Anthony Bourdain picks his top 10 "Parts Unknown" episodes
Libya, Lyon and Myanmar are among his favorite shows
Editor’s note: This article was first published in April 2015. It was last updated in November 2016.
Anthony Bourdain went to some of the world’s most fascinating places. They’re not all go-to destinations for the average traveler, and his magic was in unlocking those places through their people and food.
He was very proud of the shows he produced for “Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown.”
These are some of Bourdain’s favorite episodes:
Season 1: Myanmar
The series premiere episode offered an inside look at the fabled beauty and local cuisine of a country that had been, up until recently, off-limits to outsiders.
Season 1: Libya
Bourdain looks at the post-Gaddafi uncertainty of Libya through the lens of food and ex-freedom fighters.
The host ends the episode on this sentiment: “Everybody seems to be saying, you know, ‘in five, see us’ – look at us in five years. That is a pretty reasonable attitude,” he said.
“This is a place that’s filled with a lot of extraordinary people who have done an extraordinary thing on very short notice, under very difficult circumstances, and at a very difficult time – who are continuing to do the best they can, and I wish them well.”
Season 1: Congo
Bourdain visits the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the setting of one of his favorite books, Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” which itself was the basis for one of his favorite movies, the classic “Apocalypse Now.”
“It is the most relentlessly f***ed-over nation in the world, yet it has long been my dream to see Congo. And for my sins, I got my wish,” he wrote.
Season 2: Jerusalem
Bourdain and crew make their first trip to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
While the political situation is often tense between the people living in these areas, Bourdain concentrates on their rich history, food and culture, and spends time with local chefs, home cooks and writers.
Season 2: Copenhagen
This episode explores the food and natural beauty of Copenhagen, the economic and cultural center of Denmark. The city is home to famed chef Rene Redzepi and his brainchild, Noma, regarded by critics as one of the world’s best restaurants.
Bourdain delves into the city’s cuisine and the new Nordic creativity that infuses Redzepi’s work at his restaurant.
Season 2: Tokyo
Japan is a paradox. The low birthrate, the dedication, the conformity and the life of a salary man are well-known. It also has a competitive and rigid culture that gives way to some unique subcultures.
Bourdain has traveled to Tokyo countless times, but on this trip he’s in search of the city’s dark, extreme and bizarrely fetishistic underside.
Season 3: Punjab
Bourdain dives into the ever-changing state of Punjab with a trip to Amritsar, sampling cuisine at the dhabas (roadside restaurants), a gurpurb festival (Sikh celebration) and a free community vegetarian restaurant.
Along the way, he meets with local residents who give their perspectives on life in this sometimes contentious region of India that borders Pakistan.
Season 3: Lyon
In this food-centric episode, Bourdain accompanies world-renowned chef/restaurateur Daniel Boulud as they explore the culinary hub of Lyon, France, for a “once-in-a-lifetime” pilgrimage to the restaurant and home of nouvelle cuisine innovator Paul Bocuse.
Season 4: Shanghai
In spite of its nominally communist system, Shanghai is possibly the most go-go, unfettered, money and status-mad, materialistic place on Earth. Its skyline alone is confirmation that money talks loudest.
Season 4: Iran
Bourdain and his crew take their long-awaited inaugural trip to Iran, exploring Tehran and Isfahan.
Local guides for this tour include Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, who were subsequently detained and eventually released by the Iranian government.