Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Sunday: Anthony Bourdain in Marseille

Season Six of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown--the CNN original series --premiered Sunday Sept 27, with Bourdain visiting Cuba. The Emmy Award-winning series follows the popular chef/author as he travels the globe to uncover "little-known, off-the-road and seemingly-familiar" regions, to celebrate their diverse foods and culture.

The eight-episode series will also feature Bourdain traveling in Okinawa, Ethiopia, California’s Bay Area, Borneo, Istanbul, Charleston, S.C...and Marseille, France.

The Marseille episode will air in the US on October 4 and you can see the full episode here

"If you've been to France, chances are you haven't been here," Bourdain says in the opener. "France's second largest city, the oldest city in France. It sits right by the Mediterranean, the food is famously good. Yet it's a victim of bad reputation, bad history. Marseille. As it turns out, exactly the kind of place I like..."

Bourdain's sidekick for this trip is his great pal Eric Ripert, chef/co-owner of the Michelin three-star Le Bernardin in New York. Born and raised in Antibes (roughly 100 miles away), Ripert tells an incredulous Bourdain that he's never been to Marseille. So off they go to discover it together:  zipping around on scooters, bobbing around in a fishing boat, drinking Pastis, sniffing melons in the market, playing petanque, exploring the beautiful cliffs and coves of the Calanques and chatting up colorful locals such as crime novelist Cedric Fabre, cliff diver Lionel Franc, chef/restaurateur Georgiana Viou and Le Monde journalist Gilles Rof.

And of course, they eat: pied paquets, Algerian couscous at Le Femina, Corsican meats and cheeses, grilled sardines, octopus stew, pizza, bouillabaisse and much, much more. 

"Marseille is the pizza truck capital of France," Bourdain proclaims as the two chefs head off to man the popular JD Pizza Truck alongside owner Jean-Denis Martinez. En route, Bourdain asks Ripert if he knows how to make pizza. "Never did a pizza in my life," Ripert says.

"This is going to be like I Love Lucy," Bourdain says. 

"More like Laurel and Hardy," Ripert shoots back.

Busy making pies, Bourdain remarks on how pizza toppings here--crème fraîche, reblochon, figatelli, lardon, figs, chevre--seem somewhat more high-end than at home. A customer asks for anchois and Bourdain thinks he's being sworn at. When the line of customers starts to back up, Bourdain chides Ripert for "dicking around with your insane perfectionism...Michaelangelo worked on the Sistine Chapel for less time!"

Finally Bourdain takes a time out and Ripert asks him what happened. "Hey this is France!" Bourdain tells him. "You get a nice break! Have I worked my 22-hour-week yet?"

Of course Marseille's most-famous dish, bouillabaisse, is featured prominently in the 0ne-hour episode. In what Bourdain calls "the requisite fishing trip scene," the two head out with a local fisherman who works exclusively for chef Gérald Passedat, the "extremely demanding" chef/owner of Le Petit Nice, the only Michelin three-star in Marseille. He pulls his boat up right to the restaurant with his daily catch.

Ripert claims he never goes fishing, doesn't know how and never catches anything, while Bourdain gripes good natured-ly about too much fishing: "I must have done 20 fishing scenes in my life and I think I've had one good day out of all of them. Other than that it's been one humiliating goat rodeo after another..."

Afterwards, seated on the restaurant's terrace for lunch, Passedat asks the chefs "Would you mind to have the bouillabaisse?" 

Passedat's take on the famous dish is spread out over four courses, starting with a shellfish carpaccio of raw mussels and clams. Later come slipper lobster, weaver, angler and red gurnard, lightly seared and given "just a touch" in the oven.

"Incredibly beautiful, insanely good," Bourdain proclaims. 

Then it's on to the main event:  "A broth so intense it requires over ten kilos of rock crabs and various bony tasty little fishes to make just one kilo of brown, gloriously brown, magical liquid. Dorade and dentelle, steamed over seaweed water...saffron potatoes...and then finally that magical brown broth."

"This is unbelievable," says Ripert....high praise from the man widely regarded as the top seafood chef in New York.

