Photo credit: The Travel Channel
After years of trying to get into Iran, intrepid traveler and eater Anthony Bourdain finally visited the country earlier this summer for his CNN series “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.” What he and his crew encountered was a surprise: “We’ve seldom been treated with such overwhelming generosity, hospitality and kindness by strangers,” he said on The Brian Lehrer Show this morning.
Bourdain spoke with the WNYC radio host about the fourth season of his Peabody Award-winning program, which premiered September 28. The “Parts Unknown” crew filmed in Tehran, which Bourdain said was “one of the most friendly, pro-America environments that we’ve ever shot in.” He predicted that the episode will be a “deeply confusing, upsetting show.” He said: “The Iran we know and deal with on a national level…is so different from what it’s like to walk around in Tehran once you’re inside the country.”
While he was there, Bourdain dined with The Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian, who along with his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, was taken into custody by Iranian authorities not long after Bourdain’s visit. Rezaian has been the Post’s correspondent in Tehran since 2012.
“They have not been heard from since and there’s been no concrete explanation of why, what possible reason they could have been detained,” said Bourdain. “They were lovely people who were very proud of their Iranian roots and spoke glowingly of the country—and if anything were voices for understanding.”
When Lehrer asked if Bourdain was using his influence to help the situation, he said, “I have been doing everything I can.” (Bourdain penned an op-ed piece for The Washington Post in August about the journalist.) The Iran episode will air later in the season.
In this Sunday’s installment of “Parts Unknown,” Bourdain, a Manhattanite, stayed a little closer to home, making a maiden voyage to the Bronx. When asked by Lehrer what he knows about the northernmost part of New York City, he answered, “Shamefully, shamefully little. I mean, it’s right there, this enormous borough, and for no reason at all, I knew so little about it.”
As part of the episode, Bourdain eats Garifuna cuisine in Pelham Bay Park and talks hip-hop with music-world luminaries. Inserting himself into the hip-hop origin debate—Queens or the Bronx—Bourdain tells Lehrer that Bronx was “the birthplace of hip-hop.”
“People in Queens might have something to say about that,” said Lehrer.
During his visit, Bourdain also makes a culinary detour to White Castle. “You really haven’t explored the full depths of human shame until you’ve polished off a full bag of White Castle burgers,” he said.