If there’s one thing you can say about doing a travel series, it’s that it’s never very routine. After seven seasons of wandering the globe in search of new and glorious epicurean adventures, Anthony Bourdain still finds it an exhilarating learning experience everywhere he and his crew go while shooting Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations for Travel Channel. Season 8 begins Monday, April 9 at 9pm ET/PT, and for its ever-colorful host — who also hosts The Layover on Travel Channel — the ride just keeps getting more interesting.
“A lot of surprises this time out. By that I mean, surprising to me,” Bourdain explains. “Croatia — knew it was going to be good, but … wow. Baja, Mexico, was a big surprise. That’s a developing wonderland that could well be the next big thing.”
But one of the most eye-opening excursions of this or any other season of No Reservations, Bourdain asserted, was Mozambique. “Mozambique was a big surprise — a very poor country with shockingly good food,” he says. “Here’s a country — very, very poor, with every reason in the world to still be on its knees, and to be a sad and tragic story. Visited by the worst kind of afflictions for an African nation — a brutal colonial occupation; bad colonial war; an awful civil war with proxy guerilla groups funded by East and West — just screwed over in every possible way. And yet, it’s a very positive feel, and a very positive vibe, a very welcoming country. Very safe. Incredibly beautiful. And a really great tradition of cooking.”
I had to ask how Bourdain develops his itinerary each season, especially since No Reservations has been so many places by now. “Curiosity is number one,” he says. “What places am I interested in going? That might stem from books. Have I been reading about the old Belgian Congo? I’m a voracious reader, so I’m very influenced by books I’ve been reading or have read, whether they’re of histories or novels — films I’ve seen, idle barroom conversation …”
Sometimes, he says, just being in one particular place can be the catalyst to another totally unexpected destination. This season, they’ve been encouraged to make the trip to Libya. “We were shooting in Kurdistan and some of the security people we were working with were in touch with other security people who were in Libya at the time, and were really saying, ‘This is a fantastic place at a really interesting moment in history — you guys should come.’”
And even while curiosity is key, visual aesthetics often play a major part in the decision-making process for No Reservations. According to Bourdain, they spend a lot of time discussing the look of the shots they try to get when representing a nation or region. “We think about that a lot — ‘How do we want to make this place look?’” he says. “In fact, there have been some locations that we’ve picked because we wanted to do a certain look, and we were looking for a place to do that. I was watching a lot of Wong Kar Wei films and I said, ‘Wow, that cinematography is so gorgeous — where can we go to take pictures like that?’”
Season 8 should satisfy most No Reservations fans’ appetites for incredible imagery. With additional stops in Lisbon, Portugal; Sydney, Australia; Burgundy, France and even an episode at SXSW in Austin, Texas, where a lot of bands end up on the show, there’s not much there that most people could call boring. And so long as things stay that way, Bourdain intends on remaining in the game.
“As long as it’s interesting and fun for me and for the people I work with,” he says, “as long as we find ourselves — as we continually do — sitting in the hotel lobby somewhere, saying, ‘How can we do this? What can we try that we haven’t done before?’ As long as there are answers to those questions, as long as it’s interesting, then I’ll keep doing it. But the minute it becomes a job, I will stop.”
Photo: Travel Channel