A life well travelled: Anthony Bourdain

American  chef, author and TV personality Anthony Bourdain on his globetrotting adventures  

Which country would you still like to visit?

I want to film an episode of Parts Unknown in Venezuela, but it’s more likely I’ll be able to go to Afghanistan. There’s too much kidnapping in Venezuela and those are always the most dangerous situations, in my experience.

With each new show, you’ve been less focused on food and more focused on reporting. Do you consider yourself a journalist?

I noticed that by asking very simple questions about food, people would tell me extraordinary things about their lives… I’m not a reporter, and I don’t see myself as a journalist. I’m not going out to do danger shows or daredevil stuff.

I’m sure it’s hard to pick a favourite country, but are there places you want to return to again and again?

Beirut. I can’t get enough of that place. I adore it. Vietnam, too. And Japan. I’ll never know Japan. I know I love it. I must have been back ten times. I have a lot of friends there. I guess by American standards I know a little, but really I know nothing. But I like that feeling. I like the endless incline of stuff to learn.

Pigeon Rocks in Raouche, Beirut
Pigeon Rocks in Raouche, Beirut

Which country surprised you the most?

Georgia. I had the usual prejudices. It’s a former Soviet Republic. It was in fact really extraordinary and cool and filled with interesting, lovely people and incredible food and lovely landscape.

In season eight of Parts Unknown, you had noodles in Hanoi with then-President Barack Obama. What did you talk about?

Our kids. The smell of South-East Asia, how we respond to it. I asked him: ‘Can you at least tell me that it’s going to be OK? Look me in the eyes, as a father of a nine-year-old girl, and tell me it’s going to be alright.’ He was very, very comfortable sitting on a plastic stool and using chopsticks. I mean very. I don’t wanna flatter myself but he seemed very happy and relaxed.

What was the last really bad meal you ate?

A Johnny Rockets’ burger at an airport. It wasn’t that it was just bad. It was prepared with a lack of care exceeding contempt. It sent me into a spiral of depression that lasted for days.