Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown Season Premiere Plot Summary
Anthony Bourdain heads back to Vietnam, Hanoi to be specific, to examine the cultural changes in the city now that there has been an extended period of peace. During his time there, he knocks back some beer and enjoys some local cuisine with the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama.
The hype rolling into the Season 8 premiere of Anthony Bourdain’s CNN series Parts Unknown, was all about Bourdain’s sit down at a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant with President Barack Obama.
If you came just for that, you left the episode feeling pretty disappointed. The Obama segments were fun, but they were over almost as soon as they began. I wouldn’t be surprised if those uninitiated to Bourdain’s work, who tuned in specifically to see Obama, will probably bail on the series. Honestly, the hype was too much, and the delivery was underwhelming.
But let’s forget everything about Obama for a second.
If you look at the episode (dubbed “Hanoi”), you’ll see this is vintage Bourdain. It’s a masterfully shot essay about the evolution of post-war Vietnam. It’s an intriguing look about a country that’s historically been ravaged by war, but is now turning into a destination for tourists, and a center for industry and opportunity. It’s a dive into changing of a culture — how country folk are being forced to change due to tourism, and how Western culture is slowly imbuing itself into the DNA of Vietnam.
And that’s what makes this series so damn interesting. Yes, the majority of the time you’re watching silver-maned chef turned author turned television personality eating and drinking his way through wildly interesting cities around the world. Yet through the alcohol and the massive helpings of food this is a series about culture. It’s about understanding both far flung, and close-to-home parts of the world through things most people can relate too — bending the elbow, and eating food.
Bourdain is the perfect host for this kind of series — he’s unapologetic about his views yet he readily admits his naivety in a situation. He’s unflinchingly honest, yet charming, and charismatic. His open-minded nature, his eagerness to absorb new cultural experiences brings us to places we’d probably never find, even if we were in those countries.
In short, if you came to see Obama knock back a few beers and slurp some Vietnamese food — you got a quick view into what the President does when he rolls up his sleeves and acts like a dude. It was what it was it, and would’ve probably worked as a 30 minute special and not a major part of the season premiere.
As season premiere, this was vintage Anthony Bourdain — and I look forward to adventuring to new places around the world with the world’s favorite tattooed celebrity chef.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10