Host of CNN’s “Parts Unknown,” chef, TV personality, and author Anthony Bourdain travels the world bringing his culinary and cultural finds to a variety of audiences. But when he wants to relax, Bourdain, who lives in New York City — where he was born and raised – likes to stay close to home and go to the Hamptons on Long Island. The globetrotter, who has a 10-year-old daughter, was a guest speaker recently at a student travel summit (hosted by Cambridge-based EF Education First, an international travel company) in Milan that focused on the future of food. Bourdain, 61, said he is excited about the new season of “Parts Unknown,” which airs in the fall. “I think people are going to be blown away by the Nigeria show we just did — and Bulia [in Kenya],” he said. “A lot of effort and a lot of love was put into them.” We caught up with the famous foodie, whose culinary career began in the early 1970s at the Flagship, a restaurant in Provincetown that has long since closed, to talk about all things travel.
Favorite vacation destination? I go out to Long Island — because I can drive there — to an area of the Hamptons that none of the cool people go to and I never see anyone I know. It’s all golfers and people who could care less whether I’m walking down the street. Nobody bothers me. I can drive there. My daughter loves it. I travel for a living, so I go to a lot of beautiful beaches, and beautiful countries, and stare out at a lot of spectacular vistas. So for me, a vacation is going out and shopping at the little farmstands, and making a big meal for my daughter, my ex, and my houseguests.
Favorite food or drink while vacationing? I cook on Long Island in the summer: steamer clams, grilled steak, I make an Italian-style ragu, have lobster night. . . . It’s the food of my childhood; the vacation food I had as a kid on the Jersey Shore.
Where would you like to travel to but haven’t? I haven’t been able to get into Kashmir and Venezuela, Afghanistan, and Yemen for obvious reasons. I’d like to see the situations change in these countries so I could go — Kashmir in particular.
One item you can’t leave home without when traveling? My iPhone. I mean, I have to have my iPhone, and my Moleskine notebook to write in.
Aisle or window? Window. If it’s a puddle jumper, I like to cram my head up against the window and sleep. I’ve a fairly strong bladder, so I don’t need the aisle.
Favorite childhood travel memory? Second time in France — I was 10 or 11. The first time I didn’t like it so much, but by the second time, I loved getting a baguette still warm from the oven, putting French butter on it, and dipping it in a bowl of bitter hot chocolate. It was good.
Guilty pleasure when traveling? Every restaurant in the world, every hotel has spaghetti bolognese on the menu and I have a perverse desire to see how they make it. It’s become a joke with my crew. We try to always eat what’s local always — especially in a country with delicious food — but in our down time, we all succumb now and again to the spaghetti bolognese, if only for the comedy value. But my real guilty pleasure — my really disgusting, shameful pleasure — is the mac and cheese at Popeye’s fried chicken. Late at night, I’ve been known to sneak in there with a hoodie on — and I always get nailed. People are like, “Dude, I’m going to put this on Instagram.”
Best travel tip? Don’t have a rigid itinerary — and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Also, don’t go anywhere the concierge suggests. Experience has taught me, that no matter how hard you maintain that you want a real and authentic local experience, what you really want is a clean bathroom and to feel comfortable. So they’re going to send you someplace where there are other Americans. And you don’t want to eat in a place with other Americans — not that there’s anything wrong with other Americans. Rome is a perfect example: It’s maybe the best example. The overwhelming likelihood going out to dinner in Rome is that you’re going to have a bad meal. A key tipoff: If [staffers] are outside with pictures and the menus are in English and Italian, and there are Americans there, you’re at the wrong place. You want to go to a place where you’re the only English speaker in the place and the waiters and owner look like they’ve been there for 30 or 40 years, the customers are all Italians — all Romans, eating specifically Roman food. That’s the place to be.