Anthony Bourdain: The Chef Who Brought the World to Our Door
The world found out on June 8th, 2018 that Anthony Bourdain had died due to suicide, just days after we had learned of the same fate for fashion designer Kate Spade. Already reeling with the loss of Spade, the world was shocked to find that such a fun loving, warm, and successful chef and foodie such as Bourdain had lost his battle with his demons. While his absence will certainly be felt for years to come, what he left behind is a legacy that has influenced people and food around the globe.
“Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it’s a start.”
Bourdain fell in love with the world of food on a family vacation to France when he was a child and enjoyed his first oyster aboard a fishing boat. That simple oyster sparked a career that would take Bourdain all over the world, and in turn bring that world right to the doorsteps of foodies and those with wanderlust. Once he decided to pursue cooking as a career, he dropped out of school and began his work in seafood restaurants in Massachusetts.
“Your body is not a temple. It’s an amusement park, enjoy the ride.”
Bourdain’s love of people and his love of food spurred him to an education at the Culinary Institute of America which led him to the helm of numerous successful restaurants in New York City; Sullivan’s and Supper Club among them. His passion for good food spilled over into his beginnings as a writer and media presence. He truly felt that food is to be enjoyed, no matter what it is, and that people could live their lives to the fullest only by putting good food into their mouths and experiencing the joy that it brings.
“The journey is part of the experience - an expression of the seriousness of one’s intent. One doesn’t take the A train to Mecca.”
And journey he did. After publishing several top selling cookbooks, including “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly” and “Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook,” he began to appear on television, which is how much of the world was lucky enough to get to know him. Bourdain also published two non-fiction books, “A Cook’s Tour,” and “The Nasty Bits,” and was featured in Maxim, Esquire and the LA Times talking about food.
“Travel is not reward for working. It’s education for living.”
It was through his many televisions series that Bourdain really made a name for himself, showcasing his personable talent for interacting with the people he met all over the world. Through shows like A Cooks’ Tour, No Reservations and Parts Unknown, Bourdain demonstrated how willing he was to learn about the communities and people he visited and put the spotlight on them instead of making the show all about himself. He wanted his viewers to see less of him and more of the food and culture he was getting to see and experience. That was one of Bourdain’s great talents - making you feel like you were right there with him, wherever the wind happened to blow him on that episode.
“You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together.”
Bourdain was also well known for the strange things he was always willing to eat on his travels. While filming his programs, he ate, among other things, sheep’s testicles in Morocco, an entire cobra in Vietnam, ant eggs in Mexico and a warthog rectum in Namibia. Despite having eaten fermented shark in Iceland and raw seal eyeball with the Inuits, he stills calls the Chicken McNugget the most disgusting thing he ever ate. Though he was a proponent of using the whole animal and gained his glory from proving that you can eat just about anything, his personal connections with people and his drive to keep commercialism out of the cooking industry was one of his great claims to fame.
“Meals make the society, hold the fabric together in lots of ways that were charming and interesting and intoxicating to me.”
Always frank in his opinions, Bourdain didn’t hold back on his criticism of other big names in the American food industry, including Guy Fieri, Bobby Flay and Rachael Ray, calling them out for a lack of authenticity and driving the commercialism of celebrity cooking. However, he was human enough to recognize the irony in that as he also became a celebrity chef and foodie. He wasn’t always well-liked as evidenced by his outspoken feelings about the vegan and vegetarian lifestyle - calling it rude to the people who lived in the many places he visited. However, he did also say that Americans eat too much meat, but that he admires those who can put aside their aversion to it as respect when visiting other countries.
“And in that unforgettably sweet moment in my personal history, that the one moment still more alive for me than so many on the other ‘firsts’ that followed, I attained glory.”
Bourdain has been called a bad boy and a rebel, something that he may have proved with his known drug use, his heavy smoking and his statement that “hardly a decision was made without drugs,” during his time as a chef in New York City in the early 1980s. Bourdain was married twice and had one daughter who was born in 2007 and who is the reason he finally gave up cigarettes for good.
"I’ll be right here until they drag me off the line. I’m not going anywhere. I hope. It’s been an adventure. We took some casualties over the years. Things got broken. Things got lost. But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”
Anthony Bourdain changed the world one plate of food at a time. Whether he was the chef, or he was sampling the delicacies prepared for him in parts unknown, he touched the lives of many. His untimely death was gut wrenching for so many who had lived a foodie life vicariously through him. The tragic end to his life doesn’t negate his influence on so many. Thank you, Anthony Bourdain - your fearless love of food will live on in us forever.