By Jason Miks
GPS digital producer Jason Miks poses readers’ questions to noted chef, food critic and globe-trotting TV presenter Anthony Bourdain about the second series of Parts Unknown, a chef’s place in society and whether governments should tell us what we should and shouldn’t eat. The new season of Parts Unknown begins this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
You’ve been to many of the destinations in the upcoming season before. Is it difficult to bring something new to each episode?
Certainly the challenge is to find a new way to tell what could be a similar story. But I particularly enjoy going to a place like Los Angeles, or Spain – places that have already been looked at – and trying to find a unique perspective. Whether it’s an individual story, or just a new way of looking at it. Or taking a different view, either a tighter focus or a wider one. That’s an enviable challenge. It’s part of the fun of making the show – finding new ways to tell these stories.
Is there any place in the upcoming series that surprised you? That really showed you something new?
I’ve been to Tokyo many times, but it’s such a bottomless, bottomless source of interesting things to look at, new perspectives. It’s just such a multi-layered, multi-textured place. I’ve described the experience of going to Tokyo as a hallucinatory experience, in both the good and bad sense of that word. And I think this latest Tokyo show was surprising to me. It was shocking to me. And I think it will be both those things to viewers.
Did you ever consider another career?
No, I was a happy dishwasher. Dishwashing saved my life. I fell into the restaurant business. I was a messed up, undisciplined kid. The restaurant business supplied really the only structure and order in my life, and was the only sort of system that I respected. Everything important I learned in my life, I learned in the restaurant business. So I think I needed that first, before I ever dared dream about doing anything else.
Do you ever miss “working the line”?
I had 30 years of working the line. It’s a very physically and emotionally demanding job. Success as an author and a television career started very late for me, in my mid-40s, which is just about the time when your body and brain start to fry in the restaurant business. I don’t delude myself by thinking I would be any use to anyone in the kitchen. I think I could probably still work my old shift – for a day. And I’d need rehab for 48 hours afterwards.
One of our readers argues that the term gourmet is overused. Is there any place for the word – any thread running through international cooking that could be described as “gourmet”?
I don’t even understand the word gourmet. I don’t use it. I don’t know anyone who uses it. Even the word “foodie” is well-intentioned but overused. It’s a concept that would be ludicrous to an Italian or a Chinese. In much of the world they grow up just passionate about food – food is a fundamental and important part of a bigger picture of a complete life. The notion of taking pictures of your food, in Italy for example, would probably be considered pretty strange.
More from CNN: The Parts Unknown challenge
I think in the West, in particular, we are struggling in our own halting and sometimes ridiculous way as we move towards a healthier relationship with food. Right now, we are probably a little over enthusiastic and we fetishize it a little too much. Interestingly, I don’t know any chefs who would consider themselves gourmets. The chefs who serve self-professed gourmets experience food in a very different and more relaxed and informal, non-snobby way than their clients. Chefs don’t talk about the wine for 10 minutes before they drink it. They drink it. Chefs eat largely with their hands while doing other things. They experience food in a healthier way than people who are tweeting about it, “Instagramming” it. If it takes you longer to describe what you’re about to it than it takes to eat it, we have a problem.
On that question of a healthy relationship with food, do you think chefs should feel a responsibility to create nutritious dishes?
Clearly, more and more chefs are thinking about their role in society. As the status of the chef has increased, people for the first time actually care what the chef thinks they should eat. I guess they are paying attention to them, and chefs have a higher social status now. Whether they are rock stars or not I think is an open question. I think with that comes a certain level of responsibility, or at least one should think about whether one should start feeling responsible.
I had always thought that chefs were in the pleasure business first, and the responsibility really ended there – we weren’t your dietician, your priest, your ethicist, nutritionist. Who cared if it was good for you as long as it tasted good and it was a pleasurable experience. I’m not so sure anymore. Given the clear unhealthiness in America, given what we do in the name of food – so many of these issues intrude on the dining experience. More and more, any person with a conscience has to start thinking about those things. Where we draw the line, I don’t know. But the short answer is yes, we do have to think about those things and find some kind of personal balance with our responsibilities as citizens of the world.
