A Conversation with Anthony Bourdain at SXSW

SXSW / Greg Noire

Anthony Bourdain is one of a kind and when I found out I was going to finally get to sit in on a panel to listen to him speak I was beyond excited. I filed into the auditorium with 500 other people and looked for the perfect seat. I was excited to hear him talk about his show Parts Unknown on CNN and his new venture with Nathan Thornburgh called Roads and Kingdoms, a digital start up based out of Brooklyn, NY and Barcelona, Spain.


If you haven’t seen Parts Unknown on CNN yet it’s a must watch. It is No Reservations but it’s the show Bourdain wants to do. He said he wanted people to feel the way he did about a certain place or atmosphere when they watched an episode. Authenticity is very important to him. With that being said he followed it up with, “I am very aware that television is a manipulative process. Although I want there to be authenticity I am set out to make people feel how I want them to feel.” The way Parts unknown is shot is very unconventional. One scene can be mellow shots of food displays and then turns instantly into an insane montage of cameras whirling around the cooks and open flames set to dub step music. He said, “All shows have a rhythm and ‘food porn” shots or just porn for that matter all has the same shots. It starts out wide and gets a little closer and then a little closer and ends with a bang! That’s what we try to do in an unconventional way.” He does have rules though to avoid “fakery”. He shared some of them with us. No more walk up scenes, no retakes, no thank you exits, no recaps and no over the shoulder shots. He was very adamant about these.


If any knows his work, then you know how deep and philosophical he can get. His shows are not just about food. It’s also about issues in humanity and the environment and sometimes politics. Bourdain said, “I pick shows about things that piss me off or because I want to collaborate with someone. Also recognizing the elephant in the room sometimes is the best way to do things. The shows can turn into conversations about human issues over meals. I don’t end a show with a happy ending if there isn’t one. I do the shows I want to do and I don’t give a fuck about what others think. The best thing people can start doing for themselves is to just stop giving a fuck.”


Anthony Bourdain has always been very candid about his life and his addiction with heroine. He talked to us about that and we got to see a clip from Parts Unknown with the episode opening with him in a meeting talking about his addiction and his struggle. When asked about how he feels about being candid he just said, “I’m an open book, I never had a reputation to lose. Again not giving a fuck has always been a good business model for me.” I have always had a high level of jealousy about Bourdain’s job. Travel the world, eat incredible food and meet incredible people. He said he loved what he did and it should be fun for everyone involved. If it isn’t fun there isn’t a reason to do it. My favorite line of the evening was, “ I guess if the network stops liking what we are doing that’s fine, I’ll go back to brunch mother fucker.” Now of course I know that for any successful person living out their dreams, it’s easy to just say fuck it if they don’t like it. But for some reason I really believe him when he says it. I think he would probably be just as happy with Sunday brunch. Let’s be real though, this is Anthony Bourdain… he’s not going back to brunch.


His newest project is with the digital media start up called Roads and Kingdoms partnered with Nathan Thorburgh. It’s a outlet full of great essayists about travel, life and politics. I for one can’t wait to delve deeper into it and read everything on there. The one thing I can always say for Anthony Bourdain is that whatever he is doing he can fill your stomach and your soul with so much richness just by sharing his encounters and the things he loves about life.

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