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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

What Anthony Bourdain meant to his fans in the Middle East 

Late chef Bourdain's travels saw him go to Jerusalem in an episode that opened many people's eyes to the situation in Palestine 

Anthony Bourdain has died at age 61. AFP
Anthony Bourdain has died at age 61. AFP

Many fans were left heartbroken upon hearing the news that chef and television host Anthony Bourdain had died. Not long after it was announced, tributes began pouring in on social media.

One of the many themes that kept popping up was the way Bourdain was able to help bridge together different cultures through a shared meal. While the 61-year-old ate his way all around the world with his shows No Reservations and then Parts Unknown, there were some places that remained more memorable than others. One of Bourdain’s lasting legacies will be the way he showcased the Middle East to the rest of the world.

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Back in season two of his hit TV show Parts Unknown, he travelled to Jerusalem in an episode that aired back in September 2013. He started the episode by visiting the Wailing Wall before heading for dinner with a Palestinian family which included Palestinian author Laila El-Haddad. He also dined with a married Israeli-Palestinian couple as well as visited an Israeli restaurant whose owner was in favour of dialogue and not settlements.

Click to watch the clip below with Laila El-Haddad:

Many people on social media have credited this episode for changing the way they viewed Palestine:

In a post on her Twitter account, El-Hadded also thanked him for telling the “real, human stories of Palestinians”:

As well as sharing her own story of his visit:

For many, the episode really touched on why Bourdain was such a respected personality.

The chef rose to fame through the kitchens of New York City and with the publication of his best-selling book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly in 2000. From there, he kicked off television career with a show called A Cook's Tour on the Food Network in 2002. However, it was Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations on the Travel Channel just three years later that really made him a household name. In 2013, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown debuted on CNN.

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While Bourdain hasn't shot any episodes in the UAE for Parts Unknown, he has visited the country in the past. Back in an interview with The National in 2014, he was asked about Dubai’s restaurant scene. Even though the emirate is heavily reliant on celebrity chefs and imported brands, he saw promise:

“The massive workforce in Dubai is bringing with it interesting food and geographically there are a lot of influences,” he said. “Dubai’s potential to me is much like New York’s. Its people are an asset, not a liability.”