As far as celebrity chefs go, the late Anthony Bourdain, who died in 2018, was surely the most rock’n’roll of the lot. Wielding a razor-sharp wit – and sometimes a kitchen knife to match – his trademark was simple: punchy food that cut straight to the point. And soon his classic show Parts Unknown is returning to Netflix.
Few make food as entertaining as Bourdain did. He dispensed brutal wisdom in his sweary 2000 autobiography Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (“too lazy to peel fresh? You don’t deserve to eat garlic”), in which he compared a kitchen team to a rock band who cook up a storm “drenched in drugs and alcohol, and accompanied constantly by loud rock and roll music”.
His dad worked for Columbia Records, and music was very much Bourdain’s second love: in the 1970s he would cook for the punk bands who played iconic New York club CBGB – The Dead Boys, Rich Hell and the Voidoids, The Ramones – in exchange for gig tickets. He openly loathed Billy Joel’s music (along with Elton John and the Grateful Dead, it was fireable offence to play him in Bourdain’s kitchen) but the pair were, somehow, still mates. As far as the New Yorker was concerned, the more relentless and intense, the better.
And Bourdain’s appetite for rock’n’roll didn’t just soundtrack his kitchens – the chef also invited the cream of rock royalty to dine with him on his unparalleled TV shows. With all 12 series of his cult food travelogue ready to inhale on the streaming service next month, here are the best rock star cameos in the series to look out.
Episode: ‘Nashville’, 2016
What they ate: During his delve into Nashville grub, Bourdain made a pit-stop at the home of The Kills’ Alison Mosshart, which she’s dubbed Disgraceland. He set about cooking up pork dumplings and heaped apple and celery salads for the revellers while Mosshart laid on the entertainment, threatening to tear the roof off her own house with the rest of her other band, The Dead Weather. Jack White makes an appearance, too, along with Jamie Hince, Mosshart’s bandmate in The Kills.
“[It was] a whirlwind job and the beginning of a real friendship,” Mosshart wrote in Esquire after Bourdain’s death. “He was nothing if not a poet, a romantic, a fucking astronaut of a man.”
Iggy Pop and Questlove
Episode: ‘Miami’, 2015
What they ate: Godfather of punk Iggy Pop is perhaps one of the only people on earth capable of swaying Bourdain towards healthy-eating – in the Miami episode, the pair met up for BBQ shrimp and roast pork. “A little white wine [was] our only tilt towards the debauches of previous lives,” Bourdain narrates. Elsewhere in the same episode, he also hangs out with Questlove from The Roots – two icons for the price of one.
Episode: ‘Seattle’, 2017
What they ate: Bourdain was thick as thieves with Queens of the Stone Age – Josh Homme cameos in the chef’s No Reservations series – and Homme and Mark Lanegan even penned a theme tune for Parts Unknown. And so naturally when Bourdain paid a visit to Seattle, he called on Lanegan to act as tour guide – besides the legality of weed in Seattle the musician was one of the main reasons Bourdain chose to visit.
“I wanted to do an hour of television absolutely saturated with, scored by, and featuring Mark Lanegan and his music,” Bourdain explained. “I wanted to hear some of my favouirites played over wide shots of the Puget Sound. I wanted to smoke weed legally, listening to his songs. And I wanted every single person who watches my show and isn’t already a fan of his to experience his music.”
Episode: ‘Armenia’, 2018
What they ate: When Bourdain headed to sample Armenian cuisine in 2018, he recruited System of a Down’s Serj Tankian as a co-driver. Tankian is Armenian-American and does a great deal of activist work for the Armenian Diaspora – the community of people from the country who no longer live there, in part due to fleeing during the Armenian genocide. As well as drawing attention to the atrocity’s 100th anniversary, Bourdain and Tankian also celebrate plenty of culinary culture, sampling everything from beef-bone broth to oxtail soup.
Steve Albini and Lupe Fiasco
Episode: ‘Chicago’, 2016
On a flying visit to the Windy City, Bourdain chowed down on steak sandwiches at Ricobene’s with super-producer Steve Albini – who famously produced Nirvana‘s ‘In Utero’ – and the pair wasted no time in discussing the city’s punk rock scene laying into its pretension. “Is there less douchery in Chicago?” the chef asked him, cutting straight to the chase.
Another double-whammy, the ‘Chicago’ episode also features a cameo by rapper Lupe Fiasco, who invites Bourdain round to his mum’s house for home-cooked grub and a frank talk about the city’s “appalling murder rate.” It’s a classic example of what Parts Unknown did best: doing away with glossy, superficial ‘food porn’ and delving right into the throbbing heart of a destination, downsides and all.
Parts Unknown returns to Netflix on June 1