CNN Films Bourdain

The most-viewed episodes of 'Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown'

Foren Clark, CNNUpdated 15th April 2022
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(CNN) — The legacy of the late Anthony Bourdain is a long and complicated one.
The new CNN Film "Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain," which airs on CNN Saturday, April 16, at 9 p.m. ET, attempts to contend with that legacy and reopen the conversation about how Bourdain is remembered. It may inspire you to do some remembering as well by revisiting Bourdain's extensive television catalog.
As an accomplished author, chef, raconteur and guide through communities and cultures around the world, Bourdain started dialogues and opened doors where many had never thought to go.
Over the course of five years and 12 seasons with CNN, he crafted "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown" into a show that took an unflinching look at the human condition worldwide.
Whether you are a longtime fan or a total newbie, here's a look at the highest-rated episode from each season of the series, according to Nielsen data.

Season 1, Episode 2: Koreatown

In the first season of "Parts Unknown," Bourdain quickly set himself apart from other food and travel show hosts through his acerbic commentary and authenticity.
For the second episode, he traveled to Koreatown, one of the most densely populated neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Through conversations with local food truck phenom Roy Choi and outspoken artist David Choe, Bourdain unveiled both the traumatic history of the neighborhood's experience during the Rodney King riots and the area's evolution into the multicultural hub it is today.
Take a look inside Choe's Los Angeles warehouse where Bourdain sat for a painting:
Bourdain takes on Los Angeles but with a twist. No Hollywood sign, no Beverly Hills. Instead, he zeroes in on a three square-mile area of the city known as Koreatown.

Season 2, Episode 5: Sicily

Traveling to Sicily in Season 2, Bourdain's experience was not exactly what he imagined. His fishing trip with a local chef took an embarrassing turn when Bourdain realized the octopus he was supposed to be catching was already dead and being thrown into the water for him from a nearby boat.
Then, discussions with the local residents revealed that the real-life mafia has little in common with the fictional Corleones. Things started looking up as he interacted with the locals and ate delicious Sicilian food, derived from the island's unique mix of Arab, Roman, Norman, Phoenician and Greek cultural roots.
Witness the start of Bourdain's miserable fishing trip as he suspects something is amiss:
Anthony Bourdain is perplexed when he's surrounded by half-frozen, sinking dead octopuses on a fishing tour in Sicily.

Season 3, Episode 1: Punjab

In the Punjab region of Northern India, Bourdain saw the enduring impacts of British imperialism up close. Once united in the days of the Indian Empire, the area was split up in 1947 to create India and Pakistan, dividing families along the highly militarized border.
Bourdain spent time learning about the unique local culture and traditions of Punjab: He visited the Sikh Golden Temple, stayed with the grandson of the last Maharaja, and enjoyed -- albeit begrudgingly -- several vegetarian meals.
"See Tony eat vegetables," Bourdain joked at Punjabi eatery Kesar Da Dhaba, "and like it":
Anthony Bourdain enjoys vegetarian cuisine with "intense colors, flavors and spices" at a Kesar Da Dhaba, a roadside food stall in Punjab, India.

Season 4, Episode 6: Iran

In an episode years in the making, Bourdain finally had the opportunity to travel to Iran.
As he visited Tehran and Isfahan, he was introduced to the complicated nature of life there through friendly conversations with locals and less friendly interactions with the Basij militia forces. Bourdain shared several home-cooked meals with Iranian families who talked candidly about their experiences in the country.
"Iranians... take you to our house and take you to our hearts," one family explained to him. "We are extreme that way":
When visiting Iran for "Parts Unknown," Bourdain said it's "neither East nor West, but always somewhere in the middle." The country far exceeded his expectations.

Season 5, Episode 2: Miami

In many ways, Miami is unlike any other American city. While immersed in this home to beaches, businesses, retirees and spring breakers, Bourdain attempts to parse through all of it to uncover what really makes Miami tick.
He investigates the history of the city as a home for Latin and Caribbean immigrants, as well as a home base for cocaine trafficking in the 1970s and '80s. The allure of the Miami lifestyle is illuminated, in part, through a stroll with the Godfather of Punk (and Bourdain's childhood hero) Iggy Pop and a lunchtime conversation with musician Ahmir Khalib Thompson, otherwise known as Questlove.
"I do consider the sound of Miami to be the beginning of really great music," Questlove told Bourdain:
On "Parts Unknown," Anthony Bourdain sat down with Questlove in Miami to talk about Southern food and music.

