CNN’s newest food-and-travel–themed docuseries star is Carlton McCoy, the Master Sommelier and former Little Nell wine director who is now managing partner at Napa-based Lawrence Wine Estates, representing Heitz Cellar, Burgess Cellars, Ink Grade, Stony Hill and Brendel. As if overseeing five high-end Napa properties weren’t enough, McCoy has been traveling the globe in his spare time, camera crew in tow, on a journey to discover new cuisines and cultures in exotic locales from Paris to Ghana to Seoul to Mississippi.
Nomad with Carlton McCoy, which premieres this Sunday, May 1, follows the wine pro on his quest for authentic food, drink and culture, and his travels frequently land him far from the beaten path. It’s an Anthony Bourdain–style adventure into undiscovered neighborhoods, “to celebrate diversity by celebrating what makes us unique and the same,” declares McCoy.
What was originally conceived as a wine-oriented travel show turned into a much deeper and thought-provoking experience for McCoy. “I wanted to show what is relevant now, what is the authentic culture of the place,” McCoy told Wine Spectator. “Wine became a small part of the conversation. [Nomad] became about being able to connect with cultures … throughout the world.”
Paris—home to perhaps the world’s best-known and most thoroughly covered dining scene—is the setting for Nomad’s debut episode, which is set to a soundtrack of French hip-hop. But McCoy eschews (at first) the white tablecloths of the Champs-Élysées for the City of Light’s less affluent suburbs, or banlieues—areas where France’s vibrant African, Middle Eastern and Asian immigrant communities are thriving, and where the cuisine represents a true fusion of these diverse ethnicities and cultures.
“This is the banlieue, where a six-lane highway separates two places that are right next to each other, but emotionally and philosophically they’re sort of a world apart,” says McCoy. “No one comes to these neighborhoods—Americans really don’t. Who’s going to tell you to come here? How would you find out about it? It’s not in the pamphlet …”
And of course, there’s wine. In the St.-Ouen banlieue, McCoy shares a table with minimal-intervention wine distributor Fleur Godart and African-French fusion chef Alcidia Vulbaud; they discuss the hot-button topic of “natural” wine over bottles of Godart’s Vins & Volailles Cuvées Miltantes Male Tears Alsace Riesling and McCoy’s Ink Grade Howell Mountain Cabernet.
Carlton eventually does venture to the Champs-Élysées, to illustrate how the soulful outskirts of the banlieues influence the highest levels of French cuisine at Le Clarence, owned by the family of Prince Robert de Luxembourg (Château Haut-Brion) and helmed by banlieue-raised chef and “haute-cuisine disruptor” Christophe Pelé. There McCoy finds a glass of Haut-Brion (“like the Lamborghini of French wine”) and a consommé made in the style of Vietnamese pho. “Classic French dishes turned on their heads,” McCoy enthuses. “Some may see this as non-traditional, but to be honest with you, this is authentic French cooking.”
Nomad will inevitably draw comparisons with its CNN docuseries predecessors, notably Bourdain’s Parts Unknown and Stanley Tucci’s Searching for Italy, season 2 of which will also debut May 1. But Nomad is uniquely McCoy’s, drawing deeply on his own upbringing in a rough “banlieue” of Washington, D.C., and his Black and Jewish heritage.
Nomad with Carlton McCoy premieres Sunday, May 1, at 10 p.m. ET on CNN.
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