When CNN announced Anthony Bourdain's new series, "Parts Unknown," some critics wondered if the hard-hitting news network was going soft.
They didn't know Bourdain. He quickly got to business exploring global trouble spots through their cuisine. The show returns for its second season Sept. 15 with a trip to Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza.
"You saw the first season. I wouldn’t describe Libya or the Congo as fun. Me and my partners, since we started in television, have been mixing it up from week to week," Bourdain told TheWrap on Wednesday. "The idea that CNN was looking for light, personality driven entertainment was a little off base. … They knew what they were getting."
In an interview, Bourdain addressed not only the Middle East but the two other greatest controveries of our time: Paula Deen and Instagramming food.
Even before Deen's N-word meltdown, Bourdain told TV Guide she was the “worst, most dangerous person to America” — someone who "revels in unholy connections with evil corporations and [is] proud of the fact that her food is f—ing bad for you." But he says he isn't enjoying her latest problems.
His feelings about taking pictures of food are equally nuanced.
In Jerusalem, did were you able to cross barriers with food?
I could, because I'm an outsider. I show up asking people what do you eat, what makes you happy. I ask very, very simple question so I think I am to some extent cross barriers that a lot of other people can't, because I'm not there with an agenda. I'm asking very simple things about people's lives. I can cross barriers using food as a point of entry. Whether that’s going to lead to world peace, probably not.
What's been your take on Paula Deen's experiences this summer?
It would require a long complicated answer and I don't have the heart to pile on at this point. I take no pleasure in it, let's put it that way.
The lawsuit against her and her brother alleges the kitchen in his restaurant was a racist, sexist environment. What did you think of the way her brother allegedly ran it?
This was a workplace problem. I think, clearly… let’s put it this way. I am no angel. I am no angel. But at no point in my life ever would some of the behaviors described in those depositions be accepted in any kitchen I ever ran.
What's the most danger you've ever been in?
Probabaly a driving situation. I've been in a lot of for lack of, for lack of a better phrase, conflict zones. But driving in the Central Highlands of Vietnam or Highway 1 in South Vietnam is probably the closest I've come to death. Really crazy drivers.
What's the most dangerous thing you've eaten, or the sickest you've been from something you ate?
Both tribal situations in Africa, where freshness and hygiene were clearly going to be a problem, but because of the situation, there was no polite option other than to take one for the team. I did not want to offend my hosts.
You're sitting around eating bush meat in a very unclean situation, with very little rainfall. You're eating out of a communal bowl with eight or ten or twelve other people sticking their hands in… you're pretty far from running water. I had a pretty good idea of what was coming down the pike after that.
What's your favorite fast food?
Popeye's Fried Chicken. I love their mac 'n' cheese. And they have decent biscuits. But In N Out also. Whenever I'm out on the coast I'm always grateful for In N Out.
What's your favorite non-fast food?
If I knew I was going to die tomorrow morning I'd probably be eating some really high-end sushi tonight.
What do you think of people who Instagram their food?
Look, I'm guilty of it, too. I think it's worth making fun of. We deserve to be mocked. It's a dysfunctional, even aggressive practice. Why do we Instagram pictures of our food? It's not to share. It's to make other people feel really bad. … It's basically a f— you. You say, "Look what I'm eating, bitches." You don't want people to be eating dinner with you when you Instagram a picture of your food. You want them to be eating a bag of Cheetos on their couch in their underpants. It's a passive aggressive act.
That said, I do it all the time.