The Parts Unknown host is enthusiastic about the food scenes bourgeoning outside of the obvious cities.
Despite getting his start in kitchens, as painstakingly detailed in his memoir Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain will be the first person to say he doesn't have much of an interest in restaurants, at least not in the conventional sense.
"I don’t really care about restaurant culture that much," Bourdain tells Food & Wine at the 10th Annual Cayman Cookout. "Street food and traditional food—and discovering that—is exciting to me." The Parts Unknown host still eats out, but he dreads getting special attention because of his fame. "I like going to places where nobody fusses over me or sends me any extra courses," he says. (For this reason, his go-to drinking spot in New York is a low-key Irish pub, the name of which he will never divulge.)
We asked Bourdain to tell us the places in America he's most excited about eating in when he's not schlepping around the globe.
"I think the South right now is really interesting. I think what Sean Brock is doing, and has been doing, is really cutting-edge and a direction forward that I think a lot of people are following: rediscovering traditional ingredients, species, specific types of food—varieties of rice, for instance, that haven’t existed. He’s a seed collector. A botonist."
"What I find when I travel in America nowadays is that everywhere you go, mid-size to small-size communities like Asheville or Madison or Pittsburgh, there’s a hipster chef with a full sleeve of tattoos, and he or she is doing really good food, often reflective of the foodways of the region. So you really can’t safely sneer at any place. Chances are there’s someone or a few people who are flying the flag."
Korean BBQ and Yakitori in N.Y.C.
On an international scale, Bourdain is most excited about eating in the regions where he has the most to learn.
"China is endlessly exciting to me," he says. "Malaysia and Singapore, of course, are always exciting because I’ll never know it all. It’s so old and deep. Senegal, Oman, Lebanon, Iran: these are relatively new cuisines to me, but also very old."