Seven years after witnessing the start of the Second Lebanon War from Beirut, TV chef Anthony Bourdain is heading back to the region — this time to the other side of the border.
The bestselling author and TV personality is kicking off the latest season of his CNN show, “Parts Unknown,” in Israel, with an episode titled “Jerusalem” that will air Sept. 15. In addition to the Israeli capital, the show will feature segments shot in Gaza and the West Bank, where the writer behind “Kitchen Confidential” will keep his focus on food rather than conflict.
“While the political situation is often tense between the people living in these areas, Bourdain concentrates on their rich history, food and culture, and spends time with local chefs, home cooks, writers and amateur foodies,” CNN said in a statement.
Although “Parts Unknown” and Bourdain’s previous TV program, “No Reservations,” featured visits to dozens of nations, Bourdain’s trip to Israel marks the country’s first appearance on one of his shows. Its absence had previously inspired a Facebook campaign for its inclusion.
Bourdain visited the Middle East in 2006, where he had the bad luck to be in Beirut during the first 10 days of the Second Lebanon War. An episode of “No Reservations” shot during the fighting documented Israel’s bombing of the Lebanese capital, as well as the chef’s subsequent evacuation with the help of the US Marines.
Bourdain later told the Washington Post about the “shameful position of watching a country dismantled before my eyes,” but also recalled witnessing “Hezbollah supporters . . . fire automatic weapons in the air celebrating the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers.”
“At no time during my 10 days in Beirut did I ever hear an anti-Semitic or even explicitly anti-Israeli statement,” Bourdain said, noting that his film crew was “largely Jewish.”
“To the contrary, there was a universal sense of grim resignation and inevitability to what Israel’s reaction would be.”
Bourdain returned to Lebanon in 2010 to highlight the country’s offerings during peacetime. He says his culinary focus can help to create connections, but sounded a realistic note about the impact of his visit to Israel.
“I can cross barriers using food as a point of entry,” he told the Wrap. “Whether that’s going to lead to world peace, probably not.”