Seattle’s reputation around the country is one of a city being completely disrupted by the technology industry.
Much of the episode, which debuted this past Sunday — you can see highlights and a recap of the Seattle episode here — focused on how tech companies and their workers are redefining a city “with a collective identity constantly in flux, always changing.”
“But what it’s always been and continues to be, is a magnet for creators to come experiment and to make their own,” Bourdain narrates in the show’s opening scenes.
The episode, which features some impressive cinematography that captures Seattle’s beauty, immediately dives into the juxtaposition of artists and musicians — now Seattle’s “creators” of the past, perhaps — that are being replaced by “tech bros.”
“Now it’s a new kind of boom — Microsoft, Google, Twitter, Expedia, and Amazon are the big dogs in town,” Bourdain says. “A flood of them, tech industry workers, mostly male, derisively referred to as tech boys or tech bros, rapidly changing the DNA of the city, rewiring it to satisfy their own newly-empowered nerdly appetites.”
At Pacific Inn Pub in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Bourdain meets with Dustin Patterson and Astra Elane of the band The Gods Themselves, which wrote a song called Tech Boys described by Bourdain as an “iconic hate anthem.”
“Neutral colored clothing, they are easy to spot,” Elane says of the tech workers in Seattle. “They have a walk. They are just all the same; there is nothing that really stands out about them. They are so dull.”
Elane adds that the “nerdier tech boys will have that mildewy smell.”
Bourdain also visits Capitol Hill, “the new weekend stomping ground of breeders from the tech companies — and the locals are displeased,” he notes. Street artist John Criscitello shares the same sentiment toward tech workers, telling Bourdain how they’ve driven up housing costs and forced artists out of the neighborhood.
Bourdain later has lunch with GeekWire co-founders John Cook and Todd Bishop at Fremont’s Revel to get more perspective on the changes.
“There is an identity crisis — people are really starting to question what is Seattle and who is it,” Cook said. “You go back in the 90s and it was the city of grunge — now, I would say it’s the city of geeks. It’s boom town.”
Technology continues to be a focal point in the episode as Bourdain watches some VR porn with Seattle startup MiKandi, and meets with Intellectual Ventures chief Nathan Myhrvold to chat about high-tech cooking and eat bread made by the folks at Myhrvold’s Modernist Cuisine.
Here’s how Bourdain describes Seattle in his Field Notes blog:
I love Seattle. I’ve had many happy experiences there. From the beginning of my writing career, it’s a town that has welcomed me—probably because it was one of the first cities in America to embrace chefs and new restaurant ideas, to loudly celebrate their local ingredients and local producers. It was a foodie town long before the word foodie existed and will be when that loathsome term is long dead and buried. Demographically speaking, it’s a town that likes talking about food, eating food, reading about food—and, in my case, stories about people who make food.
It’s a strange and beautiful place: gray, rainy, moody, and culturally rich—a place that seems to weed out those who are less than determined to reinvent themselves, break away from the pack, do their own thing however oddball it may be. It’s also yet another American city in transition: changing from company town to music town to tech center, with all the good and bad that comes with that.
Bourdain, who also spends time talking about and smoking legal pot, said the real reason he came to Seattle for Parts Unknown was his fandom for Mark Lanegan, the singer-songwriter from Seattle who got his start playing music during the city’s grunge era but has since moved away.
“It should come as no surprise that the episode closes with a lengthy chat between Bourdain and storied musician Mark Lanegan (who no longer lives in Seattle, by the way) about why It Used to Be Better,” the Seattle Met wrote in its recap.
The episode establishes the “clash” between old and new Seattle, one created by the influx of tech workers, and leaves viewers wondering what the future holds for a city that “has always been a place where you can go to reinvent yourself,” as Bourdain describes.
Here’s some reaction to the episode:
I like Anthony Bourdain, but tonight's @PartsUnknownCNN set in #Seattle was absolutely terrible. Just negative stereotype after negative stereotype. Not everyone here smokes weed everyday or hates what tech companies are bringing to this city.
— Wes (@WesDorne) November 20, 2017
@Bourdain Excellent represention of Seattle locals on recent show. Many of us mourn the easy-goingness the city once contained. We are also very happy with our legal recreational status😸
— Gena Margason ❄ (@SEAGena) November 21, 2017
@PartsUnknownCNN @Bourdain brilliant Seattle bio. Music. Food. Culture. One of the best episodes I’ve experienced. @marklanegan much deserved recognition and tribute to the city. So well done. https://t.co/y1nT80UFUa
— Jamie Apodaca (@JamieApodaca) November 20, 2017
What a terrible representation of Seattle. All @Bourdain cared about was weed and serial killers. Disgusting representation of Seattle
— Chuck (@cfiterman) November 20, 2017
.@Bourdain Parts Unknown Seattle's episode, summarized:
* People who work in tech are bad for some reason
* Weed is cool
* Serial killers are everywhere
* Don't focus on the food and drinks they're not important
— Zach Lubarsky (@zachlubarsky) November 20, 2017
— Shawana Lee (@ShawanaLee) November 21, 2017