He’s been to Myanmar, Colombia, Libya, Kurdistan, Vietnam and pretty much
everywhere else in between. But in the premiere episode of the second season of
his CNN show, Parts Unknown, Anthony Bourdain is finally tackling
The chef turned author and TV host is known for his wild
culinary adventures (and brash personality), eating fermented shark in Iceland,
white truffles in Croatia and steamed tiger fish in the Congo, but he’s never
featured Israel in either his long-running Travel Channel show, Anthony
Bourdain: No Reservations, or the first season of his CNN show.
the closest he came was in 2006, when he was filming an episode of No
Reservations in Lebanon when war broke out with Israel. The show eventually
aired with footage of the crew’s firsthand encounters with Hezbollah, being
holed up in a hotel and their eventual evacuation by US Marines. (That episode
went on to be nominated for an Emmy, and Bourdain returned to Beirut in 2010 to
complete his culinary adventures there).
Though the episode is titled
“Jerusalem,” Bourdain visits Israel, the West Bank and Gaza in his trip, which
was filmed in June.
Bourdain is no stranger to the Middle East, having
visited Libya, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, the UAE and of course, Lebanon. Some
viewers saw his avoidance of Israel as an intentional snub, and both a Facebook
campaign and 2011 articles in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal
and Tablet Magazin
called on him to visit Jerusalem.
The acclaimed chef told Forbes the
episode on Israel and the Palestinian territories is “certain to be
controversial” and CNN that “it’s easily the most contentious piece of real
estate in the world, and there’s no hope – none – of ever talking about it
without pissing somebody, if not everybody, off.”
The 57-year-old got
some help in his travels from the experts. In Jerusalem, he roamed around with
Yotam Ottolenghi, the acclaimed chef and co-author of the bestselling cookbook
Jerusalem. The pair wandered around Mahaneh Yehuda, dined at the historic Azura
restaurant inside the Iraqi shuk, and explored the narrow alleyways of the Old
City, including hummus at Abu Shukri and a walk on the Via Dolorosa. Bourdain
even donned tefillin and a kippa to have his “bar mitzva” at the Western
“Israel’s a really beautiful country, there’s beaches, great
restaurants, nice people, all that history,” said Bourdain in the
“When you’re in a place where you can point and say ‘Oh yeah,
Jesus walked there, and in fact took a right turn right there, it’s a place
where history is a factor.”
Ottolenghi and Bourdain also tackled some of
the big political questions – on food, that is.
As they chowed down on
falafel at a stand in the Old City, Bourdain asked Ottolenghi about the food’s
“So is there a historically provable answer to who invented it?”
“There is actually no answer to this,” replied Ottolenghi, who
co-wrote his popular book (and co-owns several London restaurants) with Sami
Tamimi, a Jerusalem-born Palestinian. “But the question of food appropriation or
who owns the food is massive here. You can go on arguing about it
In Gaza, Bourdain joined up with Laila el-Haddad, a Palestinian
journalist and author of the 2012 cookbook The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian
Culinary Journey, who now lives in the US.
The pair traveled around the
narrow strip, and she introduced him to the distinct cuisines in different areas
of Gaza. They visited a local family in eastern Gaza, where they watched them
cook together in the kitchen and joined them for a dinner of makluba.
Bourdain also met with some nonculinary locals, including two women in Ramallah
known as “The Speed Sisters,” members of the first all-female Palestinian racing
The TV personality also got a taste of coexistence when he visited
the Majda restaurant just outside Jerusalem, in the hills of Ein Rafa, an
Israeli-Arab village. The restaurant, only open on weekends, is run by
husband-and-wife team Yakum Barhum, an Arab, and Michal Baranes, a Jew. Together
they cook a vegetarian dinner, incorporating their different – yet similar –
Overall the chef considers the trip an eyeopening
“You always bring things along when you travel, your
conceptions, your personal belief system the full weight of your life
experience,” Bourdain said in the show.
“It’s going to come to bear on
the way you experience a place.”
But ultimately, Bourdain endorsed Israel
as a must-visit destination.
“Whatever you may think, and whatever
baggage you bring to this place, you should see this.”
continue to continent-hop for season two of Parts Unknown
, visiting Spain,
Denmark, Tokyo and South Africa, to name just a few of his stops.
premiere episode of season two of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown – “Jerusalem”
– will air on CNN on Friday, September 20 at 6 p.m. and Saturday, September 21
at 10 p.m.