The last time Anthony Bourdain visited Los Angeles with the Parts Unknown crew, he immersed himself in the food and culture of Koreatown. For the Season 9 premiere of the show, he returns to the sprawling metropolis to get to know the people of LA’s Latino communities.
Like all the best episodes of CNN’s travel program, this one covers a lot of ground in a relatively short amount of time, and everything is exquisitely filmed. With shots of Bourdain driving a muscle car through LA’s deserted streets at night, parts of this episode visually channel Nicolas Winding Refn’s cult action hit, Drive. On the food porn side of the things, this installment of Parts Unknown includes some grade-A shots of Mexican dishes like mulitas, taquitos, burritos, and barbacoa. But the real thrust of this episode comes from the stories of the people Bourdain meets during his stay in LA.
The episode starts with Tony musing on how LA’s undocumented immigrants are so vital to the city’s myriad industries. For more background on how immigrants shaped the city, Bourdain sits down for lunch with Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, the professor of Chicano studies at UCLA. The rest of the episode is a series of meals and conversations with people who grew up and/or work in the Latino communities of Los Angeles. Tony breaks bread with comedian Al Madrigal, tattoo artist Mister Cartoon, actor Danny Trejo, community activist Elisa Sol Garcia, chef Eddie Ruiz, and MMA fighters Nick and Nate Diaz.
This is one of the episodes of the show where Bourdain does more listening than talking, but he still manages to get in a few good jokes and crunchy observations along the way. Here are six of the best Quotable Bourdain moments. Please feel free to share your thoughts on this episode in the comments below.
The Quotable Bourdain: LA Volume 2
1. Bourdain on LA’s Latino communities, in general: “Los Angeles, like much of California, used to be part of Mexico. Now Mexico, or a whole lot of Mexicans, are a vital part of us.”
2. Bourdain on the idea that Danny Trejo could help unify all Mexicans: “Danny Trejo would be the man. That’s the guy. I would vote for him. I would totally vote for him. He looks good with his shirt off. Donald Trump can’t say that. Bill Clinton can’t say that. Danny Trejo’s still peeling that shirt off. “
3. Bourdain on staying nice in show business: “One of the things I learned actually making television really early on [is] if you show up to a shoot, and the people with the cameras and the crew say, ‘Oh the talent is on set,’ what they really mean is, ‘The asshole is on set.’ If someone calls me the talent... it’s time to go back and take a long look in the mirror.“
4. Bourdain on his LA ritual: “I get off the plane, I go right to In-N-Out Burger. And the last thing I do while I’m in town is I stop at In-N-Out burger. That stuff is like crack for me. I gotta have it.”
5. Bourdain on the future of Mexican cuisine in America: “I absolutely believe that the next big thing is a reevaluation of Mexican flavors and ingredients, and a reevaluation of how much you should pay. People love it... but their expectation is that Mexican food should be cheap. And the fact is that there’s always going to be new arrivals from Mexico who are perfectly willing to sell you, unfortunately or fortunately, Mexican food for very cheap. But not the kind of deep flavors that you find, or I found in my travels there.”
6. Bourdain on the influence of Mexican and Ecuadorian people in his own life: “I worked in French and Italian restaurants my whole career, but really, if I think about it, they were Mexican restaurants and Ecuadorian restaurants, because the majority of the cooks and the people working with me were from those countries. That’s who, you know, picked me up when I fell down; who showed me what to do when I walked in and didn’t know anything and nobody knew my name.”