Season 6, Episode 8: Charleston

In an effort to redeem himself after a previous visit was panned by locals, Bourdain returned to Charleston, South Carolina, to give Southern cuisine and culture another shot.
With local restaurant owner Sean Brock as his guide, Bourdain set out to achieve the authentic Lowcountry experience through a stop at late-night staple Waffle House. Later, he learned about the food traditions of African slaves and the local Gullah culture preserved in Southern cooking.
"I don't want anyone else to come. I like it the way it is," said comedian Bill Murray, who is a resident and the co-owner of the minor league baseball team the Charleston Riverdogs. He offered his honest take on the Southern city:
On "Parts Unknown," Anthony Bourdain dines with chef Sean Brock and comedian Bill Murray in Charleston, South Carolina. They chat about the city and southern cuisine.

Season 7, Episode 4: Montana

Bookended by the words of poet Jim Harrison, this episode takes Bourdain deep into Montana's Big Sky Country.
Stopping first to meet members of the Crow tribe, Bourdain learned of the state's connection with land and animals from the descendants of some of its first residents. He continued to explore this theme through stops at Galt Ranch, the mining city of Butte and a camping trip with local hunters.
Watch the Native American relay sport Bourdain calls "collar bone smashing, skull cracking, bone-snappingly dangerous":
On "Parts Unknown," Anthony Bourdain meets with Native Americans to learn about the importance of horses to life and sport on the plains.

Season 8, Episode 1: Hanoi

In 2016, Bourdain returned to one of his favorite places on Earth: Vietnam. Noting the country's rapidly growing population and tourism industry, Bourdain was surprised by how much Hanoi had changed since his first visit in 2000.
He stopped at local spots like the tourist-favorite Hạ Long Bay, where the rock formations are thought to bring good luck, and the popular food stop Bun Suon-Thit-Mong Gio-Luoi, where pig knuckles on rice was the only item on the menu.
After, he settled down for bun cha with former President Barack Obama. The pair discussed the importance of learning about other cultures to better understand global issues.
Watch as Bourdain teaches Obama the art of the noodle slurp:
President Obama joins Anthony Bourdain in Hanoi for a crash course in Vietnamese dining.

Season 9, Episode 5: Antarctica

Bourdain called Antarctica "the last unspoiled place on Earth." At the National Science Foundation's McMurdo Station, he was introduced to the resident scientists and the community members who made the research station function, including the fuel workers, or "fuelies,'' and waste management workers, or "wasties."
Through a trip to the South Pole, a visit with Adélie penguins and a few meals at the dining halls, Bourdain began to understand the appeal of working in a place so remote, where every job is equally important.
Working hard and playing hard: Check out how the McMurdo residents celebrate the end of the summer season:
At the end of summer season, there is a vibrant party culture in Antarctica. On "Parts Unknown," Anthony Bourdain said "one can have a very good time at the end of the world."

Season 10, Episode 6: Puerto Rico

Several months before Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, Bourdain visited to learn more about the island's economic crisis.
An unincorporated territory of the United States since 1968, Puerto Rico started accumulating debt after a change in tax policy that was exacerbated by predatory hedge fund lending. The result, a seemingly insurmountable financial crisis, was papered over with fancy resorts to increase tourism. As Bourdain looked beyond the piña coladas, though, he found a nation full of artists, teachers, cooks and activists committed to putting in the work and saving their home.
"Barefoot and a bite drunk." See how Bourdain spent his time in Puerto Rico:
Prior to the devastation of Hurricane Maria, Anthony Bourdain traveled to Puerto Rico to explore the impact of it's financial crisis.

Season 11, Episode 6: Berlin

In this episode, Bourdain visited Berlin, a place where the party seemingly never stops. With the remnants of the Berlin Wall still visible throughout the city, residents always have a reminder of both the city's grim history and its relatively recent rebirth.
Drawing comparisons between Berlin's modern culture of free expression and debauchery and the similarly creative and provocative Weimar era of pre-Nazi Germany, Bourdain met with creatives, like Le Pustra and Anton Newcombe, who have incorporated the city's complex history into their work.
Watch as Bourdain talks to locals about parallels between Berlin in the 1920s and the city today:
On "Parts Unknown," Anthony Bourdain explored the history of Berlin's cabaret culture. They talked about Berlin's modern culture of free expression and debauchery.

Season 12, Episode 1: Kenya

In the final season of "Parts Unknown," Bourdain took fellow CNN Original Series host W. Kamau Bell to Kenya for the first time.
They took in the sights and sounds of Nairobi by buying some graphic tees, taking a ride on a Matatu party bus (and designing a Wolf Blitzer-themed Matatu of their own), and visiting a boxing academy -- all before heading further out to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, where the local Maasai community was engaged in animal conservation efforts.
Throughout the trip, Bell -- whose name has Kenyan origins -- felt a complicated connection to the culture and shared his feelings with Bourdain about visiting Africa as a Black American.
"It's nice to have that connection even if the frame that connection was built through was colonialism," said the "United Shades of America" host:
With giraffes roaming in the open below their perch, W. Kamau Bell and Anthony Bourdain talk about what the trip to Africa means.