Celebrity Chef Bourdain Visits Armenia, Karabakh, Probably Not Azerbaijan
American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain has visited Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, to the delight of Armenians and the chagrin of Baku.
Bourdain visited the region last week, filming an episode of his CNN show Parts Unknown, in which he explores the exotic food cultures of various far-flung countries.
He was photographed enjoying an al fresco lunch near Shusha, in Karabakh. And he hobnobbed with several Armenian celebrities. His host in Shusha was well known journalist Tatul Hakobyan. In Yerevan he met Narek Margaryan and Sergey Sargsyan, the duo behind the TV show ArmComedy. And on twitter, Bourdain thanked Serj Tankian, the Armenian-American leader of the rock group System of a Down, for arranging the visit: "Thanks @serjtankian for finally getting me to Armenia and making it awesome."
At the lunch, Bourdain enjoyed Armenian dishes including "‘jingalov hats,’ ‘shila,’ ‘khorovatz,’ homemade Armenian yogurt, and mulberry and cornelian cherry vodka," Hakobyan's institute, the ANI Armenian Research Center, reported on its web page.
Bourdain also posted an instagram photo of an Mi-8 helicopter, apparently his transportation in and out of Karabakh, which is inaccessible to commercial air travel.
Bourdain's social media posts got hundreds of enthusiastic responses from Armenians, but elicited the ire of Baku. Karabakh is de jure part of Azerbaijan but has been under the de facto control of Armenian forces since a war between the two sides ended in 1994.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hikmet Hajiyev tweeted a number of responses to Bourdain, including: "@cnni to present ethnically cleansed land of #Azerbaijan by #Armenia as travel show shameful and #immoral. It must be stopped!" and "@cnni culinary show must be kept away from pol. propaganda as you try by this film propagate illegal regime in seized lands of #Azerbaijan."
Bourdain didn't respond to any of Hajiyev's tweets, and it's unknown what his position on Karabakh's status is.
Hajiyev later told the APA news agency that the ministry was looking into the affair and that "a decision will be made after the investigation."
Bourdain would thus seem to be headed for Azerbaijan's black list of foreigners who have visited Karabakh without Azerbaijani permission, whom Azerbaijan considers to have illegally crossed its borders.
If so, that would seem to rule out a future visit to Azerbaijan to try that country's cuisine; members of the Karabakh black list are forbidden entry to Azerbaijan.
That, then, would mean Bourdain couldn't complete the Caucasus trifecta. He visited Georgia in 2015, though the show that resulted rubbed many Georgians the wrong way for being "weird, glib and uninformative." The Armenia/Karabakh episode is reportedly scheduled to run in 2018.
Joshua Kucera, a senior correspondent, is Eurasianet's former Turkey/Caucasus editor and has written for the site since 2007.