Anthony Bourdain has no qualms about putting himself in harm’s way to tell viewers stories of countries, cultures, people and food.
Indeed, the host of “Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown” — which returns for Season 2 Sunday, Sept. 15, on CNN — has dined on live cobra in Vietnam, forced down sand- and feces-smeared warthog rectum in Namibia and been bombed in Beirut. And after years of antibiotics and run-ins with less-than-hospitable locals, his enthusiasm for exploration remains intact.
“I see my first duty as to be a good guest,” he explains to Zap2it. “So if called upon to take one for the team, meaning eat food that I’m pretty sure is going to make me ill, I’m going to do that rather than offend my host. That said, all of us on the show are pretty good at making good decisions. And surprisingly enough, if you eat what the locals eat, including some pretty dodgy-looking street food, you’re probably better off than eating at the Western-style buffet at the hotel.
“I’m not going out of my way to eat live monkey brains just because some knuckleheads do it,” he continues. “I’m interested in what is typical and everyday. I ask myself, ‘Is it part of the culture? Is it something that people eat on an ordinary basis that they love and are serious about? Is it expressive of the culture that I’m eating it — whether I’m in my comfort zone or not?’ But I’m not out there looking to shock and awe.”
He has also found that food can be the conduit through which cultures can find common ground, which was the case last season, when he visited Libya and broke bread with Libyans.
“Regardless of political differences,” he says, “it’s a big deal to feed a stranger who shows up at your home, and I found that to be true throughout the Arab world. … If you allow people the freedom to show you how they live — simple things: These are my kids; this is what we have for dinner; this is what we love to cook — they tell you other things and they reveal themselves to you in ways that they might not if I was showing up with a sound guy and a makeup artist and a microphone.”