(CNN)In the cinematic genre known as the "buddy pic," custom and tradition demand that the two protagonists adhere to classic roles, as codified by Felix Unger and Oscar Madison in "The Odd Couple," and persisting through such bro-tastic tag teams as Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover and Mel Gibson, Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin and beyond.
Marseille is a must-see city in France, Anthony Bourdain says
"Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CNN. Follow the show on Twitter and Facebook.
One character must be the "straight man": the reasonable person, exasperated perhaps, but relatable. The other, the "zany" one: obsessive/compulsive (Unger), unpredictable (Murphy), neurotic (Grodin), manic depressive and suicidal (Gibson).
The two unlikely heroes, thrown together by fate, must overcome their enormous differences so that they can -- by working together -- triumph over evil and, by movie's end, have a learning and growing moment.
I don't know if I learned anything while running around Marseille with my good friend, chef Eric Ripert. I knew already that I liked cheese. As it was the south of France we were shooting in, I had reasonable expectations that things would not suck.
Eric, though, definitely learned something. He learned that Marseille, France's second largest city, is awesome. He didn't know this because he had never been there before, which is kind of incredible given that he grew up only a HUNDRED MILES AWAY in Antibes. It's like someone who grew up in San Diego never having been to Los Angeles.
Why would that be? How could that be?
Well, maybe it's because the French don't seem to want you to go to Marseille. When I told a French government official I met at a party that I was planning a trip to France for the show, his face lit up with interest.
"Oh, fantastic! Where will you visit?"
When I answered "Marseille," his expression sagged with disappointment. This reaction repeated itself a number of times as one Frenchman after another took an immediate attitude of befuddlement -- even pique -- when informed of my plans.
Perhaps they assumed I would be focusing my attention on Marseille's rich and lurid history of organized crime activity, as seen in such films as "The French Connection" and its sequel. Those days are largely past and that was not what I was interested in.
A fair number of French will tell you in unguarded moments that "Marseille is not France," and what they mean by that is that it's too Arab, too Italian, too Corsican, too mixed up with foreignness to be truly and adequately French.
But, anybody who knows me knows that's exactly the kind of mixed up gene pool I like to swim in and eat in. It is a glorious stew of a city, smelling of Middle Eastern spices, garlic, saffron and the sea.
So in this episode, I got to introduce Eric to part of his own damn country -- his own neighborhood -- for the first time.
Which one of us is the crazy one? Me? Or the man who, in all his life, never visited his nation's second largest metropolis even though it was just down the road?
While we agree on the important things (food for one), we are very different people. Eric is a Buddhist. As long as I've known him, I've never seen him wish ill on anybody, whereas I regularly fantasize about planting my enemies in shallow graves.
As the chef and an owner of three-Michelin-star Le Bernardin in New York City, he has a reputation to protect. I do not. As many of the world's wealthiest, most powerful and influential people are regular customers of his, Eric must be constrained at all times in his opinions. He's a diplomat.
I, on the other hand, have pretty much made a living of insulting people.
Eric speaks English, French and Italian fluently and has never cooked anywhere but the best kitchens in the world. I speak English ... kind of. Though both parents were fluent, my French is pretty awful -- though it improves when I'm drunk. And my Spanish is suitable only for insulting people. I spent much of my career cooking brunch.
It can be a difficult thing to be my friend given some of my previous behaviors, my free and perhaps too-frank giving of opinions. I'm sure it's caused Eric awkwardness at times, which is why it's so much fun to torture the guy.
Ask him what he thinks of some horrible despot who dines regularly at Le Bernardin and watch him squirm. "He has very good taste in wine," would probably be his answer.
So, I enjoy my tiny victories: Forcing him to make pizza in the back of a food truck would be one of them. (Pizza is very big in Marseille.)
Maybe there was some "learning" at the end of this buddy pic after all. We both learned that Marseille is a great, underappreciated travel destination, a hidden gem that isn't hidden at all. It's right there in plain sight.
A great city with great food and great views, sitting right on the edge of the blue Mediterranean, surrounded by freakin' Provence. It's got it all.
And we learned that Eric's pizza making skills are for shit.