It took a decade and at least one petition circulated by fans, but celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain finally shot a show in Israel. “Jerusalem,” the first episode of “Parts Unknown, Season 2,” aired on CNN , giving viewers a chance to judge whether it was worth the wait.
First on “No Reservations” and now with “Parts Unknown,” Bourdain travels the world, looking to meet people and experience their food. In this episode Bourdain travels through Jerusalem, a few small Israeli towns, Jewish settlements and Palestinian parts of the West Bank as well as the Gaza Strip. He eats falafel just inside the Damascus Gate, in the Old City of Jerusalem, with the British-based Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi. He dines briefly at a home in the Jewish settlement of Ma’aleh Levona in the West Bank, hitches a ride with female Palestinian race car drivers, breezes through a cooking class in the Aida refugee camp, has a vegetarian meal at Jewish-Muslim couple Michal Baranes and Yakub Barhum’s restaurant Majda and spends time with “Gaza Kitchen” cookbook author Leila El-Haddad in Gaza.
Bourdain discusses his own Jewish identity (or lack thereof), asks his hosts direct questions about anti-Arab graffiti and street art glorifying terrorists and expresses hope for coexistence. He ends the episode in conversation with a restaurant owner in an Israeli town bordering the Gaza Strip who lost a daughter in a Hamas rocket attack.
“By the end of this hour I’ll be seen by many as a terrorist sympathizer, a Zionist tool, a self-hating Jew, an apologist for American imperialism, an Orientalist, a socialist, a fascist, a CIA agent and worse,” Bourdain says as the episode begins.
Read more and get Liz Steinberg’s recommendations at Haaretz.com.
I have a confession — a somewhat unacceptable one for a food editor — I do not enjoy food television. Thank you very much for your food porn shots of gem-like amuse bouche and towering cakes, but I’d rather be cooking than salivating in front of my computer.
I have one significant exception: anything containing Anthony Bourdain. The foulmouthed but insightful former chef’s shows are must watch events for me. Part entertainment, part essential culinary education, I’ve watched Tony travel around the world and try foods that have made me board airplanes and foods that no matter how evolved my palate becomes I will never want to eat (sorry, the fire-roasted anus of an animal in the Namibia episode was just too much).
But until this year (and tonight’s episode, the premier of this season’s Parts Unknown) Bourdain had never traveled to sample the cuisine I know best — Israeli food. In 2011 Rob Eshman at the Jewish Journal wrote an open letter urging Tony to take a trip to the Holy Land, around the same time a Facebook group called “Send Anthony Bourdain to Israel” cropped up.
Well, it took 11 seasons, but Bourdain finally arrived. What could have been a spectacular episode focusing on the emerging food cultures of Israel and the Palestinian Territories turned into perhaps the most disappointing Bourdain show I’ve seen.
The wondering and speculation are over. We finally know who the real person is behind Ruth Bourdain, the Twitter personality that is a bizarre mashup of former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl and foul-mouthed TV food show host Anthony Bourdain (visually, we’re talking Reichl’s dark long hair with bangs plopped on top of Bourdain’s mug).
All those witty and profane jabs at the pretentions of food culture — as well as a companion book titled, “Comfort Me With Offal” — were written (and tweeted) by Josh Friedland,, who came out to New York Times reporter Julia Moskin in Saturday’s paper. Despite his snarky alternate persona, the Moskin calls Friedland “a mild-mannered freelance writer in Maplewood, N.J., who produces the Food Section, one of the longest-running culinary blogs on the Web.” On his website, Friedland describes himself as “addicted to just about everything having to do with food, whether it be home cooking to restaurants, culinary travel, photography, history, books, or food politics.”
Anthony Bourdain likes his kugel the way bubbies make it. At least, that’s what he told contestant Jeanette Friedman on the premier of his new competition cooking show “The Taste” when she added jalapeños and adobo spices to the Eastern European Jewish staple. The show premiered this week on ABC with Bourdaine co-hosting with British stunner Nigella Lawson, French chef Ludo Lefebvre and Top Chef Brian Malarkey.
With a similar structure as The Voice, the show’s contestants have one hour to cook their dishes and present food on a spoon, they then stand behind a wall as the chefs taste and critique their food, often arguing whether it is the work of a home cook or a professional chef, or maybe just a home cook who has watched a lot of professional cooking shows. If they like the food, the chefs charm the contestant into joining their teams, which will compete against each other in a later episode.
Friedman, incidentally, the mother of activist and Forward 50 honoree Daniel Sieradski, made a lokshen kugal with a spicy twist. Bourdain immediately recognized the taste, “I know this dish… this is very familiar to me,” he said. But ultimately, Friedman was eliminated because the dish had lost its classic flavor. “When it comes to Eastern European Jewish classics, I’m a traditionalist,” Bourdain told a disappointed Friedman. “You lost me at the adobo.”