After filming 10 seasons of “Parts Unknown” (and numerous shows before that), Anthony Bourdain has heard every click-bait question in the book.
Asking for his travel advice feels a bit like quizzing a student with a photographic memory; the answers roll out before the questions take up any space in the air. He has one-liners already loaded in his holster (he compares himself at a TSA checkpoint to a “recidivist criminal” who “goes limp and doesn’t resist”) and he knows the tired questions he’s likely to hear (he hates being asked “What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten?” by the way).
But the man who is known for his pithy, often R-rated maxims speaks slowly and deferentially when asked about a place he’s visited, person who has guided him, or anything he’s learned from another culture. He praises work ethic and extols creativity. He has kind, thoughtful words for anything previously undiscovered.
Even West Virginia.
Before his new season of “Parts Unknown” even premieres on CNN, Bourdain is out filming the next. Bourdain spoke to Travel + Leisure from a motel in West Virginia coal country, a place he described as “beautiful and heart-breaking,” before embarking on a day of shooting.
Season 10, which premieres October 1, will follow Bourdain as he travels to Singapore, the French Alps, Nigeria, Pittsburgh, Sri Lanka, Puerto Rico, Seattle, and southern Italy.
This season features a roster of heavy hitters on the both the culinary and creative scenes. Francis Ford Coppola, Mark Lanegan and, of course, Bourdain’s unofficial right-hand man, Eric Ripert, will all make appearances.
But the upcoming episode Bourdain is most excited for and proud of is the one shot in Lagos, Nigeria. “It digs pretty deep into a place and culture that most Americans don’t know about and one that really impressed the hell out of me,” Bourdain said. “People work hard there. Their optimism, their entrepreneurial attitude is really breathtaking.”
Bourdain described the episode as “a very difficult show to do” and a far departure, stylistically, from anything his team has ever done before.
But that was the goal of this new season. Well before any travel is booked, Bourdain and his producers carefully consider the feel and look of each episode.
“Often as we source ideas, we sit around and ask, ‘Where can we go to make something that looks and sounds really striking and different and beautiful?’” Bourdain explained. “We try to make these things look like standalone little films with their own atmospherics and their own feeling and their own sounds.”
In terms of music selection — something Bourdain is passionate about and fully invested in — the producers go with “whatever seems to work most powerfully, whatever gets us there emotionally. Just like with a film, that’s what we use.”
In Seattle, that means a heavy dose of grunge. In Nigeria, viewers should gear up for an initiation into the Nigerian ‘70s psych rock scene.
But none of this means Bourdain has left behind what made him famous in the first place: his fanatical devotion to great chefs and good food. This season will see him partaking in a food tour of Singapore’s Muslim quarter, eating cheese in the Alps with Ripert, and tearing apart a crab curry, which he calls the “holy grail of Sri Lankan cuisine.”
However open-minded Bourdain may be when approaching different foods and cultures, the sentiment doesn’t always carry over after filming — especially not in transit. After all, he didn’t earn his reputation as a formidable, quotable, soured force for nothing.
His nemeses at the airport? Those unprepared in line at the airport security scanners: “They said no liquids and gels, motherfucker. You know? Come on!”
Season 10 of "Parts Unknown" premieres Sunday, October 1 at 9 p.m. ET on CNN.