Anthony Bourdain (1956-2018)
Less than a week ago, we all learned of the untimely and tragic passing of writer, producer, chef, and television personality, Anthony Bourdain. Bourdain hung himself in his hotel room in France. I honestly don’t remember exactly when or how I first noticed Bourdain on one of his many successful shows, but one thing was certain, once I discovered his shows, I was-to paraphrase Bourdain-“hungry for more.”
Even though he started out as a chef, his show was not your typical cooking show that you find today on The Food Network. Far from it.
He did discuss food and how it was made, but not to teach you how to make it yourself, or make you feel jealous that he is eating something so decadent or exotic that the average person would never get to try or be able to afford. He used food as a vehicle to transcend cultures and break language barriers; to better understand the sociology, politics, music, motivation, and of course, food, of the people with whom he met.
It wasn’t until a few years after I became fascinated with his TV shows that I learned about how he “made it.” He was 44 and working as a chef when he wrote a piece in The New Yorker titled Don’t Eat Before Reading This. It was from this that he wrote the 2000 national bestseller Kitchen Confidential, which is the #1 selling book on Amazon at the time that I am writing this post.
He has since written several cookbooks, novels, even the graphic novel series Get Jiro that I have in my personal collection that reads like an episode of Parts Unknown mixed in with a story of the son of a Yakuza crime boss who wants nothing more than to be a sushi chef.
I have written two posts about Bourdain in the past. One was an overall breakdown of his shows and a little biographical information, while the other was in a list I made of people I would love to meet before I died. Sadly, this is another one (after Robin Williams) that I won’t get to meet. But Bourdain will be remembered as one of the most creative and unapologetic people I ever read.
A few years ago I described his writing as “poetry with a serrated edge.” I have come to realize that it is also how he lived his life. He was a poet with a serrated edge. Constantly staying sharpened and resharpened. Because of course, you write what you know. He knew how to approach life in the most unique and fearless way. He had recently become a huge fan of BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.) He shamelessly and publicly called out atrocities wherever he saw them being committed. He got to share a meal with an acting president! There will never be another one like him.