Bourdain Goes to Cuba

Monday, July 11, 2011
In tonight's season premiere of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations," he visits Cuba.

We can't really comment until we see the show -- and frankly (and unfortunately), we don't expect to see Bourdain interviewing Cuban pro-democracy activists (although one can dream).

However, we do appreciate some of Bourdain's sensible remarks during an interview today with MSNBC -- despite their best efforts to (disrespectfully) prod him.

Here are some excerpts:

Q: You said in the show you expect to get a lot of grief over going to Cuba. Has the hate mail started trickling in?

A: No, but I think I've seen some stuff on Facebook. There are Cuban Americans with a zero tolerance policy as far as anything to do with Cuba, as long as any Castro is alive. It is heretical for any American to visit. It is an emotional position that I understand and that I'm sympathetic to, but obviously I went anyway.

Q: Was there anything that you wanted to see firsthand?

It was the buildings, the cars. You really are walking into 360 degrees of another era. It really feels untouched. It is the most beautiful city I've ever seen in Latin America or anywhere in the Caribbean. There's nothing like it. It's gorgeous. Even as it crumbles, even given the very evident state of disrepair, it is beautiful.

Q: Is this the most politically charged destination you've visited?

A: For some people it's going to be. I just don't really care. I've been to a lot of countries where we have differences of opinion, to say the least, or bad histories or even places where they see the world very differently than I do. It was not something that I was looking to concentrate on, but at the same time, I was very aware that it was worth mentioning often that Cubans can't leave Cuba, that they're not free to say what they want. That even in this incredibly wired age, that Twittering or communicating freely over the Internet are things they can't do.

Q: Speaking of free expression, what did you make of the legally permitted street corner debates over baseball?

A: I think there's a lot going on there that I don't know in the sense that you could argue publicly about baseball, but it's probably ill-advised to argue about other things, though I do understand that politics do creep into the discussion at times. I wanted to mention repeatedly in the show certain obvious facts about living in Cuba, which is something that other travel show hosts, perhaps, did not do and I think got a lot of grief for it. If you're eating in a fine dining restaurant it is worth mentioning that chances are, you won't be seeing any ordinary Cubans there.