The 11 Best Episodes of Bourdain’s Parts Unknown
3. 8.05 “Houston”
Although Houston is the largest town in the undoubtedly largely white state of Texas, Bourdain decided to treat it as its own place — not just a representative of Texas as a whole.
Houston is one of the most multicultural places in the United States, and in order to reflect this, Bourdain refused to showcase any white people during this episode. Instead, he focused on the Mexican cuisine that has been present in the city for decades, and on more recent immigrants who are bringing dishes from their home country and flavoring them with Texas spice. Tacos al pastor, hunter’s beef, and braised goat dumplings were the starring dishes of this episode and were enjoyed with a variety of local residents ranging from rapper Slim Thug to a group of young primary students.
4. 1.06 “Libya”
Another early episode that showed Bourdain’s true colors starting to come out was the fourth episode of the first season, “Libya”. Although Bourdain would later to go to other war zones, this was the first time that the gruff host stepped into a region that was currently undergoing major conflict.
Although Bourdain was shown around a variety of locals including a group of ex-freedom fighters, they focused on not only local food, but the way that the food of the West had been encroaching into Libya, and what it meant to their war-torn country. Bourdain ate with the ex-freedom fighters at Uncle Kentacki, a KFC knock-off, and enjoyed plenty of Moorish-influenced seafood.
5. 1.08 “Congo”
There aren’t too many themed episodes of Parts Unknown. Usually, Bourdain lets the city or region set the tone, and the episode follows a straightforward exploration of the people, culture, and cuisine of that area.
In the first season episode where Bourdain went to the Congo, he went with one task in mind — to recreate the iconic voyage chronicled in Heart of Darkness. He doesn’t shy away from the realities either and was able to include his aborted attempts to kill a chicken with a dull knife on the final broadcast. His willingness to take personal risks in order to explore the sometimes-harsh realities of a region was beautifully showcased in this iconic episode.