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Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown

Charleston. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired November 15, 2015 - 21:00   ET




ANTHONY BOURDAIN, CNN HOST: The south is not a monolith. There are pockets of weirdness, awesomeness, and then there's Charleston, where for some time now important things have been happening with food. A lot of them having to do with these guys.

What are we drinking? There are beer we've got harder stuff? What's going on?

SEAN BROCK, EXECUTIVE CHEF, HUSK RESTAURANT: I usually go with a Budweiser and a Jagermeister.

BOURDAIN: Budweiser and Jagermeister. So any notion of going local right out the window.

BROCK: Two Jagers.


BOURDAIN: Yeah, two Jagers. Cheers.

BROCK: Cheers. The first one's never good. The first one is never good. But it gets easier after the first one.

BOURDAIN: So, look, this is not my first time to Charleston as you know. I did do a show here before, and I'm still thinking in about it. Apparently I really stop the first time I came here, because I made a number of errors. Apparently, none more egregious than going out or like doing oyster roast and drinking champagne.

BROCK: I never heard of such a thing. Well, champagne and beers is OK with the oysters.

BOURDAIN: Right. So you ask what -- it must have been a place off.

BROCK: And there so many got -- yet confused somewhere.

BOURDAIN: Yeah, anyway, I got it wrong. This time I'm getting it right which is why I've come to you.

You can be forgiven for underestimating Sean Brock first time you meet him. I know I did. I saw a scruffy looking dude in a trucker cap who always seem to have a bottle of really good bourbon on hand.

BROCK: Start so well in 1991, 18 years old. This is the end of great whiskey. It didn't come in this bottle. This is my travel bottle, because it's plastic, you see, so it don't breaks when you get rowdy.

BOURDAIN: It took me a little time to discover the ferocious intellect, the inquiring nature, the uniquely focus and purposeful talent to the man, without a doubt one of America's most important chefs. A guy who's redefining what -- not just southern cooking is, was, and can be, but American cooking as a whole.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One, two, three!

BOURDAIN: We're going to talk a lot about this over the next week about the notions of universal awesomeness. Is the waffle house universally awesome?

BROCK: We have one choice for late-night eating and it's the waffle house. And they create this environment where no matter how blitzed you are or how normal you are, you are welcomed and treated equally with an experience. It's not just like, you know, eating a plate of food.

BOURDAIN: You're talking about all, the magical spiritual place.

BROCK: It's beyond a magical, spiritual place.

BOURDAIN: It is indeed marvelous. An irony free zone where everything is beautiful and nothing hurts for everybody regardless of race, creed, color, or degree of inebriation is welcomed.

[2:05:11] It's warm yellow glow, a beacon of hope and salvation inviting the hungry, the lost, the seriously hammered all across the south to come inside, a place of safety and nourishment. It never closes. It is always, always faithful, always there for you.

BROCK: When I was a kid, I was obsessed with this place because I wanted to be a chef. And this is the only place that I'd ever been to right, I actually watched people cook. Well this was actions to me. That would seem these people cooking at a pace and cooking for people who were completely out of control, but still providing hospitality. It was one of the things that really helped me fall in love with cooking.

BOURDAIN: Waffle house.

BROCK: Yes and cook, cook, cook, cook.

BOURDAIN: I never really know about this. I'm unbelievably in spite of my world travels, new to the wonders of the waffle house and unfamiliar with its ways. The terminology, for instance is new to me.

Now, I'm looking at my hash brown and I am already confused and enticed.

BROCK: Anything. BOURDAIN: This, sausage gravy.

BROCK: You can't go all in, if you want everything.

BOURDAIN: I know I need to make a choice.

BROCK: So there's a balance. And then when you find your balance, you memorize it.

BOURDAIN: Help me.

BROCK: I go scattered covered smothered chunks.

BOURDAIN: Which means I gather scattered on the griddle, heaped with brown onions, cheese, and chunks of hickory smoked ham.

BROCK: That's my style like, I've been doing that since day one. And I didn't even know what that means.

BOURDAIN: You know what I know, I don't want waffles at the waffle house.

BROCK: Bullshit men, you have to have...

BOURDAIN: Waffles?

BROCK: Ah OK. You have to call in waffle. Now so what I advice as...

BOURDAIN: All right.

BROCK: a chef is it, a tasting menu experience where you can sit down and really experience what this place does. And you start out first thing you have, pecan waffle.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, gentlemen.

BROCK: Oh the pecan waffles. Is crush it put (inaudible). I wanted it to be swimming in syrup and hydrogenase vegetable oil.

BOURDAIN: Oh that's good. That's good.

BROCK: See, you don't come here expecting the French Laundry. You come here expecting something amazing.

BOURDAIN: This is better than the French Laundry man.

BROCK: And then second course. Patty melt, split. Oh.

