Editor's Note — The fifth season of "Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown" airs at 9 p.m ET/PT on CNN. Follow the show on Twitter
(CNN) — I have, for some time, believed that the chefs doing the most interesting work in America -- chefs who are in fact redefining what "American food" means -- are Korean.
When I go out for dinner with non-Korean chef friends, all they want these days is Korean food. They get excited by the deep, tangy, spicy funk of kimchi; thrilled by the little plates of pickles and snacks that accompany the main courses; intrigued by what is, to them, often a whole new spectrum of flavors.
Date night with my wife? Korean barbecue. And God help me, among a very small circle of friends -- all of them sworn to secrecy, and on all of whom I possess horrifying and incriminating photographic evidence that ensures their eternal silence -- I have, after much soju, actually gone to Korean karaoke.
ONLY Korean, by the way. What makes it so special, other than the guaranteed anonymity, are the accompanying videos.
The Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK " (my wife's regular showstopper) plays along with images of two honeymooning Koreans in a rowboat on Lake Geneva. Iggy and the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog" (my big finisher) doesn't even have a dog in its video: two teenagers, holding hands at the mall.
So it was a no-brainer that as soon as I could, I'd go back to South Korea and do what Koreans do so well: eat lots of great food, drink lots and lots of beer and soju and other alcoholic beverages -- and then do silly shit that you would never do if you weren't with Koreans.
This premiere episode is distinguished by two aspects, one technical and one stylistic.
On "Parts Unknown," Anthony Bourdain sits down for Korean seafood stew and sampling of banchan, or Korean side dishes.
We had been looking for years for an excuse to tell a story in reverse chronological order: To start at the end, and work back relentlessly to the beginning. The original cut even opened with end credits, but this was deemed suicidal.
People would, of course, tune in and think they'd already missed the damn thing. But we did, indeed tell the thing in exact reverse chronological order, the film "Memento" being an inspiration in this regard.
And also, because we just like doing stuff like this, we begin with me, hideously hung over, trying to recreate the wreckage of the last night from memory -- and continue through an epic bar crawl -- and onwards.
Unlike my usual shows, I grow progressively more sober as the show goes on.
Anthony Bourdain finds a group of Korean businessmen to have dinner with on "Parts Unknown."
The other interesting feature is the camera equipment.
I've never seen anything like what directors of photography Todd Liebler and Zach Zamboni showed up with this time around. They didn't even look like cameras! Two garden-hose-looking thingies, the two of them tethered to some unfortunate camera assistant's monitor-festooned backpack rig -- all of that hardwired into house current.
On one hand, the cameras themselves could move like striking cobras -- under, over and around like never before. On the other, the two shooters looked like they were dancing with Dr. Octopus.
A major, major source of inspiration (who we referenced/ripped off directly) was the video for Queens of the Stone Age's "Smooth Sailing." As if we haven't benefited enough from the good works of Mr. Josh Homme and his merry band, we first used the video as inspiration and then, while figuring out how to get some music that sounded like "Smooth Sailing," we just said, "screw It, let's call Josh and see if we can use the song. "
Once again, he delivered for us. Josh? I hope you like the show. Consider it an "homage."
And those of you who find anything to love in this seriously bent episode, please be sure to check out the original video (it's truly great -- and much more disturbing) ... and buy the record!
Anthony Bourdain travels to South Korea, where he's reminded of the country's voracious appetite for a good time.