Don't call him a "top chef" or even an "expert." Culinary renegade Anthony Bourdain, who prefers the term "enthusiast," is back for Season 3 of his CNN series Parts Unknown (Sundays, 9/8c), a gig that has him circling the globe doing what he does best — eating and schmoozing. TV Guide Magazine spoke with Bourdain, who hits Russia in the May 11 episode.
TV Guide Magazine: You state in the series that you have a "dim world view." How does that square with the show's kumbaya message — that our planet would be a better place if we embraced each other's culture and cuisine?
Bourdain: I have a very protective shell. What you see on Parts Unknown is me groping in a scary world toward the idea that maybe there is hope for us all. I'm a work in progress!
TV Guide Magazine: How exactly does food foster understanding?
Bourdain: To meet strangers and show appreciation for what they eat — especially the dishes they take great pride in — is a very helpful place to start a conversation. That's why I prefer to eat with the locals wherever I go. It's not some show biz gimmick. It's my pleasure and privilege.
TV Guide Magazine: For being a pushy personality, you're oddly ego-free when it comes to food. You're not one of those cooks who tries a dish and is thinking, "How can I make it better?"
Bourdain: Those types are everywhere, but I'm not so arrogant to think I can do a dish better after trying it once, or even a hundred times. It takes a professional sushi chef as long as seven years just to learn how to make rice. Why should I be thinking, "How can I make this at home?"
TV Guide Magazine: Russia is a place notorious for its lousy chow. Why bother going there?
Bourdain: You only go there for the home cooking — the blintzes, the dumplings. I'd rather have a humble bowl of borscht in someone's home than eat in the best restaurant in Moscow. No, thank you! Those places are only cooking to impress people with money. It's oligarch cuisine.
TV Guide Magazine: In a recent episode you visited Lyon, France, to meet your idol, chef Paul Bocuse, and suddenly badass Bourdain turned into a beaming schoolboy. You even wore a suit and tie!
Bourdain: Never in my life did I think I'd sit down for a meal with the man, much less see his amazing dishes recreated before my eyes. It's like Joe DiMaggio magically showing up and saying, "C'mon kid! Let's throw the ball around the backyard."
TV Guide Magazine: We saw you in the Las Vegas episode eating a microwave hot dog at a convenience store. Seriously, dude?
Bourdain: I'm no snob. I can be very happy with a microwave hot dog or a good, cheap, greasy taco. When the professional chefs I know get together for some dinner after work, they don't go to some five-star joint. They'd rather go to a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant and eat family style.
TV Guide Magazine: So what's Anthony Bourdain's idea of a perfect meal?
Bourdain: Anything I prepare with my 7-year-old daughter, Ariane. The ideal happiness for me is waking up and making us a batch of pancakes — usually blueberry though she can easily con me into chocolate chip — and then hanging around all day in our pajamas watching kiddie TV. Adventure Time, Regular Show, Sam & Kat, Teen Titans Go! — I am intimately acquainted with all of them!
TV Guide Magazine: Are you teaching her to cook?
Bourdain: Absolutely! As a citizen of the world and a proud American, I feel it's important that all children learn the basics — how to roast a chicken, make an omelet, steam a vegetable. It's about taking care of each other. It's about consideration.
TV Guide Magazine: What the hell do you have against dessert? You hate it!
Bourdain: I'm a salty-savory guy. Oh, I can be sentimental about my mother's crème brûlée or old-school ocean-liner fare like baked Alaska. But I'm not one of those going, "Oooh, dessert is so sinful and seductive!" There is nothing sensual about dessert and it certainly won't get me in the sack.