BOURDAIN: Patty melt.

BROCK: Patty melt.

BOURDAIN: Oh. BROCK: Come on. That's not insanely delicious.

BOURDAIN: Oh god damn.

BROCK: Not insanely delicious.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No meal is complete without a sunny side up egg.

BOURDAIN: Oh, yeah.

BROCK: And then a green salad with some thousand island dressing would be amazing. Would you rather have thin-cut pork chops or T- bone?

BOURDAIN: I would like both.

BROCK: Heinz 57 is the best, man. One or more complex sauces in the American repertoire.


BROCK: Do you want to talk shit about it. This is sauce work. Trust me, this is going to change your life.

BOURDAIN: Now that's wrong, man. Come on.

BROCK: Mmm. So is a brilliant human being got had a recipe, it was amazing and I think he got a bad rap.

BOURDAIN: Seems like you're talking about Ronald McDonald. He had a good idea. You know, no, you're wrong. I'm sorry. Here's where we part ways, my friend. Here's my sauce.

After a few bites of waffle, a burger, a hunk of generic T-bone and some hash browns, one feels drawn right to the center of what makes our country great. In America, yeah, moment, it dries me to climber up on the counter and start reciting Walt Whitman, the stars spangled banner, who say can you see, and, you know, what I doubt I'd be the first.

Oh my god.

BROCK: Give me a break.

BOURDAIN: The umami have it.

BROCK: Yes, yeah, give me a break.

BOURDAIN: You know what umami means in Japanese? Actually, the literal transition of the umami.

BROCK: Orgasm?

BOURDAIN: No. Umami means in Japanese, literally it means, "I will smock your, divide you in half."

[21:10:07] That burger.

BROCK: You and you buy some pork chop.


BOURDAIN: Everybody needs a place. A community, something larger than one's self to care about to be part of. A place to hide when times get tough, where you're accepted for who you are, where the rhythms of a summer afternoon, the crack of a bat, the roar of the crowd, our music.

Behold the mighty Charleston RiverDogs, a minor league feeder team for the New York Yankees. Meet one of the owners of the Charleston RiverDogs, Charleston resident, Bill Murray.

BILL MURRAY, CHARLESTON RIVERDOGS CO-OWNER: He said I had too many beers to drive. I'm going to take shotgun.

UNKNOWN MALE: We're going to see how fast he can go all the way around the outfield.

BOURDAIN: Today, the RiverDogs are facing the evil forces of the dreaded Savannah Sand Gnats.

MURRAY: That's going to score a run and that's going to leave a mark. We got the whole lead.

BOURDAIN: Bad day for the Sand Gnats.

MURRAY: You're hated, you're hated.

BOURDAIN: We will crush you like that, well, Sand Gnat.

MURRAY: Has Sand Gnat has almost no backbone, almost no skeletal structure. They fold.

BOURDAIN: As difficult as it might have been to forego the joys of the bacon-wrapped foot long corn dog known as the pig on a stick, we knew we'd be coming here.

[21:15:02] Husk, Sean's restaurant in downtown Charleston, one of two that have helped make the city a fine dining destination.

So I want to know, southern living. It's very different up there and down here. It's a big transition, easy for you, or not?

MURRAY: It's easy. You know, I do driving was the real transition because I drive, like, in New York person and when you come here, driving like New York, you know. It takes you a while to recover but, you know, I'm right on the edge here, like telling people that this is a really nice place to come and really I don't want anyone else to come. I like it the way it is. There's a lot of insects. It's really, really hot in the summer. And the traffic is worse than it ever was.

BOURDAIN: Husk directly addresses southern culinary traditions using the best of modern techniques, but always, always respecting the originals and who made them. It's a pressing matter to redefine southern food. If I were a southerner, I would, I would make it a personal mission because it was distorted for so long. But as a northerner, why should northerners care?

BROCK: Well, I think if you look at the history of food in America. Well, there's no denying that southern food was the first. There true cuisine that had this foundation and that's important to preserve and yeah, you know, to me both and it goes back to the idea. It should be, you should be cooking and preserving and celebrating the food of your grandmother.

MURRAY: People take a real pride in their ability to cook my aunt's recipe, my grandma's recipe. And this is how we made these. And the standard of food here is so high that when I go around any place, I just go.

BOURDAIN: Country ham, bread and butter pickles, and, of course, Sean being Sean, there will be burden.

BROCK: I was like to start a meal with pickles and ham. I try not to geek out too much, but this is a very special breed of pig that came over here in the 1500s. It's called Ossabaw. The Spaniards brought it. It has a very particular flavor. This one's aged three years.

BOURDAIN: That's ridiculously good. That's the best American ham I've ever had.

BOCK: No, thank you.

BOURDAIN: By the way, that was unbelievable.