So the posting of calories, limiting of cup sizes – should lawmakers be involved in what we can and can’t eat?
I’m a person with essentially libertarian instincts who feels that we should, if nothing else, be able to decide what we do and don’t choose to put in our mouths. That said, it is a national security issue at this point. We cannot keep going the way we are going. When we are talking particularly about children, clearly, we cannot.
We have been getting dietary information, calorie information. We have access to that information. But it hasn’t affected our behavior. We are eating ourselves to death. We are largely an unhealthy and increasingly obese and increasingly diabetic country. One can well make the argument that it is eroding our military readiness! And I say that only half in jest.
Unfortunately, as much as a I detest the idea that government should become involved in any kind of decision as fundamental as what to put in your mouths, I think there is a good argument to be made for legislating against those who would overfeed our kids, for instance. Or who would feed our kids over salted, over sugared, deliberately addictive, unhealthy foods.
I hate it, but reluctantly I’m coming around to that.
The International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that we have less than five years to reverse climate change before we reach a tipping point. The World Bank and the International Finance Corp. calculate that 51% of the world's greenhouse gasses are produced in livestock production. Numerous studies have established the link between our increasing consumption of meat and the obesity problem. Doesn’t it seem obvious that stopping, or at least significantly reducing, our consumption of meat is critical in addressing all these issues?
No, it seems obvious that the other 49% of the world's greenhouse gas is likely unrelated to livestock production. It also seems that in the U.S., if you check with overweight folks and they are honest, then they aren't going to tell you that their steaks and hamburgers are the main problem.
Bourdain, unfortunately, is pointing out that the government is going to end up regulating our diets (or even just our kids' diets) because of generalized statements that can't focus on weight gain but instead bring global warming and what is probably an animal rights discussion into what had been a discussion about Americans being overweight.
When I am eating healthy (I am not about to pretend that I am in a place where I shouldn't self-disclose my own poor diet), it's turkey breast sandwiches on whole wheat bread. It's fish. It's a steak. It's vegetables. It's "low-carb burgers" where the number of carbs completely misses the point because it's actually the complete lack of "bad carbs" associated with a normal "white" hamburger bun.
Then there's that all-important exercise. I don't know, I guess it seems a little pointless to tie global warming (an absolutely real problem) to a discussion about Americans with weight-related problems. The real issue is the lack of Americans who can attack global warming issues either academically or through physical action, due to weight-related problems.
Oh Please...will someone just poot on Mundane Bordaine? He picked on Paula Deen – but, not Ina, He looks diseased – noone should follow any of his advice concerning nutrition.
Paula "Double the butter y'all" Deen, deserved to be picked on after being diagnosed with diabetes and still going on TV pushing the very foods that helped her get that way. I'm going to steer clear of the whole race debacle as it has already been endlessly debated. Anthony Bourdain is very up-front about his lifestyle choices not being the healthiest in some ways-but he's not out there hawking Jim Beam & Cigarettes either. His BMI is in the normal/healthy range. He has fabulous taste in food and a great sense of humor, and I have always enjoyed his TV shows. And he can tell me what to eat anytime-as long as he's fixing it!
We are an "increasingly diabetic country" and increasingly everything else country from the pharmaceutical industry perspective. Not to challenge the notion that we are less healthy as a result of changing lifestyles, but illness is a business.
Because of our survivor instinct, meat should only be eaten if nothing else is available and we need to survive...but because it is so convenient to just go buy it, most people think that it is OK to do it...eggs are embryonic, an embryo, same as meat...Let us focus and try to do the right thing, thank you...!!!
Anthony Bourdain is a National Stupidity issue. Fareed Zakaria is an Al Qaeda sympathizer.
Some food for thought , I guess.
