The 11 Best Episodes of Bourdain’s Parts Unknown
Since the untimely passing of Anthony Bourdain in June 2018, people in the food industry, as well as those who watch from the sidelines and appreciate his cooking, have been involved in a discussion about his legacy. Surely, someone like Bourdain, who spent years exploring the restaurants and cuisine of the world with a camera at his back, would have an assured place in the canon of food geniuses who have left us like Julia Child, Paul Bocuse, and James Beard. Even though his food choices skewed towards the unique and unusual rather than focusing on delicate French or modern American cuisine, Bourdain should be lauded for his ability to encourage our sense of adventure and appreciation of new tastes, textures, and flavors.
His show Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, which ran on CNN for five years, is a treasure trove of his best and most adventurous eating moments. Here are some of the best episodes that are definitely worth a re-watch.
1. 1.01 “Myanmar”
The very first episode of Parts Unknown set the tone for what the audience should expect from the series right from the outset. Bourdain’s first choice for a destination was Myanmar, a country that until very recently was off-limits to outsiders.
Bourdain dined on mohinga (fish soup with rice noodles), pig’s head salad with Kaffir lime leaves, and chicken necks, all while chatting to various local figures like the director of the Myanmar Journalism Institute U Thiha Saw and Burmese cookbook author Ma Thanegi. He also brought along Philippe Lajaunie, the former owner of Brasserie Les Halles in NYC — an early sign of Bourdain’s obsession with discussing unique cuisines in the same reverent tones that people usually reserve for Michelin-starred establishments.
2. 8.01 “Hanoi”
Although the early episodes of Parts Unknown carry a lot of weight with fans of the show, one of the most popular episodes by far is the first episode of the last season, where Bourdain was able to sit down with then-sitting President Barack Obama in Hanoi and enjoy a simple meal bun cha (grilled pork and noodles) along with beer straight from the bottle — no fancy glasses required.
The fact that Bourdain allowed the conversation to flow naturally and cultivated a friendly, relaxed atmosphere allowed for a unique look at our 44th President. We got to see him as a regular guy with a healthy appetite, who was interested in discussing the world without talking about politics. After the two men left the restaurant, the proprietors encased their table in glass — a living memorial to a simple meal enjoyed by two great men.