Celebrity chef and author Anthony Bourdain recently premiered his new show on CNN. The title of Parts Unknown references both the remote locations the show seems to focus on as well as the odd bits of fruits, veggies and animals that make their way into the more exotic dishes Bourdain puts on display. The title also has a hint of ominousness to it and it’s these dark overtones that tell you Bourdain is really on to something, here.
Fans of No Reservations will find plenty to like here, but fans of particular episodes of Bourdain’s former, famous Travel Channel show will be especially pleased. For me, No Reservations was at its best when the places were gritty and the stories Bourdain uncovered were dark and deeply human – episodes from Columbia, Laos and Lebanon all leap to mind.
The first handful of episodes from Parts Unknown are packed with Bourdain at his edgy best: He recalls the destructiveness of the L.A. Riots in an episode focused on the city’s Koreatown neighborhood; he illuminates the violence and oppression in present-day Myanmar; he returns to Columbia.
In my favorite episode yet, Bourdain visits Morocco, comparing the present-day country and the city of Tangier to their counter-cultural legends, illuminating the lives and works of artists like Paul Bowles, William Burroughs, Brian Jones and the Master Musicians of Jujuka along the way. Oh, yeah! Bourdain even schools you on how to make homemade majoun. If you don’t know what majoun is, you really need to watch this video.
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