Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown: Flavortown

*Originally published on Slackjaw, 2019

Aired March 4, 2018- 21:00 ET

Flavortown, USA

[21:00:06] ANTHONY BOURDAIN, CNN HOST (V.O): They say, and by “they” I mean Flavortonians, that forks and knives aren’t necessary. That napkins are a commodity, not a God-given right. That the man upstairs gave you two good hands to do all the dirty work. Why not use them?

It’s values like these that keep me coming back to Flavortown, USA, even when my doctor says I shouldn’t.

Flavortown isn’t so much a city, but a wide-spanning, country-inside-a-country, nationwide phenomenon; the “Vatican City,” if you will, of deep-fried cuisine. One dominated by religion. The other, by grease.

ED BISHOP, LOCAL: This is home. I’ll stay here until I die.

BOURDAIN: And you weren’t born in Flavortown, correct?

ED: Correct.

BOURDAIN: But you came here anyway.

ED: Yes.


ED: When Mr. Fieri said he’d be looking for me next time on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, I knew this is where I needed to be. I grabbed two bags of Cheetos and hit Route 66.

BOURDAIN: And you never looked back.

ED: That’s right, I never looked back. I tried once, but got a crick in my neck.

BOURDAIN: Does your family miss you?

ED: Yes, of course. But my old life was not satisfying. It was only about the hustle and grind. Here, it is about finding umami — that’s it.

BOURDAIN: Well that I can get behind.


[21:15:24] BOURDAIN (V.O): Flavortown’s population has doubled every year since 2011, when Cooking Channel rival Adam Richman suffered a heart attack while eating a 6,000 calorie cheeseburger in Las Vegas.

Known for its hearty dishes, sedentary lifestyles, and strict “Don’t ask how much I ate, don’t tell” policies, people here can claim freedoms other Americans can’t.

Flavortonians rise at 10 am to do their morning exercises: 30 chews from a chair, 30 slurps from a Big Gulp, followed by one painful attempt to touch their toes. Once finished, they head to the nearest funky joint to refuel.

Today we’re checking out Tummy Grumblin’, a speakeasy-turned-fried-chicken-joint where chef Betsy Dougherty is showing us the local F-Town digs.

BETSY DOUGHERTY, CHEF: — you let it sit overnight, slice, then serve.

BOURDAIN: And you’re telling me that’s how mayonnaise becomes an entree?


BOURDAIN: I see. And is it always served in a pig trough?

BETSY: Not always, no. Sometimes we blast it out of a fire hose.

BOURDAIN: Sounds dangerous.

BETSY: It is.

BOURDAIN (V.O.): The national dish, Slop, is traditionally prepared on Sundays. Betsy slow roasts pork belly, Gruyere cheese, and fried Oreos, then serves it wet and sloppy on a hand-rolled flip flop.

F-Towners are also notorious mixologists. Most meals start — and end — with a shot of Schwet, the liquor Flavortonians are famous for. Made with fermented chicken base and garlic salt, served chilled in a shot glass.

For reasons I can’t quite explain, I decided to give it a try.

BOURDAIN: Oof… Wow! I mean, I’d say it tastes like Sake, but there’s collagen floating in it.

BETSY: Yes. We call that “the mother”. It brings us good luck.

BOURDAIN: I don’t feel very lucky.

BETSY: Ha ha.


[21:42:17] BOURDAIN (V.O): Surprisingly, the streets are empty by mid-day. That’s because the hour from noon to one is reserved for worshipping the Great Leader, Czar, and Executive Chef of Flavortown, Guy Fieri.

Devoted locals like Sarah Schneider line the streets, always facing south to honor their declining health.

SARAH SCHNEIDER, LOCAL: Mr. Fieri is responsible for many great things: garlic flavored Tic-Tacs, buffets on cruise ships. We are grateful to him.

BOURDAIN: And you don’t feel oppressed?

SARAH: Oppressed? What do you mean?

BOURDAIN: (laughs)…Well, you don’t usually see this many people devote themselves to one supreme ruler when they have other options.

SARAH: Yes, well. For us, there are no other options. He is our one true ruler. Without him, there would be no us.


BOURDAIN (V.O): As is the case with all new nations, Flavortown’s political system is, how shall we say, still in its infancy. It’s not clear how long Mr. Fieri intends to stay seated on his throne — especially considering that by now, his legs must be asleep. And if the answer is ‘indefinitely,’ it’s unclear how Flavortonians will choose an heir in the likely event of their Great Ruler’s untimely death.

For now, Flavortonians, and the rest of America, must wait. And by wait, I mean heat up leftovers.