Not worth a comment. Propaganda and nonsense just like his movie about Libya.
CNN PLEASE REVIEW MENTAL TORTURE CASES WE ARE INVESTIGATED.
ASIAN WEEK .
ARE KILLING THE VENEZUELAN LIVING asians payng to californian AGENCIES .
HUAMANALLLSAXOLLL RACE STUDIES .
NORTH AMERICAN AGENCIES USING HACKER FOR COLLECTORS NOT PUBLISHED REPORTS OF ASIAN CRIME .
TRY TO WRITE NAMES OF ASIAN MINISTERS AND EVEN CHILDREN AND THESE CRIMES AGENCIES DO NOT LET THAT PUBLISHED IN COMPLICES COMBIRTIENDOCE .
INCENTIVES TO HANDLE WOMEN NANOTECHNOLOGY IN WOMEN .
PLEASE CNN REVIEW THE CASES WE ARE INVESTIGATED.
ARE KILLING THE VENEZUELAN LIVING .
September 15, 2013 at 4:32 pm | Reply
PRINCES OF ENGLAND KILLING LATINO AMERICANS, NORTH AMERICANS AND EUROPEANS.
NICOLAS BUSINESS MATURE EUROPEAN KINGS AND PRINCES EUROPOL MI6 INTERPOL FBI.
PSYCHOLOGICAL STRATEGIES FOR NEW ALLEGATIONS THAT WE ARE SENT TO INVESTIGATE BY NANO FBI COMPUTERS AND DRUGS DRUGS DRUGS.
We denounce THE CHILDREN OF THESE PRESIDENTS AND KINGS BY POLITICAL OFFENDERS OF HUMAN RIGHTS, MURDERERS, THIEVES, HANDLERS and drug traffickers.
1. Leonor de Borbón, Sofia of Bourbon.
2. Florencia Kirchner, Max Kirchner.
3. Príncipes William and Harry of England.
4. Natasha Obama, Malia Ann Obama.
IS EXTREMELY URGENT RESEARCH MADE THEM VICTIMS LOBES cauterized, INCLUDING AREAS OF FORNIX hypothalamus.
WE HAVE MANY CASES.
LOOK WHAT POLICE RESEARCH ORGANIZATIONS IS THAT DIRECTLY insult POLITICAL REASONS TO HAVE LEGAL COMPLAINTS TO HAER INSTEAD OF DOING RESEARCH.
IN VENEZUELA IS ENTERING AGENCIES PERMITTING STUDY OF THE HUMAN RACE OF U.S. AND OTHER COUNTRIES.
PRECISELY WHY DO THEY HAVE NO WAY PUBLIC RELATIONS WITH VENEZUELAN.
Please stick to the topic at hand. There is a time and a place for everything. This is not the place for this rant of yours. Thank you.
CNN WE WANT TO MAKE A QUESTION WHY THE PAGE DISAPPEARED AND OTHER TEXTS DONT.
100,000 THOUSAND CHILDREN REMEMBER ESTALLARLES BODIES FOR SALE BY THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND, SPAIN, GERMANY, THE VATICAN BENADICTO, CANADA, SWITZERLAND PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES.
QUEREMOS HACERLE UNA PREGUNTA POR QUE LOS DEMAS TEXTOS DESAPARECIERON Y LOS DE ESTA PAGINA NO.
RECUERDEN 100.000 MIL NIÑLOS VENDIDOS PARA ESTALLARLES LOS ORGANOS POR LA REINA DE INGLATERRA, ESPAÑA, ALEMANIA, CANADA, SUIZA EMPRESAS FARMACEUTICAS.
I do hate to be rude. But shut up.
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The Global Public Square is where you can make sense of the world every day with insights and explanations from CNN's Fareed Zakaria, leading journalists at CNN, and other international thinkers. Join GPS editor Jason Miks and get informed about global issues, exposed to unique stories, and engaged with diverse and original perspectives.
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