When I first saw Anthony Bourdain on his show No Reservations, I didn’t much care for his style. It was thrown together in a seemingly haphazard way that showed a lack of introspection or forethought. That was my first impression. But, I did like seeing new places so I kept watching.
Slowly, my perspective shifted.
Bourdain’s shows lack the formality of other travel or cooking shows. Instead, what we get is a largely unfiltered man-of-the-world who has clearly seen his share of life. In a later episode of a different show, he talks about having been a serious drug addict, from which he has since recovered.
As I continued watching, Bourdain’s breadth of experience came into play. He ceased to be simply an irreverent wander, looking for the latest, most powerful hedonistic indulgence. Instead, he became a connoisseur, still very indulgent, but not to the point of excess. He was sampling life and he was keeping track of it and articulately bringing back a record of it to us, so we can see and know more.
And then I stopped watching No Reservations. Not because I didn’t like it, but I simply ran out of time and had to prioritize my viewing habits.
And then I started watching Parts Unknown, not on the Travel Channel, but on CNN. That’s an unusual place for a travel show… or so I thought.
It was still Bourdain, but now instead of the trip being primarily about food, it’s about the food and the context… more the context, with the food as an extension of place. Bourdain is a chef, and so he’s not going to leave his foodie past behind. But, with Episode 1 of Parts Unknown, when he went to Myanmar. Yes, that Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, with the atrocities highlighted in the latest installation of Rambo.
Anthony Bourdain has shifted in my mind, from a hedonistic traveler to a foodie-philosopher. He’s introspective and thoughtful. His style still has the Beatnik meets Rock-n-Roll feel to it, which may take a bit of getting used to, but what he brings to TV (or Netflix in my case) is something truly unique bordering on greatness. Anthony Bourdain’s: Parts Unknown isn’t just a food show, a travel show, a CNN expose, or like anything else I’ve ever seen. It’s all those things and more. It’s been nominated for an Emmy! And, it is not to be missed.