BROCK: These two things together, is my two favorite things in the whole entire world. Spits in well in whiskey and old country ham. So this is an old dish that I dug up in one of those old books that I study. It's an old-fashioned oyster pie. So just grab your spoon and just dig all the way down. The oysters are in the bottom.

BOURDAIN: How old is this recipe?

BROCK: It was well-documented in the 19th century, pre-civil war.

BOURDAIN: It's good.

MURRAY: Is it?


BROCK: So shrimp and grits is the dish of Charleston. I mean, it really is. It's the dish I crave when I leave Charleston and come back. This version is one of the older ones or we actually make hominy first by mixilizing (ph) the corn. So you'll taste a little, the grits are a little bit different.

BOURDAIN: Oh, yes. That's really great looking.

BROCK: Then we make a brown gravy which is the most classic way and on top, crispy pig ears.

BOURDAIN: You got grannies coming in saying I haven't tasted this since I was a little kid?

BROCK: Yeah, exactly, man.

BOURDAIN: Wow, it's good.

BROCK: We were trying to replicate the emotion of the southern food provides you in a time where good ingredients weren't available. So we've made up for tasteless ingredients by frying them or dumping butter on them.


BROCK: Now we don't have to.

MURRAY: Wow. What's going on here? This is an onslaught of awesomeness here.

BROCK: We didn't order this. So it happens on so pit beans into the cooking over the fire all day.

[21:20:00] These are the red peas that came grills Africa. This is the original Carolina gold rice. Hand harvested with any grilled whiting which is like nobody eats in Charleston in restaurants as everybody eats in home with some spring vegetables it in. And the suckling pig at the same breed Ossabaw as we had earlier with the ham, mixed with them on mule foot, cooked on a spit some creamed corn and corn bread.

BOURDAIN: Wow, well this is going to be my first mule foot.

BROCK: This is like my favorite way to eat, you know, just family- style, pass stuff around.

BOURDAIN: Yeah. The rice is amazing.

BROCK: It's amazing.

BOURDAIN: Yep. You see Bubba Gump, do you get angry?

BROCK: I am very angry.

BOURDAIN: For me, it's Chili's, because you see Chili's along the Mexican border. Like what the (inaudible)? I said we have a shortage of Mexicans in this money, does it get shortage of good food? You're eating the chili's? I really want to like pull up the car, get a tire iron, and walk in and just straighten some people out.

BROCK: Clean house. Road House style.

BOURDAIN: Road House. Vastly under rated film.

MURRAY: You guys are both into Road House? BOURDAIN: Such a great film. So easy, what else do we need to know? You can deconstruct this film forever. The more you watch it, the more mysteries unfold.

MURRAY: I've never seen anyone enjoy Road House more than I do.

BROCK: What?

MURRAY: My friend's wife, Kelly Lynch, plays the doctor that stitches up Patrick Swayze in the movie. She's the romantic interest, right? The unattainable...


MURRAY: ... romantic interest. And I have for the last, I don't know, probably about 25 years, called his home in the middle of the night and said, "You don't know me, but your wife's getting slammed up against the wall by Patrick Swayze. She's not putting up much of a fight." And then hang up.

BOURDAIN: It is in many ways a perfect film.

BROCK: It's a whiskey talking.



BOURDAIN: What is down home southern cooking? Where did it come from? Who's responsible? Well, it's always useful when asking those kinds of questions wherever you are to ask, first, who did the cooking back then in the beginning? Where did they come from?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you meet people here, you know that you're seeing a direct descendant of a slave that was here after the slaves were freed.

BOURDAIN: Ashley Green (ph) grew up on Mosquito Beach on James Island in Charleston. Her mother owns the property which has been in her family for generations. Fact of the matter is, in the old south back when the dishes, flavors, and ingredients of southern cooking, which to say American cooking as opposed to European, chances are that food was grown, gathered, produced and prepared by African slaves.

Chef BJ Dennis has made it a personal mission to celebrate and protect the culinary traditions his ancestors passed down to him.

BJ DENNIS, CHEF: Well, this some local blue crab, just fresh and seasoned. This is a play on some garlic crabs, well this is shrimp butter instead of the garlic butter. And then you have that play, you know, the french influence into the cuisine right here.

BOURDAIN: The flavors and textures and food ways of West Africa are all over southern cooking. And there are few better places to see how short the line between there and here than Gullah culture. I'm really enjoying this. I got to tell you. BROCK: This is so delicious.


BOURDAIN: How African is traditional Gullah cooking?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I think what happens is you change the location of the people but you did not change who the people were. You did not change the information that they came with, with their traditions.

BROCK: Now, if you look at the history of American food, now, you'll quickly see that this is one of the first true cuisines of America.

BOURDAIN: Oh, what's that? What is this? This looks good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) West Africa.