Synopsis: Bourdain explores Ethiopia with the help of Ethiopia-born chef Marcus Samuelsson and his wife, Maya Haile. He gets a taste of the country’s skateboarding and music scenes in the capital city of Addis Ababa before visiting Samuelsson’s and Haile’s hometowns outside the capital. Along the way, Samuelsson reflects on his connection to his birthplace.
Fueled largely by direct foreign investment and a returning Ethiopian diaspora eager to be part of the new growth, things are changing in Addis.
On Addis Ababa’s economic and cultural renaissance:
- “Fueled largely by direct foreign investment and a returning Ethiopian diaspora eager to be part of the new growth, things are changing in Addis. [Ethiopia’s] one of the fastest growing economies in the world.”
- “In 1992 Addis emerged from the stifling 17-year grip of a hard-line, old-school Maoist regime called the Derg. Since then the town has been enjoying something of a musical renaissance. But the story of Ethiopian music all the way back to the beginning has been about finding ways to skirt authority, to mock it, even—to say what you want to say one way or the other.”
On Ethiopia’s recent history:
- [On dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam’s rule from 1977 to 1991] “Anyone deemed an enemy of the state—and this could be a very dangerously loose definition, but usually and typically included the educated, the well-off—and anyone associated with the former government were hunted down, shunned, jailed, harassed, and often straight-out killed.”
On life in Ethiopia’s countryside:
- “Addis is one thing, a city experiencing a renaissance of sorts, an economic boom. Outside of the city, the farther away one gets, one is reminded that in fact Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world.”
- “Here, as in much of Ethiopia, Muslims and Christians live side by side. … It’s a peculiar history of peaceful coexistence here, of which Ethiopians are quite proud. The Christians came here during the time of the Apostles, from the very beginnings of Christianity as a religion.”
On the affectionate gesture of gursha:
- “This stuffing of food in your fellow diners’ face is called gursha, and that’s what you do to show your affection and respect. Try this at the Waffle House some time and prepare for awkwardness.”
I feel at home in New York. I feel very much at home when I’m in Africa, but I also feel out of place.
Guests weigh in:
- Abenezer Temesgen (co-founder of Ethiopia Skate): “Back in the day, people wanted to get out from this country, just leave. But now they’re like, they just want to work, and their mind has changed. And everybody’s working together and working for the better.”
- Marcus Samuelsson: “There is a lot of Jesus in the bars.” Bourdain: “That’s the last thing I want to see in the bar, the disapproving gaze of a saint.”
- Samuelsson: “I feel at home in New York. I feel very much at home when I’m in Africa, but I also feel out of place. And coming to [Ethiopia], it gives me a lot of humility. But I can’t say it’s home.”