Anthony Bourdain's Favorite Food Scenes In Television History

Anthony Bourdain knew a thing or two about television. His onscreen career spanned nearly two decades, and "Parts Unknown" won five Emmy awards. But in addition to sharing his love of global foods and searing industry insight, Bourdain was also an evangelist for any other cultural ephemera that influenced him. 

In a 2014 interview with Bloody Elbow, the chef-slash-writer raved about the arts. Bourdain told the outlet, "If I see a film that I really like or I read a book that I really like, I do sort of want to go door-to-door and force everybody I know to read the book that I love or see the movie that I love." And there's one series Bourdain credited as making "the finest food scenes on fictional TV."

NBC's mystery-thriller "Hannibal" followed cannibal psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) and the FBI investigator on and off his trail, Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). Like the books and films that preceded the show, the titular character's favorite pastime was turning victims into elaborate meals, and this iteration made quite a production of it. 

Bourdain recalls one scene in particular, where Hannibal prepares osso buco — a dish made of wine-braised veal shanks, but per Lecter's taste, uses human calf instead. "[T]he technique, the presentation, the details were absolutely perfect. The food looks really good. It's a beautifully photographed show. The production design and cinematography is the best ever on network television. It's also the darkest, most violent, disturbing, sick sh*t ever," praised Bourdain.

A passion for art, whatever the genre

There's a reason why that scene held up under a seasoned chef's eye — Hannibal's production team didn't cut corners. "[M]y dear friend, José Andrés, who happens to be one of the greatest chefs in the country, is the consultant for the show," Bourdain explained.

This kind of devotion to authenticity was a pretty big deal in Bourdain's own work. Bourdain shot the Rome episode of "No Reservations" in black and white as an homage to Federico Fellini's "La Dolce Vita." And in what was a true masterstroke of an homage, the Congo episode of "Parts Unknown" restaged exact shots from Coppola's 1980 classic "Apocalypse Now." The chef was also a longtime fan of bands The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Stooges and went on to film episodes of "Parts Unknown" with Anton Newcombe and Iggy Pop, the frontmen of both groups. The 2022 biopic of Bourdain "Roadrunner" (whose title comes from a favorite hit by The Modern Lovers) pays tribute to the late chef by lining it with many of his favorite songs.

Cooking has been enjoying something of a big screen "moment" lately with the popularity of the blockbuster film "The Menu" (2022) and the hit Hulu series "The Bear," which first aired the same year. But Bourdain's on-screen world emerged as a homogenous culmination of gastronomic and art influences — and he wasn't shy about recognizing the same attention to detail in a show as seemingly unlikely as "Hannibal."