5 Ways to Travel like Anthony Bourdain

May  6, 2015

Today: Knowing how to travel like a chef—one who has a hit television show in far-flung places—could change your summer vacation.

The new season of "Parts Unknown" is upon us, so we asked Anthony Bourdain a few questions about his travel habits: What can’t he stand in travel companions? Does he eat plane food? Where should we eat? (An obvious question, but we couldn't resist.)

And just for kicks, does he know what Food52 is? The short answer: “Uh, kinda.”

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Even if you’re not going to Madagascar or Beirut like Bourdain is in the new season, we can all learn a little something from Bourdain's way of travelling. Here are five lessons to keep in your back pocket:

1. Don’t bring barbecue on the plane.
In fact, don’t bring any food on the plane. Just eat the plane food—how bad could it be? (We’ll keep our answer to that question to ourselves.) Bourdain finds good food to be the most offensive food to ever be eaten in his presence on a plane—and he used to be guilty of it. The last time he brought his own food, he carried on some ribs on a flight from Kansas City: "The smell filled the cabin and the look of pure hatred was so intense and overwhelming, I made a vow to never bring food on a plane ever again."

2. Be nice.
Kindness should be a given when traveling. And Bourdain won't put up with anything less—he's known to leave a meal if his travel companion is rude to waitstaff. To put it bluntly, "We're done forever. I will leave you on the side of the road." So just don’t do it.

3. Dry clean.
No matter if he’s in Jamaica, Myanmar, or the Congo, Bourdain always has really well-pressed shirts on. (Oh, that’s not what you’re noticing when you watch "Parts Unknown"?) In case you did wonder, Bourdain gets his shirts dry-cleaned everywhere he goes—because sometimes “doing as the locals do” just doesn't cut it when you’re on camera. 

More: Get your shirt dirty—taste the world's chili pastes.

4. Stay up late so you don't miss out.
Go to sleep at a reasonable hour, and you might miss opportunities for debauchery—er, "immersion." Take Korea, for example: Start the night by eating barbecue, hit six or so bars, sing some karaoke, then go to a spa to scrub off all the festivities you've just pushed through. Then, you can do it again after having a bowl of hangover soup.

More: Drinking beer on the streets and don't have a bottle opener? No problem.

5. Don’t give a f*&!$. 
Why does Bourdain think his show is so successful? “Not giving a fuck is a really powerful tool,” he reasoned. He’s not interested in making television that’s useful, informative, or applicable to real life. So, when you’re globetrotting, do things that can’t be replicated. Don’t try to hit every stop Bourdain did—because your experience won’t be the same as his. And that's just how he wants it.

First and last photos by James Ransom; second by Bobbi Lin

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Joan Summers
    Joan Summers
  • Maralyn
Editor/writer/stylist. Author of I Dream of Dinner (so You Don't Have To). Last name rhymes with bagel.


Joan S. June 11, 2018
Love him and miss him already!
Maralyn May 7, 2015