Anthony Bourdain Explains When — and Why — It's OK to Be an "Idiot Abroad"

Anthony Bourdain Explains When — and Why — It's OK to Be an "Idiot Abroad"

The Parts Unknown star admits he sometimes is one.

By Tamara Palmer

Though he does know a lot about food, Anthony Bourdain does not claim to be an expert on most of the places he travels to and covers on his series Parts Unknown.

“We don’t have to stick to food,” he told the Indian publication Livemint, shortly after filming in Sri Lanka. “When we went to Congo, we understood that this was not going to be a food show. Our agenda changes depending on our interest. It’s nice [when it involves food], because I know something about food, but I don’t necessarily know about anything else.”

While he's definitely not trying to be a stereotypically clueless American tourist anywhere he goes, he acknowledged that, “It’s not bad to be the idiot abroad if you’ve got an open mind.” 

He's sensitive to how he might impact a culture by blasting it on television, and proceeds cautiously when filming and putting an episode together. 

“All of us understand that there is an exploitative aspect to what we do,” he explained. “There are often consequences of our having put a place, a cuisine, or a culture on television. We understand that, and try, like doctors, to do no harm.”

And while he's not trying to hurt anyone, he knows there is some aspect of appropriation happening.

“Am I appropriating? Well, I am pointing cameras at Tamils [in Sri Lanka]. I’m going to go home and make an hour of television for a largely non-Tamil audience, and... get a [paycheck] for that. In that sense, yes, I am appropriating,” he admitted. “I would make a much better living going to Texas every week, or North Carolina, riding around on a pony, eating barbecue and corn dogs. But there aren’t a lot of people (in television) who are looking at Congo or Sri Lanka. I will admit to taking some satisfaction in that, with the full knowledge that I am appropriating.”

Hopefully he will continue to explore the globe and share his findings with viewers... but given that he just milked a cow for the first time, he should probably ride on a pony at least once, too. 

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