Anthony Bourdain on His Memorable Meal With President Obama and the Two Things He Refuses to Eat
Anthony Bourdain is a hard core road warrior — the adventurous host of CNN’s acclaimed and consistently entertaining hit, ‘Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,’ is on the road a whopping 250 days per year. Here, the travel guru reveals his favorite destination, what he won’t eat and what it’s like to to slurp noodles in Vietnam with President Obama.
What’s the best trip you’ve ever taken?
It’s always the same thing with Vietnam. I know we’ll have a good time and I’ll be happy. When we’re shooting and when we’re not shooting, it’s a great place to be. It’s a beautiful country with people who are so happy about food. Vietnam is diverse and beautiful. I always go back there. I have great memories and I just know it will be fun whenever I return.
Speaking of Vietnam, you recently had dinner with President Obama in Hanoi. What was that like?
That was amazing. We ate at a cramped family-run restaurant, which was so small there was no room for the secret service. There was only one exit. President Obama was incredibly cool. He sat on a plastic stool, drank beer from the bottle and expertly navigated his way with sticky chop sticks. He was so good with the noodles. And he’s so chill. I told him that sometimes I just want to go to an old man’s bar at four in the afternoon and get a shot of scotch and whiskey and play with the jukebox. I asked him, ‘Do you ever miss that?’ and he said, ‘In about six months...' [that’s where he’ll be].
Since you travel so often, are there any other places that are on par with Vietnam?
Italy and Spain are great. They’re both highly recommended. Sicily is amazing. The food is fantastic and the people are awesome. How can you f*ck up a show in Sicily? Well, we did it twice. But I love it there. Awesome people, incredible landscape.
What’s the worst place you’ve ever visited?
Any place where the government steps in and is intrusive. When we shot in Romania, we wanted to shoot ordinary people doing ordinary things and the government stepped in when we wanted to shoot in a rural community. They wanted us to move to a more camera-friendly place and that is horrible and false. We stayed at a place we called 'the Dracula motel' and I asked about local Romanian specialties and when I tried it, I said to (the hotel manager) ‘Dude, this is like a chicken McNugget.’
You seem to eat everything when you travel around the world, but is there anything you refuse to consume?
A third of the countries actually have dogs on the menu. I will not eat a dog or a cat. When I told a guy that I wasn’t going to have the dog, he said, ‘C’mon, it’s not city dog, it’s mountain dog.’ I still passed.
You can’t go wrong with a Ritz-Carlton. They do everything right.
Are you a points person?
Yes. I have points split up on 12 different credit cards.
Do you use your points?
Yes, but I travel a lot because of what I do. I’m away more than I’m home because of work. The points have piled up.
You’re in remarkable shape for someone who travels as much as you do. Do you work out when you travel?
I do because I don’t want to be that old dude coughing my guts out. I don’t want to put shame on my house, kind of like how I never wanted to be the worst cook in the kitchen. I try to suck a little less everyday.