The 'Parts Unknown' host stopped by the Roxy Hotel to talk about his drinking habits, his favorite craftspeople, and why his shows have no 'message.'

Elisabeth Sherman
October 31, 2017

At a screening of Raw Craft—the Balvenie whisky-sponsored, Anthony Bourdain-hosted Youtube series that highlights craftspeople and their hand wrought creations—last night at the Roxy Hotel, the Parts Unknown host made a brief appearance to ostensibly talk about the web series, but naturally, his train of thought meandered wildly. Instead, he managed to reveal a seedy New York City bar he used to frequent, his favorite horror movie, and even the worst Halloween party he’s ever experienced.

Gemma L. Paterson, Balvenie's east coast ambassador, who had earlier led a whisky tasting with the audience, sat down with Bourdain after we watched the episode in which he learns how to bake Dominique Ansel’s famed DKA pastry—which Bourdain praised as “inspiring”—from the master himself. Before Paterson could open the floor up to questions, Bourdain had an announcement.

“Tomorrow night in this theatre,” he said, “Suspiria [is playing], a horror classic, eight o’clock. It’s a masterpiece. It changed the entire language of horror. If you’re in the neighborhood, I highly recommend it.”

A woman in the audience raised her hand and asked if she could be his guest to the screening, but of course, Bourdain is dating the director’s daughter.

Once Paterson got Bourdain back on track, the audience wanted to keep talking about Halloween—specifically other countries were he has celebrated the holiday. He explained that he was once “rather notoriously” in Transylvania for  “one of the worst Halloween parties ever” at a Dracula-themed hotel.  

Eventually, he stopped teasing the audience and delved into what we were all there to hear about: his television presence, which has become increasingly political in recent years.

“I’m not interested in messages, honestly. I like telling stories. I like to tell them as effectively and as truthfully as I can,” he said when asked what message he hopes to convey on Raw Craft and Parts Unknown.

In fact, Bourdain confessed that he’s still on television not to make a political statement, but for much more personal reasons.

“To a great extent, it’s a selfish enterprise. I tell stories on television because I like it,” he explained before clarifying his point. “The message is, ‘Look at this. I think it’s cool. Maybe you will too.’ But…I see myself as an unreliable messenger.”

Bourdain also revealed that he “resisted” partnering with a brand for much of his career, but that he’s not “embarrassed sit next to a bottle” of Balvenie, so he approved of the collaboration.

When the team began to brainstorm possible subjects for the series—which has highlighted people who make motorcycles, shoes, guitars, a tattoo artist, and of course, baker Dominique Ansel—one person immediately came to Bourdain’s mind.

“I had been in a disgraceful bar called Siberia in the Eighties. It was on the site of a former kung-fu hip-hop DVD shop,” he recalled. “At the bar one night, at like 2:30 in the morning, a guy says ‘See that guy over there, that’s Frank the Tailor. That’s the best tailor in America. He made the suits for Goodfellas.’ All those years later, [when] we started talking about what craftspeople we might like to put on the show, I thought about Frank the Tailor right away. I am now the proud owner of a Frank Shattuck suit.”

When the conversation inevitably turned to whisky, Bourdain was open about his lack of knowledge on the subject and admitted that he’s generally a man of simple tastes.

“I don’t know that much about whiskey…. I drink whisky mostly on very particular or special occasions,” he explained. “I don’t like particularly peaty or smoky [flavors]. Campfire taste is not something I’m looking for.”

For someone who has sampled the best food in the world, Bourdain claims he doesn’t have high-class taste when it comes to alcohol.

“I’m not a whisky or even a liquor snob, and I’m certainly not a beer snob. If it’s good it makes me happy,” he confessed.

So are there any drinks he’s especially interested in right now?

“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten into burgundy [wines]. I love that I don’t know anything about them really. They’re completely unpredictable. You pick a bottle, [and] it’s supposed to be a good year, and then it’s not good,” he said. And like so many other things that he values in life—from the places he explores to the people he’s been lucky enough to meet—he finds the mystery of such a wine variety intriguing.

“I like that element of surprise. I like not knowing.”