The 10 Best Quotes from President Obama's Dinner Conversation with Anthony Bourdain

Photo: CNN

On the season premiere of Parts Unknown on Sunday, Anthony Bourdain took viewers on a tour of Hanoi, Vietnam. From the friendly locals to the stunning views of Ha Long Bay, there are dozens of memorable moments from the one-hour episode. But Bourdain’s most notable guest to date, President Barack Obama, undoubtedly stole the show.

In the middle of a tropical downpour the pair tuck into a no-frills restaurant in the outskirts of Hanoi for a bowl of Bun Cha — a Vietnamese pork and noodle dish — and a cold beer. Seated on small plastic stools, they touch on the beauty of Vietnam, hot dogs, and parenting skills. Below is a list of highlights from the wide-ranging conversation:


1. While waiting for Obama to arrive: “The lady selling vegetables and gum and cigarettes, taking a nap under a piece of corrugated tin has no idea what’s about to happen,” says Bourdain.

2. Obama on his nostalgia for the area: “Markets like these, I grew up with when I was a kid in Jakarta. These were basically the only markets available. You would buy pretty much everything in stalls like this. I wouldn’t mind going in there haggling and seeing what I could find.”

3. Obama on the aroma of Vietnam: “There are certain spices that you can smell in certain countries that you just don’t smell back home. Now there are some smells that aren’t as appealing as well but that’s part of the mix.”

4. Bourdain on his restaurant pick: “There is no better place to entertain the leader of the free world, in my opinion, than one of these classic, funky family-run noodle shops you find all over Hanoi. Dinner and a beer cost about $6. I’m guessing the president doesn’t get a lot of state dinners like this.”

5. Obama on the downside of dining out with the First Lady: “Once in a while, I’ll take Michelle out on a date night. The problem is, part of enjoying a restaurant is sitting with other patrons and enjoying the atmosphere and too often we end up getting shunted into one of those private rooms in the back.”

WATCH THIS: Anthony Bourdain and Anderson Cooper Eat Sea Urchin

6. Bourdain on Bun Cha garnishes: “If you have an important state function after you might not want to go too heavy on the garlic.”

7. Bourdain on Obama’s chopstick skills: “It takes some skills, by the way, to handle these sticky cold noodles but, whatever your opinion of the man, the President has those skills, I got to say.”

8. Obama on whether ketchup on hot dogs is acceptable: “No. I mean that. That’s one of those things — let me put it this way, it’s not acceptable past the age of eight.”

9. On breakfast protocol: “My daughter’s eight and she put ketchup on eggs the other day,” says Bourdain, “and I didn’t know what good parenting called for at this point.” Adds Obama: “An intervention. I think you just got to say, you know what, this is not acceptable.”

10. Obama on whether the world will be a better place in 5-10 years: “I think progress is not a straight line. There are going to be moments in any given part of the world where things are terrible but having said all that, I think things are gonna work out.”

Parts Unknown airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on CNN.

Related Articles