Nobody wants to think of Las Vegas as the cultural center of the country, but Bourdain's exploration of the decadent to the dreary suggests it's a better snapshot of the country than most want to admit.
“One of our roles here has always been to take away excess money from people who don’t know what to do with it, who can’t think of a better idea about how to spend their money.”
These are the revealing first words heard in the second episode of Parts Unkown‘s third season. And there are few other places where a local would talk about their home this way besides Las Vegas.
Anthony Bourdain arrives in Vegas in search of two worlds: one where “knuckleheads” spend more than $200,000 for an oversized bottle of champagne and another where locals persist despite seeing some of the worst human behavior.
For the journey, Bourdain teams up with chef and author Michael Ruhlman.
Their first stop is a local bar where a third-generation Vegas citizens admits that only about half the people she meets are bad eggs.
But its the locals’ cynicism that Bourdain is most drawn to and seems to revel in throughout the show.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, but located only a few miles away, Bourdain and Ruhlman indulge in a decadent meal in a suite usually reserved for the highest spending visitors on the strip. Bourdain battles with guilt over not feeling guilty about this superbly luxurious experience.
— Helen Cho (@HelenCho) April 21, 2014
Throughout the episode Bourdain bops around Vegas visiting old-school Italian restaurants where few visitors go to reminisce over the Vegas of yesteryear, Raku for seafood recommended by his chef friends, and a casino for a tamed down version of Texas Hold ‘Em.
In search of the nouveau entertainment controlling the Vegas strip, Bourdain and crew go to the nightclub Marquee on a Wednesday night.
Filming in that club was bonkers. Packed-packed-packed. Sweat dripping off the lens.
— Zach Zamboni (@zachzamboni) April 21, 2014
He writes about the experience on his blog saying that money spent on gambling, with at least small chance of a return, makes more sense to him than the tens of thousands spend on tables and champagne bottles.
“I wanted to know what kind of sick freaks would spend $25,000 to spray champagne on strangers. I never really found out, but apparently, there are a lot of them,” he writes.
Bourdain also adventures outside the strip to speak with one of the water police officers that make sure suburban homes aren’t using more water than allowed given the city’s recent water shortage. The surprising finding is that quintessential American lawn is more at fault for the city’s problems than the major casinos that work diligently to conserve water.
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Photo credit: Anthony Bourdain eats in a high-roller resort. CNN