bottles of wine, followed up by a box of Cuban cigars. He finished things off with a monster of a cake, a multi-tiered dessert with approximately sixteen layers of chocolate and meringue. As a food connoisseur, Bourdain was able to really let loose and enjoy during this Quebec episode, despite sitting above one hundred feet of freezing water!
7. A Comedic Supper
Bourdain had a huge network of celebrity friends who made appearances on Parts Unknown, including comedy legend Bill Murray. Murray is well renowned for his ability to think fast in sketches and improvised scenes, and so he was the perfect match to deal with whatever bizarre food concoctions Bourdain threw his way. They met up in Charleston, South Carolina, at a restaurant called Husk. As they sat down to eat together, Murray let out some of his trademark humor as he talked with Bourdain about his experiences living in Charleston. He complained about the busy driving conditions and made sure that any viewers were dissuaded from moving to his city and worsening the traffic by staring into the camera and warning about the insect infestations. He obviously did not want to be getting any new neighbors! Bourdain was entertained by Murray’s rant and attempt to depopulate the roads, but he was even more enthused about the food that they were served. Husk served traditional Southern foods with modern touches, with a huge focus on seafood. As Bourdain experienced the best that Southern cooking could offer, he and Murray bonded further by discussing their shared love of the film Roadhouse, which is not an overly popular film with most people. But Bourdain and Murray loved it, and Murray laughed about how he knew one of the actresses from the film and would prank call her and her husband about the film on random nights. Maybe Bourdain and Murray had a movie night after their meal!
6. A Bucket List Meal
As a chef, some of the most exciting opportunities in Parts Unknown revolved around trying new and delicious foods for Bourdain. While he had to be brave and stomach some truly questionable dishes at times, during his visit to Lyon he was treated to an undisputedly luxurious dining experience. At an upscale restaurant operated by chef Paul Bocuse, Bourdain sat down to the food of his dreams, starting with a truffle soup which Bourdain admitted to attempting, and failing, to recreate numerous times. Bourdain was clearly over the moon with happiness as he bit into the dish, with chef Paul Bocuse right beside him. His meal didn’t end there, however, as it was followed by a beautiful crusted sea bass which looked more like a work of art than food. The fish was filled with lobster mousse and spices before being encased in a pastry shell that was carved into the shape of a real fish, complete with engraved scales and fins. Bourdain was so excited about the food that he had to snap a few quick pictures with his phone like the true food fan that he was. The feast kept on going, with a full slow cooked hare being presented to Bourdain to taste test. This blew Bourdain away, as he dubbed it the Lost Arc of the Covenant of cooking, and thanked the chef for the once in a lifetime opportunity.
5. Bourdain’s Bond Moment
In one of his more tropical episodes of Parts Unknown, Bourdain decided to spend some time in balmy and beautiful Jamaica to soak up the sun and the culture. However, Bourdain wasn’t just there to kick back and relax. As part of the show, Bourdain explored Goldeneye, a beautiful property which had belonged to James Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming. The episode opened with a hilarious homage to James Bond himself, with a spoof on the traditional animated title card scenes of the films recreated with the silhouettes of swimming tourists. Bourdain drove up to Goldeneye and recounted how Fleming had originally come to Jamaica to do reconnaissance work regarding U-boat activities before he fell in love with the area. Walking in the footsteps of the famed author, Bourdain snooped around the building and took advantage of its remarkable views, and even got to see the very desk that Fleming had penned his famous novels at. Goldeneye was turned into an updated hotel by its new owners, but Fleming’s property remained untouched for fans to forever enjoy. Bourdain was also hilariously overjoyed to find that there was a grotto on the property which he could use, and he went on a spiel about how he had dreamt about having his own personal grotto ever since he was a little kid. He was so impressed that he even dubbed Goldeneye to be better than the Playboy mansion – high praise!
