Who are we and where do we come from? To what extent are we the sum of our parts? I wonder about stuff like that. My friend Marcus Samuelsson pondered exactly those things as he and his wife Maya took me back to Ethiopia, to the towns they were born–and told me their fascinating stories.
I’d been meaning and hoping to visit Ethiopia and make a show there for years. But I would never consider doing it without Marcus coming along to put a personal spin on things. It’s always better, I think, when we can see a new or unfamiliar place through a specific set of eyes, to have a particular voice telling us about a place. Marcus, of course, is a very well-known and respected chef with a number of businesses. I had to wait a few years for the schedules of two very busy people to align, but we got there in the end.
Ethiopia is a big, diverse place. Marcus and Maya come from two very different, distinct regions: different topography, different cuisine, different languages. They both left Ethiopia at different times in their lives and under very different circumstances. Maya has remained close to her family and [is] a more frequent visitor. Marcus has, only in the last few years, fully sought to investigate and engage family roots that were broken when he was an infant. So, watching the two of them experience Ethiopia in their own ways–and yet also, together, was fascinating.
I learned a lot about a beautiful country while making this episode, and enjoyed doing it. I hope you will too.
Great food, great music, and some really, deeply personal stories.
Bourdain published a version of this to Medium on October 24, 2015.
Highlights from Ethiopia on Explore Parts Unknown: