What to Expect from the First Special Episode of 'Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown'

The first of two episodes looking back at Bourdain's impact on food and travel airs Sunday night.

Photo: Courtesy of CNN

The final season of Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown has been bittersweet thus far as we watch the late host visit the last few destinations he filmed in before his untimely passing earlier this year. To bolster the usual travel episodes, CNN is also airing two special episodes about Bourdain’s impact on food and travel culture. The first of these will air Sunday, and instead of focusing on one destination, focuses on weaving together the threads of many seemingly disparate locations via Bourdain’s consistent curiosity and relationship to the people he met there.

In this episode, authors and journalists weigh in on the legacy Bourdain has left the world. As author and podcaster Andy Greenwald points out, before Bourdain, food and travel TV was largely top-down, with an expert saying “here’s what you do.” Bourdain, by contrast, made it feel as though viewers were traveling with him, learning and experiencing things as he did. He also put people on camera who wouldn’t normally be given a platform to share their stories, and was able to explain flavors, smells, and feelings in a visceral way that drew audiences closer to him and his subjects.

The episode explores Bourdain’s role as a journalist, a title which he shied away from in favor of “storyteller.” But, as journalist Jason Rezaian—who was featured in the Iran episode and was subsequently detained by that government for 544 days—points out, if telling people’s stories and truths isn’t journalism, what is? An entire segment is devoted to the Iran episode with fellow journalist—and Rezaian’s spouse—Yaganeh Salehi (who was also detained for 72 days after filming with Bourdain) remarking on the importance of that episode’s portrayal of Iran’s people and, especially, women.

Much of the episode features behind-the-scenes interview with Bourdain, who discusses everything from what it’s like to eat 400 meals while shooting the show, how he balanced more adventurous episodes with “low impact” travels to cushy hotels and fine dining destinations. The special also highlight’s his deep friendship and brotherly rivalry with fellow chef Eric Ripert, as well as how moving to CNN pushed his former travel show into challenging and uncomfortable territory for the better.

The first “Bourdain’s Impact” special of Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown airs Sunday, October 14 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CNN. Find out more on explorepartsunknown.com.

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