At the time of his death in 2018, Anthony Bourdain was quite possibly the most famous cook in the world. Without question he held the title of the most famous cook-traveler, a status resting primarily on No Reservations and Parts Unknown, the television shows he hosted on the Travel Chanel and CNN, respectively. But it all began with A Cook’s Tour, which the Food Network originally broadcast in 2002 and 2003. That series, Bourdain’s very first, took him from Japan to Morocco to Mexico to Australia to Thailand — and through many points in between — in search of the world’s most stimulating eating experiences.
Now A Cook’s Tour has come available free to watch on Youtube, thanks to the streaming channel GoTraveler (who also offer the show through their own service). A Portuguese slaughtering-and-roasting party; vodka-fueled ice fishing in St. Petersburg; an exploration of the American “Barbecue Triangle” constituted by Kansas City, Houston, and North Carolina; and a best-faith effort to lose himself in Chiang Mai: if you caught these or other of Bourdain’s early international culinary adventures those nearly twenty years ago, you can relive them, and if you missed out, you can enjoy them for the first time.
During the launch phase of his rise to fame (after decades of restaurant work and years of writing, an effort that first produced a couple of food-themed murder-mystery novels), Bourdain managed to tap into a new wave of gastronomic interest then rising in America. He did so with a street-smart sense of humor that appealed even to viewers with no particular investment in the world of cooking and dining, as long as they had an interest in the world itself. With A Cook’s Tour, he took food television out of the kitchen — way out of the kitchen — and over the eighteen years since its conclusion, the series’ influence has become so pervasive as almost to be invisible. Anthony Bourdain may be gone, but parts of his personality live on in every high-profile traveler out there cooking, eating, and getting lost today.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.