How Anthony Bourdain Really Felt About Filming In Sicily

Anthony Bourdain is remembered for approaching the places to which he traveled with an open mind and in doing so presenting the viewer with a complex picture of the locale. This makes his reflections on Sicily, which were later posted to the "Parts Unknown" website, even more striking: "Why, why, why can't I get Sicily right?" 

Bourdain had tried twice to make an episode about the island. Once for "No Reservations" and once for "Parts Unknown." The issue, as he wrote, was that "wanting nothing more complicated than a bowl of pasta, a crust of bread, a view — on an island loaded with all those things — I seem always to end up on a pitching boat, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, with some well-intentioned local throwing dead seafood in my general direction." This is a direct reference to the "Parts Unknown" episode in which he goes on a fishing trip with a Sicilian chef. They were to catch some fish, which would then be cooked for a meal. However, as Bourdain dove into the water, frozen seafood was hurled after him.

It was so touristy, so inauthentic, so not what Bourdain typically does, that he suffered a breakdown for the rest of the episode. He began to drink heavily to the point that he could not remember the rest of the day.

Sicily should have been a red flag

Of course, this episode of "Parts Unknown" takes on a darker undertone when viewed in the light of Bourdain's death. The episode is filled with voiceover snippets like the following, which was quoted by the Dallas Observer: "Complicit in a shameful shameful incident of fakery, but there I was bobbing listlessly in the water with dead sea life sinking to the bottom all around me. You've got to be pretty immune to the world to not see the obvious metaphor here." At the time, it was perhaps self-deprecation, but it may have been a warning sign that Bourdain was teetering on the brink.

The rest of the episode descends even further until, as Eater quotes, he says about his last night in Sicily: "I may look normal — okay, I don't exactly — but I'm not barking uncontrollably or running around shrieking with my pants wrapped around my head. Which is what my instincts tell me I should be doing."

What seems to have jarred him so much was that he believed he had failed to put forth an authentic view of Sicily. Talking to Forbes, he declared that after two attempts in which people tried to stage scenes for him, he would never film another episode about the place. That intense personal feeling over a mishap now rings clear on reviewings and rereadings of old interviews.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.