Ultimate foodie and world-acclaimed chef Anthony Bourdain travelled to Iran to shoot an episode for his travel show, where the Islamic republic left him in shock and awe.
“It was a very different Iran than I had been led to expect or could have imagined,” he told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.
As part of his show on CNN, “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” the author and TV personality travelled an Iran he described as “extraordinary, heartbreaking, confusing, inspiring and very, very different than the Iran I expected.”
He said the few days he spent there defeated the image that has been painted by the media or the “long and very contentious relationship we’ve [the U.S. and Iran] had as nations.”
A U.S. citizen, Bourdain recounted walking through the streets in Iran and being warmly greeted by passersby who eagerly welcomed him and his crew to savor their country’s cuisine
“To walk down the street as an American and have total strangers constantly saying, where are you from? America, have you tried our food? Thank you for coming…” he remembered.
He said he has come across this degree of hospitality towards “strangers” in “very, very few places – and I’m talking Western Europe and allied nations.”
“We’d been told to expect that. But you get thrown by it when you face it everywhere.”
To help narrate his experience, Bourdain talked about one evening when he and his team went out with their Iranian crew to celebrate their producer’s birthday at a restaurant where local families dined while listening to Persian music.
Someone then found out about his producer’s birthday.
“The entire restaurant sang “Happy Birthday” to him and presented him with a cake.”
Bourdain was in awe at the stark difference between the Iran he had been led to believe and the Iran where an entire restaurant sang “Happy Birthday” to stranger.
He also commented on Iran’s versatile culture, describing it as “neither East nor West, but always somewhere in the middle.”
His show did not simply frequent Iran's restaurants and eateries but also featured traditional Iranian dishes cooked by Iranians who invited the chef into their home.
In one of the homes he is invited to, Bourdain agrees with his host on how Iran is “confusing” adding that the contradictions are “confusing.”