Anthony Bourdain's Ritual For Getting To Know A New Food City

Anthony Bourdain wasn't shy about his admiration and reverence for heroes and peers like chef Thomas Keller and personal friend chef José Andrés. But, when it came to the cities he visited around the world in his multiple hit television series, viewers would hardly ever catch Bourdain sitting down at a Michelin-starred restaurant. On the road, the chef-slash-writer was all about eating like a local.

In a September 2015 interview with Men's Journal, Bourdain shared his go-to rule for the first thing he did when visiting a new city for the first time: head to the local market. "You see what's for sale, you see what's in season, you see the fundamental color palette of a cuisine," Bourdain tells the outlet. "You really get a sense of what a culture loves most dear." (Perhaps less exciting but more relatable, the first thing Bourdain did when visiting a city he'd been to before was hit the hotel room for a nap.)

Make for the market

Much of Bourdain's prolific career was spent shining a spotlight onto non-glamorous foods and the untapped rapture they can stir in even the most skeptical foodies. The chef himself had a particular affinity for street food in Vietnam. And on the first ever episode of his first series "A Cook's Tour" he visited a sprawling seafood market in Tokyo. 

Even in the city he called home (Manhattan), Bourdain raved about eating like a local at the most unfancy haunts — namely, the wonders of the dirty water hot dog. NYC is now home to Urban Hawker, a Singapore-style hawker market Bourdain first conceptualized years before its eventual posthumous completion in 2022.

Not only does eating at a local market provide an inspirational, dimensional image of a city's people and their history, but according to Bourdain, central markets are also the spots least likely to inspire a nasty case of foodborne illness. As he told CNN via YouTube, "If the local people are eating it, and a lot of them are eating it, meaning if it's a street stall, it doesn't look particularly hygienic, but it's packed with people, all of them enthusiastically eating something un-identifiable — we will eat that, and we will eat it with gusto." The breakfast buffet at the Western-style hotel in town, said Bourdain, is much more likely to knock you down for the count.