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This Sunday Anthony Bourdain will invoke the flavors of Cuba, a country slowly opening up to the U.S. but still largely unknown to most Americans, with the Season 6 premiere of his “Parts Unknown” series.
Skift was given access to the show prior to its airing on September 27.
Bourdain became one of the first U.S. TV show hosts to visit the island nation 90 miles off the coast of Florida since President Obama told the world last December the U.S. would normalize relations with Cuba. Conan O’Brien, for example, visited earlier this year and laughed his way through Havana’s vivacious streets.
During his visit Bourdain traveled to Havana, Cuba’s capital and largest city, and Santiago de Cuba, the country’s second largest city. He witnessed signs of Cuban society inching closer to more freedoms that began emerging even before Obama’s historic announcement, according to locals interviewed for the episode.
A Havana paladar, or family run Cuban restaurant, that Bourdain visits was serving sushi and he recalls that the last time he was in Havana paladars usually only dished out rice and beans.
Through the stories of local entrepreneurs, restauranteurs, an internationally acclaimed author, hip hop artists and a journalist, the common theme that reverberated throughout the episode is imminent change.
Although the pace of change is still uncertain.
“This period we’re in right now is the lull before it all hits,” said Jon Lee Anderson, a staff writer for The New Yorker who previously lived in Cuba and shared a meal with Bourdain in Havana’s Chinatown. “The train is coming and it’s going to roar by and [the Cuban people] will either be able to jump on and go with it or it’s going to derail and it’ll be a mess. All of it’s possible.”
Anderson said Cubans renting out rooms in their homes for $30 to $40 a day is more than a Cuban state employee would make in three months and added overall visitor arrivals are up since the beginning of the year.
Talking to a group of restaurant owners on a beach in Santiago de Cuba, Bourdain was told Americans don’t know what they want from a visit to Cuba but he quipped that hotels and restaurants should invest in piña colada machines.
The episode airs this Sunday at 9 p.m. EST on CNN. This season will also profile Marseille, Okinawa, Ethiopia, the Bay Area of California, Borneo, Istanbul and Charleston, South Carolina.