My Interview with Parts Unknown Host Anthony Bourdain, Part Deux

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown - 402 - Chicago Chef Stephanie Izard shows me what I should order at Taqueria El Milagro.

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown – 402 – Chicago Chef Stephanie Izard shows me what I should order at Taqueria El Milagro.

I recently interviewed Anthony Bourdain, host of CNN’s Parts Unknown (which returns for its new season this coming Sunday, April 24), for Thrillist Chicago. Well that interview is currently up, and in it, Bourdain discusses his love for the city of Chicago as well as his must visit restaurants when in town. The Chicago episode of Parts Unknown debuts Sunday, May 1.

But there was a great deal Bourdain and I discussed that, for various reasons (all good ones), didn’t make it into the final Thrillist feature. I’m happy to report that I have been given the okay to post the remaining portion of my interview with him as it delved into some rather interesting, non-food related territory about Chicago. Below is what remained of my discussion with Anthony Bourdain regarding the Chicago episode of Parts Unknown, which debuts Sunday, May 1.

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown - 402 - Chicago Steve Albini gives me directions on the proper way to order a breaded steak sandwich at Ricobene's.

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown – 402 – Chicago Steve Albini gives me directions on the proper way to order a breaded steak sandwich at Ricobene’s.

Rock ‘n Roll Ghost: Was the desire to frame the episode around Old Town Ale House from the beginning or during editing?

Anthony Bourdain: From the beginning.

You featured it on a previous show of yours, what about it speaks to you?

Anthony Bourdain: I am a big fan of his (owner Bruce Elliot) blog. I follow it every day. I am absolutely fascinated with it and the lives and the trajectories of his bar regulars for over a decade now.

When mapping out the episode, why were some of the guests chosen like Steve Albini, Stephanie Izard, Lupe Fiasco?

Anthony Bourdain: I’m always looking for another take. Chicago’s a place I’ve made a number of shows over the years and I hope to make many more. I’m just always looking to take a step to the left or the right and look at a place from a slightly different perspective than I might have done before. Stephanie (Izard) because I love her and I love her restaurants. That was a more familiar and reliable voice in my view. Steve Albini, somebody that I’m very interested in and a true Chicagoan. Somebody very dedicated to and devoted to living there. Very strong opinions about the way the world should be. Lupe Fiasco, also very strong, opinionated person. Very unusual, very interesting story. Very strong family and community bonds that I thought were a nice counterpoint to the Chicago murder rate narrative.

One of the things that I appreciated as a lifelong citizen of the Chicago area is when Bruce discussed the stranglehold that the Daley family held on this city. What is your take on Chicago politics, considering the violence and the rather heavy handed shift to policing or, in some cases, not policing.

Anthony Bourdain:Chicago seems to gravitate towards the man on a horse syndrome. Strong personalities with an iron grip. All I can speak to is Daley Sr. and the Chicago convention in 1968 had a very, very, very powerful and politicizing effect on me. I was a kid and I remember watching that convention unfold in a state of absolute horror. Never had I felt so alienated from my own country. It was a deeply life altering experience seeing that. He was such a really horrendously ugly character. That was a very, very tectonic event for me as a young man and it really stuck with me. It was a surprise that another Daley would be elected after that. I’d sound like an idiot if I spoke too much on the politics of now.

What do you feel about the murder rate and the obvious bias against non-white people?

Anthony Bourdain: I think it’s clear if you had a murder rate that high in any other neighborhood than African-American ones, the National Guard would be in. It would be considered an apocalyptic event that would bring the national news. It’s nearly inconceivable. But Chicagoans seem to find it acceptable – many of the people I spoke to. ‘It’s only in certain neighborhoods’ or it’s ‘only drug gangs.’ As if it’s okay that people are dying as long as they’re peripherally involved in the drug business. I like David Simon very, very much. He talks a lot about the drug wars and the drug economy and when you’re a company town and the company is drugs and they’re the only company hiring you would end up with things like this. It’s a national disgrace. I’m shocked it’s not being treated as a national disgrace.

It’s not being treated with the respect it deserves by local government either.

Anthony Bourdain: One blonde kid, that’s gonna be front page news across the country. African –Americans that’s a tolerable casualty rate. The answer is very simple: it’s racism. The movement Black Lives Matter…it sends a modest argument because it seems like they don’t.

The violence is slowly, it seems moving inward. I don’t understand why they’re not doing anything.

Anthony Bourdain: When you start seeing suburban teens getting shot when they’re trying to cop then you’ll see some major operations. It is permissible to have crime zones. Up until it’s not permissible.

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown



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