How many times has it happened that you’ve been on a business trip and found yourself in an unfamiliar city with just a few short hours to yourself? Do you stay in your room and watch a movie? Go to the hotel bar? That’s certainly not going to give you a taste for local culture.

Enter Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover, a series that premieres tonight on Travel + Escape. With each episode, the man who exposed the underbelly of the restaurant business with his book Kitchen Confidential and helps viewers explore new destinations with the series No Reservations, shows us where the locals go in the world's major cities — from New York to L.A. and Amsterdam to Montreal.

It’s a skewed worldview, he readily admits. But it’s his skewed worldview so you know you’re going to get the straight goods.

We chatted with Bourdain about the new show, travelling, life after the restaurant business and more.

You take viewers on an insider's tour of your home turf, Manhattan. Did you feel like an ambassador?

I don’t feel like an ambassador, but for this episode, I guess I’d like to be your guide. If you care what I say from previous books or shows and you are interested in what I say about Manhattan, then I hope I am a good guide.

In The Layover, are you generally showing places you know or are you discovering anything new yourself?

Well for No Reservations, I’m pretty much discovering new stuff. For Layover, whenever possible it’s about showing people places that we’ve already established as being good. Places that more often than not I’ve been to and find to be reliable or quirky or worth visiting from previous experiences.

I’m looking for local favourites. The places that locals would go to. I’m not talking about must-see destinations, I don’t really care about those places that much, which is sort of a skewed worldview, but that’s me.

bourdainlayover_newyorkcity1.jpgI would think, though, that once these episodes air, some of these local bars would get a sudden rush of outsiders, which is good for business but....

Yeah, it’s happened. It’s good for business but a lot of local bars we’ve highlighted, the original customers, turn around the next day and think, "Who the hell are all these people? You’ve ruined my bar."

You’ve obviously done a lot of travelling, do you have a favourite part of the world?

I love Southeast Asia. I’m always happy making television there, always happy travelling there. I love Spain and Italy very much. My wife is from Italy and we have family vacations there so those are places I love.

Food is so central to culture, no matter where you travel.

People are proud of their food and that’s the way to make friends. You eat what’s offered without fear or prejudice and you drink a lot with locals. It’s a very fast way to plunge into the deep end of a culture, I think.

You’ve been involved with the HBO series Treme. How did that come about?

David Simon called me about halfway through season one and asked me if I’d be interested in writing for the show. And, of course, I’ve become a huge Simon fan and I’m a huge fan of his work and I’ve been very involved with the whole chef story arc, the Janette  Desautel character, and it’s some of the most satisfying work I’ve ever done in my life. And I really enjoy the people I’m working with, it’s a lot of fun.

Were you the one to hook the show up with all the great New York chefs in season two?

Oh, yes, all of those guys. What’s great about working on the show is Eric Ripert and David Chang and Tom Colicchio — these are incredibly busy people, I mean they’re booked solid for the next year with commitments — but I call them up and say, "Would you be interested in being on Treme?" And it’s like, "Oh yeah, I’ll put it in my schedule" just like that, they’re such big fans of the show.

The storyline about Janette is great, especially her experience in New York last year.

Stay tuned, season three gets even more interesting.

Have you always been a writer?

I think I’ve always been a storyteller. A writer? I don’t know. I never really had time to write. But given the opportunity to tell a story, I certainly will. I was writing before I started making television. Very soon after Kitchen Confidential came out, I was offered my first TV show. I think both writing books and writing television or talking on television is a continuation of oral storytelling. I’m the guy who started in my kitchen telling stories and bullshitting with other chefs. I just like to talk, I guess.

You’ve been out of the kitchen for a while now, do you miss it at all?

No, it’s been 10 years since I’ve done anything in the kitchen. I’m pretty happy about the way things turned out. I was 44 when Kitchen Confidential came out and my powers in the kitchen were not increasing or getting any better. I certainly wasn’t getting any faster or smarter or more creative and, of course, physically it’s a very demanding thing. The timing was good.

Since that time, we’ve seen chefs emerge as personalities and even celebrities. Has that been a good evolution?

No doubt about it. Chefs have more prestige these days and they have more power. People actually care what the chef thinks. You can see that in play in restaurants now.  The customer doesn’t go in there and thinking I want steak and that’s it any more. The customer actually cares what the chef thinks they should eat now more often than not. And that’s good. Who knows better?

Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover premieres tonight, Wednesday, April 11 on Travel + Escape at 10 p.m. ET.

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