4. A Family Affair
Bourdain kept things close to home for the episode on New Jersey. He had grown up in the state and was clearly still proud of his roots as he navigated the crew around his favorite spots. First Bourdain went back to the small diner which his dad used to take him to as a kid and enjoyed some hot dogs and burgers with glee. He called the dogs amazing and seemed to be in his element as he revisited his favorite childhood hangout. Viewers then got to peer even further into Bourdain’s personal life, as his brother Christopher joined in on the New Jersey exploration. They pointed out new and old houses as they drove by, reminiscing about the good old days that they had spent together down by the shore. Bourdain admitted to being a troublemaker as a kid, which his brother wholeheartedly agreed on as they chowed down on seafood at a local restaurant. It was an intimate look at Bourdain’s childhood, as he talked about his love for the beach and all of the memories that he associated with New Jersey. From hitchhiking to meet up with friends, to lighting campfires on the shore, Bourdain and his brother were more than happy to sit with a couple of beers and chat about their old lives. This episode was special because it showed Bourdain in one of his happiest places, and his enthusiasm was infectious as he toured and tasted his way across the state.
3. Bourdain Gets Beaten Up
Bourdain was famous for his love of food and travel, but he also had another passion in life – martial arts. He practiced jiu-jitsu after his ex-wife Ottavia peaked his interest in the sport, and he took his training very seriously. Bourdain went on to continue training even as he traveled while filming televisions shows, with his producers helping to locate international gyms for him to train at while he traveled. His love for martial arts seeped into Parts Unknown, and as he explored Japan in the sixth season he just had to showcase the region’s amazing types of combat. Bourdain stopped in Okinawa, one of the islands off of Japan, to check out Okinawan sumo wrestling. He was immediately impressed as he watched two pros fighting together in a sandy ring, both trying to flip their opponent onto their back. Bourdain cheered from the sidelines before giving it a go himself. He didn’t let his lack of sumo experience stop him as he threw on a wrestling belt and strolled into the ring to face his opponent head-on. Bourdain put up an admirable fight, but he was no match for the pros. Within minutes of entering the ring, Bourdain was flipped over his opponent and dropped onto the sand, leaving him defeated but happy with his new skills. He also couldn’t leave Japan without trying his hand at some karate and was taken under the wing of a local master to test his abilities. It was a brutal lesson about the weakest places to attack a human, and Bourdain squirmed as his arms were twisted and thumbs were forced into his ears. Let’s just say that the karate lesson made Bourdain’s sumo match look easy!
2. Scammed in Sicily
In season two of Parts Unknown, Bourdain took a trip to Sicily to try and enjoy the food and culture. Unfortunately, things did not go to plan and the trip turned into a disaster, albeit an entertaining one. Bourdain was eager to see where the freshest Sicilian seafood came from and headed out on a motorboat with a supposed local fisherman and expert to find some octopus and clams. Bourdain sensed that something was suspicious immediately, as they jetted into an area of the ocean crammed with tourist boats and swimmers – not exactly prime fishing territory. However, Bourdain tried to push his pessimism aside and jumped into the water, trusting his expert guide to have led him to the right spot. As Bourdain snorkeled through the ocean on the lookout for sea creatures, he was shocked when he heard something hit the water nearby. It was a dead octopus that his guide’s assistant had thrown into the water to give the illusion of vibrant sea life, but that was only the beginning! More dead and partially frozen octopi were chucked into the water around him, followed by cuttlefish and little sea urchins. The expert guide would then swim over to the dead creatures and proudly show them off to Bourdain, as if he were oblivious to the bizarre situation. Naturally, Bourdain was furious, and stormed off to a restaurant to get a much-needed drink – or a couple of them!
1. Noodles, Vietnam, and Obama
Bourdain was best known for capturing the true culture of every place he visited, avoiding the major tourist destinations in favor of local haunts and exploration. Former President Obama obviously agreed with that philosophy of travel, and in the eighth season of Parts Unknown Obama met with Bourdain in a small family-owned restaurant in Vietnam. This episode was filmed after Obama had lifted a ban on selling military weapons to Vietnam, and Obama expressed an openness to experiencing the local culture with Bourdain by his side. In the restaurant the two men chowed down on noodles and broth, surrounded by other locals who were casually enjoying a meal around the President. Bourdain spoke to Obama about his concerns regarding tensions in the United States, like the debates over building a wall, and how he wished that more Americans would travel and see how other cultures live. This seemed to resonate with Obama, who reiterated that everyone in the world is similar, with shared hopes and dreams. In a particularly touching moment, Bourdain looked for Obama’s reassurance by asking whether or not the world that his daughter is growing up in will be okay, and Obama calmly explained that everything will work out. It was a profound moment between the two men, and they seemed to relate to one another as they ate and drank. This was the essence of Parts Unknown – how two strangers could become unified over a hot meal.