At this point Anthony Bourdain needs little in the way of an introduction. Since making a splash in 2000 with his debut book, Kitchen Confidential, the former New York chef has been one of the more recognizable faces on the modern cultural landscape. His current CNN show, Parts Unknown, returns for another season this Sunday, Sept. 25, and he has a new book, Appetites: A Cookbook, being released in October. In the book, Bourdain uses his lifetime of traveling and cooking experience to illustrate how to cook the dishes that have become his personal favorites, dishes that he feels everyone should know how to cook, in addition to providing insight into how to best host guests in one’s home.
We spoke to Bourdain recently about a number of things, including his love for Popeyes fried chicken, the current state of food culture, places he’s been and would still like to go, his personal fitness routine, and his long-running “feud” with Guy Fieri. He also weighed in with a definitive ruling in the home fries vs. hash browns debate.
First off, I want to thank you, because in the early days of Uproxx you were one of the first big “gets” we ever had. You were nice enough to make time for an interview and a pow-pow session with our commenters when we were in our early stages of development.
Very happy to do it. I like your site.
I recently went back and read one of the things that you did with us back in 2012 and your answer to the question, “The first face that comes to mind when you think ‘punchable’?” was Donald Trump. You added that he’d probably “cry like a wuss” if you did punch him. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that your opinion of him hasn’t changed that much since then.
Yeah, I saw the mosquito incident. Nothing has changed.
I think something that you’ve been able to do with your shows over the years is that you’ve been able to break down some of the hesitancy some Americans have about traveling to certain places. Are there places that you’re wary of going to, or places that you’d be hesitant to go back to?
I’d very much like to see Yemen but it’s just inadvisable now. I’m hoping to go to Afghanistan next year. I’m not going to Syria anytime soon. I’ve heard under better circumstances it was well worth visiting, but I’m not a mad man. I’m not an adventurer. I’m not in the business of standing there in a flak jacket as some sort of danger junkie. I’m a dad. I feel a responsibility to at least try and live for my daughter and not put my camera crew in danger so that I can look cool. I don’t delude myself that I’m a foreign correspondent or a war correspondent. There is a threshold for me for sure. I mean, I wouldn’t go back to Libya right now probably.
I was going to ask if there are any situations that you’ve found yourself in that when you look back on them you’re like, “Holy shit. That could have gone really bad.” I take it that Libya was one.
Libya was very, very, very difficult. The situation had changed a lot even by the time we arrived. We had unarmed security guys who were pretty much advising us to have our passports ready and our luggage packed, that we should spend no more than 20 minutes on scene, never let anyone know we’re coming, change our routines constantly. We ended up having a local militia to look after us. It was very, very dodgy.
Besides Afghanistan, which you mentioned previously, are there any other places that you’ve yet to go that you’d really like to?
I haven’t been to the tribal areas of Pakistan or Bangladesh. I’m hoping to go to Kashmir this coming year. There are places that I just don’t feel that I’ve gotten right yet or I haven’t done enough. China is a big subject, I could just keep on going back there pretty much indefinitely. Venezuela is very, very tough to get in to shoot right now. Getting the insurance coverage to shoot in Venezuela is turning out to be very problematic. I really want to do a show there. I’d say number one on my bucket list right now is Venezuela.
Are there any underrated food regions that you’ve completely fallen in love with?
I had a really great time in Georgia. That’s a really cool country. It was much prettier, the people were wonderful, the food was great, very hospitable. That’s totally underrated and not enough people talk about it. Iran, I can’t say enough nice things about the food. And if you find yourself as a guest at an Iranian’s house, you’re going to be fed a lot of really delicious food. Way more than you can possibly eat.
I’ve heard great things from the few people I know who have been there.
Mexico gets more interesting every year. I don’t know if I’d say the fine dining, but Mexican food for the middle class is getting really, really interesting and really, really sophisticated. It’s probably the most underrated cuisine right now.