Throughout the years, audiences worldwide have gotten to know chef, author and television personality Anthony Bourdain. He’s come a long way from his days as a student at New York’s Culinary Institute of America and then helming the kitchen of the Financial District’s Brasserie Les Halles. “I spent 30 years standing on my feet in restaurants,” Bourdain says. “The smell of the steam table and a short-order griddle is still pretty fresh in my memory.”
Using his expertise to pen several New York Times bestselling books including Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, and its sequel, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook, Bourdain has an honest, pull-no-punches delivery that’s kept the masses intrigued.
With Travel Channel show Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, viewers were able to follow him on adventures to Sicily, where he searched for the best cannoli, to time spent in Spain with elBulli’s world-renowned chef, Ferran Adrià. But earlier this year, Bourdain made the switch from Travel Channel over to CNN to host Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. “They wanted me to just continue doing what I was doing before with fewer restraints and with the help of a worldwide news organization,” he says.
Taking time out of his busy schedule, the travel expert chatted with Forbes Travel Guide editors to give us the scoop on everything from the new season of Parts Unknown (catch it at 9 p.m. EST/PT on September 15), his tried-and-true packing tips and favorite city to his go-to Big Apple hangouts and what he’s doing when he’s not trekking the globe.
What can we expect from season two of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown?
That my creative partners and I will continue to push ourselves in every possible way that we can to be better, different from, stranger than, weirder and more challenging. We don’t want to do the same thing we did last week and will go to extreme lengths to make that happen. So whatever we did last week, don’t expect that. There’s some snarky shows, there’s some very serious shows, there’s some very strange and unsettling shows — each episode is a personal essay.
What type of packer are you? Do you fit everything into a carry-on or do you check your luggage?
I check my luggage. I do not want to be one of those annoying people who can’t fit their carry-on into the overhead. I pack for security — I like to fly through security very quickly. I pack for airports. I don’t want to be annoying to other passengers, so I check stuff. I have a carry-on with my essentials if I have to leave the other stuff. I pack an extra-scrunchy coat in my carry-on with my electronics. If I need a pillow to sleep on an airport floor for 12 or 14 hours, it’s there. I have a few books loaded onto my iPad, maybe a couple of movies. I’m prepared for things to go wrong because they do go wrong all of the time.
What has been your worst traveling experience?
I’ve been on planes that have aborted landings, aborted takeoffs at the last second, planes that have had the wings burst into flames just prior to takeoff, planes that have stalled and old Russian cargo planes that have been converted to passenger planes. There are just so many of them, I can’t even settle on one.
What are your hotels of choice?
In Los Angeles, I deeply love the Chateau Marmont. If I could plan for my own death, that would be a good place to go. In London, there’s a bunch of hotels I like. I love Hazlitt’s in Soho — if you have a sort of a potty uncle, it’s like staying at his house while he’s not there. I have a weakness for Southeast Asia and old colonial hotels that have been restored. You know the [Sofitel Legend] Metropole in Hanoi, [Raffles] Grand Hotel d’Angkor in [Siem Reap] — all those old British- or French-built colonial monstrosities that are still there, I have a weakness for. I don’t like big, new chain hotels. I like to know where I am when I wake up, so when I fall in love with a particular hotel, I stay ferociously loyal to it.
What’s your favorite city to travel to and why? And what’s the first thing you do when you get to this city?
If I had to eat in one city for the rest of my life, I would probably pick Tokyo because it’s just so deep with delicious and crazy stuff to enjoy. I love the food; it’s fairly low impact — just a good bowl of ramen or a good izakaya for some yakitori [grilled chicken skewers] would make me very happy in Tokyo. I love landing in Rome and going right out for some cacio e pepe [a cheese and pepper spaghetti dish] or a local, regional pasta. That makes me happy.
I like the restaurant The Breslin [Bar & Dining Room] at the Ace Hotel very much. My friend April Bloomfield has two restaurants there, The John Dory [Oyster Bar] and The Breslin, that are both excellent, so I’ll go there. If I’m looking for a cocktail, I’ll probably go to Bemelmans Bar at [Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star] The Carlyle because I’m a huge Madeline fan, and I love Ludwig Bemelmans’ stuff. It’s really the only public viewing you can do of his work. It’s a very special New York place.
Being from New York City, what is it about the Big Apple that you love so much?
My whole working career was there; there’s a certain expectation that would be unsatisfied living anywhere else. I like being able to pick up the phone and call out for sushi, pad Thai, pizza, Italian or Lebanese food. It’s a 24-hour city. All of my friends are there. Most of my friends are chefs. It’s a comfortable fish tank for me. And it’s also a level of aggression at a fast pace that’s good for me. I’m not a person who should spend a lot of time in a log cabin staring out at beautiful vistas contemplating the mysteries of the universe. That would lead to bad, self-destructive behavior. I wouldn’t be productive.
When you’re not working, how do you spend your time?
I travel so much that when I’m home, it’s all about my 6-year-old daughter, [Ariane]. So it’s whatever she wants to eat, wherever she wants to go, whatever she wants to do. Lying around in my pajamas watching Adventure Time or Cartoon Network with her is a favorite thing to do. And if I’m going out for dinner, it’s going to be something that my wife [Ottavia Busia] and daughter are both going to really like. They both like yakitori; we’ll go to Shake Shack for burgers — pretty simple. On vacation, I cook. But when I’m home for a few days, generally, we’ll eat out together or we’ll get takeout.
For more on Bourdain and to see clips from season one, visit his blog here.
Photos Courtesy of The Travel Channel and Rosewood Hotels