Anthony Bourdain made a documentary on Detroit — and it's looking for a home


Anthony Bourdain. - SHUTTERSTOCK
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  • Anthony Bourdain.

It's no secret that Anthony Bourdain ate Detroit up.

The beloved chef, travel documentarian, and author — who died by suicide last year in France while filming an episode of his long-running Travel Channel series, Parts Unknown — left behind a love letter to Detroit in the form of a documentary series. According to Bourdain's co-producer Lydia Tenaglia, the series’ future is uncertain.

Tenaglia told Freep that she is determined to “find a home for the project,” which was projected to air on CNN late last year but, following Bourdain's death and the project's additional required editing, rescinded its offer. Described by Tenaglia as being a “beautifully executed piece of television,” the completed four-part documentary does not center around Detroit's culinary culture — unlike the 2009 episode of Bourdain's No Reservations (which found Bourdain slurping down some mussels from Detroit's Cadieux Cafe) or the 2013 episode of Parts Unknown (when he ate his first real coney dog at Duly's, going as far as to call the combination of hotdog condiments “symphonic”).

Instead, the documentary is a visual interpretation of David Maraniss' 2015 book, Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story, which examines Detroit's history between 1962 and 1964.

Though the docuseries includes interviews with everyone from city historians, former police chiefs, and Motown heavy-hitters, a highlight is reportedly an interview with Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. The segment, which was filmed months before her death last year, focuses on Fraklin's father and his influential partnership with Martin Luther King Jr. at the head of the Civil Rights Movement.

Bourdain, who managed to remain a secondary character in both of his television travel series due to the candid and intimate nature, which kept the focus on the cities and subjects, does not appear onscreen during the four-hour, untitled documentary. Tenaglia says he was a strong force behind the scenes, approving outlines and had a say in each of the rough edits, adding that it was his “passion project.”

“I love Detroit. I love Detroiters. You’ve got to have a sense of humor to live in a city so relentlessly fucked. You’ve got to be tough—and occasionally even devious. And Detroiters are funny, tough—and supreme improvisers,” Bourdain wrote in a 2013 blog post. “They are also among the best and most fun drinkers in the country.”

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