"I had the inspiration to make this bouillabaisse when I was a child," Passedat tells his two fellow culinarians. "On those rocks, when I was with my knife opening the mussels, eating the mussels. In my cuisine there is no cream, no butter, it's not traditional at all. Just based on the fish. It's my way of thinking, my cuisine here...Provencal."

Another day, over lunch with crime writer Cedric Fabre, Bourdain asks: "Why is this such a fertile ground to set a crime novel?" Fabre talks about the city's rich multi-cultural make up and its deep North African roots.

"In Marseille there's a very poor area and a very rich area," he says. "The difference between those two areas is the worst in that makes an interesting city. When we write a crime novel, we write about those that's interesting. 

The adventure continues outside the city too, as the chefs hit the road in a 1972 Citroën Maserati. They head for the gorgeous old village of Lourmarin in the Luberon, about 90 minutes from Marseille, where they pack a picnic from the Friday market stalls and spread out to eat on the grounds of an ancient chapel.

Over lunch, Bourdain asks Ripert a classic Bourdain question: "You know Martha Stewart pretty well...give me an honest answer. In a street fight, could she choke me out?"

"I think if she goes to the dark side, I think so," Eric says. "I think so too," Bourdain comes back. 

Then he gets philosophical, asking Ripert, a Buddhist, if he ever worries that his next life won't be anywhere near as good as this one. 

"No, I have good karma from my previous life!" Ripert tells him, while slicing and salting tomatoes.

But Bourdain presses him. "What if the worst case scenario happens? Your next life is going to probably suck! The best case scenario, in your next life, maybe if you would be if you get to sit in a sub shop in Asbury Park, New Jersey. More likely, you'll end up a mime! A diseased, itinerant mime wandering the streets scrounging for money. I'm just saying how much better can it be than this? Enjoy every minute of this now, Eric, and pray, pray, pray that this is it and the end of the day they roll you into a hole in a ground and you're diet for worms! Because if you're right and there is a next life, you're fucked my friend."

"You're a desperate case," Ripert tells him.

Back in Marseille, the guys are invited to dinner at Chez Georgiana, where chef/owner Georgiana Viou hosts a monthly meal for her women chef friends. There are so few women running professional kitchens in Marseille that they fit around a small dinner table (although three were absent that evening). 

"Marseille is not an easy city," one of women says. "It's not a museum, a Disneyland, you know. Everything is kind of dirty and complicated. But when you are in Marseille, you have the fantastic light and the can have the best fishes...yes you are home...I mean, it's just like being home."

For the group, Georgiana--who was born in Benin and came to France via Nigeria and London--whips up a beautiful beef tartare with apple and celeriac, topped with botargo (also known as bottarga or poutargue, it's salted fish roe). "Counter intuitive, but truly amazing and delicious," Bourdain deems it.

"I'm coming from Paris and I used to cook with butter and cream," Georgiana explains. "Today I can't imagine my cuisine without olive oil, without vegetables, without seafood, without spices..."

The botargo is a good idea, Ripert says, better than anchovies.

"If you want you can do it at Le Bernardin and you can call it Georgiana's Tartare," she tells him with a laugh.  The meal moves on to a main course of pieds paquets, which Bourdain calls his single favorite Marseillaise classic, "a dish which encapsulates everything I love and believe in about food." 

Towards the end of the show, the chefs are invited to an al fresco lunch at a sea-front cabanon that's been in the same family since the 1940s. First comes panisse (chickpea fritters) with aïoli, then Mediterranean sea snails with anise and wild fennel, followed by fresh grilled sardines marinated in lemon and olive oil. "Perfect happiness," Bourdain says.

"So when are you retiring?" he asks Ripert over lunch.  

"As soon as possible, seriously!" Eric says, looking out to sea...and clearly enjoying the sunshine, the company,  the meal, the whole scene.

And when are you going to come back?  

"I don't want to leave!" Ripert says. "People come from all over Europe, spend hours in their car to be here. My grandparents and my uncles used to have that lifestyle, but I forgot about it. Now I'm remembering."

"[You could] open a chain of cynical surf-and-turf restaurants and cash out in two years," Bourdain tells him.

