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.” (more…)
Anthony Bourdain (Bore-Dane) was once this hot-shot chef who worked in some of the best restaurants in the world. To him, I’m sure that feels like several lifetimes ago. Today and for the better part of the last two decades, Bourdain has had what I think is one of the best jobs on the planet. That job? Traveling that planet in ways that are beyond what any adventure-seeker or foodie would dare dream of.
He has ping-ponged between cable networks and countries over the years with an array of different shows but always revolving around food. Currently his show Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown is in its fifth season on CNN. You can find the first four seasons, along with several seasons and episodes of his previous shows (No Reservations, Layover, and Mind Of A Chef, which he narrates) on Netflix. In addition, the award-winning cinematography in all of these shows give a visual interpretation of that part of the world, the food, and the culture for all its beauty and uniqueness.
Bourdain is able to immerse himself and adapt within any culture almost immediately. He shows all of us what it’s like to be there from the eyes of a local. He shows you the restaurants and foods that only they (the locals) frequent and eat. Whether he’s seated at a formal dining table, in line at a food truck, or at a farmer’s market, he always shares a meal with the local youth, historians, academics, and even rebels talking about the history and current events of that locale. Bourdain’s New York City bravado, insightfulness, fearlessness, & hilarious and often vulgar manner of speaking somehow puts all of these people at ease.
Sadly, there have been cases where some of the people he’s spoken to end up in prison arguably because the messages of hope they share for a better life for themselves and their countrymen go against that government’s oppressive regime.
Bourdain has undeniably proven that food is so much more than something necessary for basic survival. Food IS a universal language that breaks through social, economical, cultural, and political barriers. He has traveled to places most of us would probably be too scared to visit; much less document for the world to see given their history. Places like Russia, Iran, Cuba, and Central Africa. He has also visited many of the major cities in the USA that have an array of unique cuisine with a rich history and/or obvious international influence. Places like New Orleans, Boston, Seattle, and (of course) Miami.
Anthony Bourdain is almost like the Big Bird for adults. He teaches you about the different people, cultures, and food from around the world in the most honest and unapologetic way. He is also an accomplished author having written several books about his life experiences, travels, and culinary training that definitely deserve your attention.
I have written a few times before on here about Anthony Bourdain’s life and his work. He was a line cook until he got really lucky and wrote his way to the top of the news, entertainment, travel, and culinary circles. I have called his writing “poetry with a serrated edge.” As I became more and more familiar with his work both in television and print, I quickly realized that his artistic voice was one of the most intelligent I had ever heard. I watched and read everything he was in. I watched and read what he had mentioned to be his inspirations. I even managed to secure an autographed copy of his last cookbook before his death. Needless to say, I’m a big fan.
When I learned about the inevitable documentary that I was certain would be made about his life after his death, I was excited but also afraid. I was afraid of one of my literary heroes being portrayed not as a monster, but as a man who lived a life of unspeakable pain with no relief in sight. During the two-hour run time of the Morgan Neville documentary, my conclusion was simple. Anthony Bourdain was a genius who had traveled over 660,000 miles (the equivalent of circumventing the globe twenty-six times) in search for purpose.
He was a man who would become obsessed with pretty much anything and everything that held his attention. He was a loving father even though he traveled over 200 days a year. He was painfully shy and awkward. He was an enigma; and every one of his fellow friends, chefs, journalists, family members and film crew shared their memories in a way that would be considered as unapologetic as Bourdain himself.
I recently came across somewhat of a controversy that the director used AI (Artificial Intelligence) to digitally recreated his voice for three lines in the film as part of the VoiceOver narration. I can see and understand why this can be seen as downright creepy and unethical. However, the lines that were digitally created were from emails that he had written to colleagues and friends. Again, I can understand the questionable judgement here on the side of the director, but at least he didn’t (as far as I know) digitally put words in the mouth of a ghost that were never there before.
Whether you’re familiar with Anthony Bourdain or not, I would highly recommend this documentary as a very intimate look inside the life of one of the most unique and unabashed people of the last twenty years.
We’ve all been given some variation of (if not this exact) prompt in school. Probably several times over. “If I could spend a day with anyone in the world, it would be…” and off you would go on your homework adventure. 99.9% of the time, we’d choose a favorite celebrity of ours. We think it’d be so cool to spend a day to hang out with them. To talk to them about their craft or expertise. To learn from what we believe to be the best at whatever it is that they do.
Now who’s thought of that as an adult? I have. Not only have I thought of it, I’ve become a little obsessed with the fantasy of it. Over time, its’ become a bucket list of sorts. The situation is as follows, however: I have several and specific interests. I think it’s only fitting that I be able to choose multiple people depending on my interest and hobby. Much like how I broke down who would direct my perfect movie based on a Three-Act Structure, here are who I would hang out with based on a particular topic of conversation or activity.
Ground rule: In order for any of my choices to have even a hairline of possibility, everyone on my list are people who are still living at the time of this publication. (more…)