This year, the Emmy nominees for outstanding hosted nonfiction series include Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy (2021 and 2022’s winner) and Taste the Nation With Padma Lakshmi. It’s fair to say these food travelogues owe their entrée into awards contention to Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, which dominated the category in the 2010s and brought credibility to food programming in a field that had previously overlooked it.
CNN’s Parts Unknown, which won 12 Primetime Emmys over 12 seasons — including six for outstanding informational series (as the category was known from 2013 to 2019) — was Bourdain’s fourth series following A Cook’s Tour and Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations on the Travel Channel, and Food Network’s The Layover. All were travel shows presented through the prism of food, but in Parts Unknown, Bourdain — an executive chef at New York’s Brasserie Les Halles who rose to fame for his tell-all memoir Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly — delved into topics far outside the scope of tourism as he explored far-flung places, from Myanmar to Massachusetts, Lagos to Detroit. “With [Parts Unknown], I’m invested in every detail. It’s my story from beginning to end, and it’s very personal,” he told THR in 2014 (at right). For example, “It looks at my road to heroin, and parallels what’s really happening in small-town New England, which is this stunning explosion of hard-core heroin use.” Other episodes unpacked real life across the globe: “When you ask [‘What’s for dinner?’] in Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Congo — you get very surprising, nuanced, complex answers that open people up,” Bourdain explained. The series proved a hit for CNN, earning No. 1 in the Sunday 9 p.m. time slot in cable news over its first three seasons. Bourdain was filming season 12 in Strasbourg, France, when he died by suicide in June 2018. He earned two posthumous Emmys for Parts Unknown, for outstanding writing and outstanding informational series.
This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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