Ripert replies: "If it is to be here, yes...I will do it."

Whether you know Marseille well or have never been, this is a terrific hour of TV filled with interesting characters, rich history, beautiful scenery, fantastic-looking food and of course lots of off-kilter, off-color Bourdain humor.  But when he proclaims his love for the city and its people, you get the feeling that it's genuine. And Ripert appears to be every bit as besotted.

"I could retire here," Bourdain says.  "That's sort of the measure of a place for me, if you start thinking thoughts like that. Like that must be nice, I could live there, just me and my watercolors, puttering..."

"I could retire here too," his friend tells him.

"Life is good," the chefs agree with a laugh. "Life is very good in Marseille."

The Marseille episode of Parts Unknown first aired October 4 at 9 pm ET/PT in the US.  The show was also syndicated to Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. 

You can now see the full episode online here and read more about it on the CNN site here.

You can follow Parts Unknown on Twitter and Facebook...

Follow Bourdain on TwitterFacebook and Instagram...

Follow Eric Ripert on Twitter and Facebook...

See Bourdain's last trip to Provence on my blog here...

And read about the huge food market that Bourdain is building on New York's Pier 57, see the recent New York Times article here.


  1. Hi
    It has been 5 years since the great Antony Bourdain came to Provence....
    Now in Marseille,I wish He would drop in my little heaven,in the country,for a cooking session together !
    I love that show !
    Thanks to Julie for all those wonderfull discoveries,in Provence !
    As a passionate cook,having travelled the world for close to 20 years,I settled in Provence to share my passion for this region and following Julie's infos,It give me the chance to discover new things all the time !

  2. I love Marseilles.....and its only a hop skip and a jump from the UK with regular flights.....think I'll book myself one right now!

  3. he should wait till the communists castro bros leave cuba to support it no human right there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Love Bourdain and never miss a show. Can't wait for this one! Thanks, Julie!

  5. Anyone knows the name of the French song played at the end of the show?

    1. Apparently it's a US-based French singer, Nathalie Alice

    2. Hi All,

      Nathalie has emailed and asked me to pass along the following message:

      I am currently recording an EP featuring the song Adieu Massilia. The new version will be linked to the show's website, likely beginning of 2016. If you wish to get updates, please send me an email at:

      Thank you for your interest!

  6. I can't find any information about that song at the end of the Marseille episode. It doesn't seem to be the song mentioned in the credits and I can't find anything by Nathalie Alice that sounds like it. Does anyone have info about it?

    1. Hi Lucca...I'll email the producers for you and see if we can get to the bottom of this! Stay tuned! :)

    2. Hello! Did you happen to find out the name of the song?

    3. I didn't, sorry! Let me try again for you...

    4. Ok!! Let me know! Great piece by the way.

    5. Thank you! The PR at CNN is checking with the producers to try to get us the info you want. Stay tuned!

    6. Ok thanks so much. It seems she is a relatively unknown artist. I did some research and it looks like she was attempting to fund an album through Indiegogo
      I hope she gets some exposure, such a great song to a great episode. They producers are really great with the soundtrack. Support your local artist!!

    7. The song is "Adieu Massilia" composed and performed by Nathalie Alice.

    8. Thanks Julie. I can't find the song anywhere, I guess it's not available to the public.

    9. Hi All,

      Nathalie has emailed and asked me to pass along the following message:

      I am currently recording an EP featuring the song Adieu Massilia. The new version will be linked to the show's website, likely beginning of 2016. If you wish to get updates, please send me an email at:

      Thank you for your interest!

  7. Thanks Julie, I appreciate your hard work!

  8. Just watched this show this evening, what a great show. They are all great, and have a sense of warmth not often found these days. This show from Marseille though was really great (wanted to jump through the TV and eat). Anyone with any rough ingredient list for the octopus stew over pasta at the end?

  9. Where did he have the cheese plate?

  10. Today if someone asks me what you saw best then I would like to say that I saw your post best today and it is a very beautifully written post which I appreciate. And I also think that if you see someone's post and it is beautiful and well written, that should be appreciated.