Anthony Bourdain passed away at the age of 61 on June 8th, 2018, from an apparent suicide. The death left many around the world who were touched by his work reeling. From giving the public an insider’s look into our “culinary underbelly” inside kitchens across America in his best selling novel Kitchen Confidential, to opening our eyes to glimpses of far-flung kitchens and street markets around the world for many for the first time during his many food travel shows, Anthony Bourdian was a trailblazer for the food world in so many ways. Increasingly in recent years his shows have been more about the people behind the food than the food itself, showcasing that no matter where we are in the world, we all have many same commonalities.
I remember my first time seeing Anthony on TV, an episode of a Cook’s Tour on the Food Network. It was during college and I had just visited New York for the first time. Here he was in some pub in Tokyo, Japan eating sushi, drinking beer, and overall, having a great time. It was my first time seeing modern day Tokyo and probably was the first time for many other viewers as well, opening our horizons to new corners of the world. I think his adventures inspired so many others to travel, to see new things, to try new foods, and learn from new cultures not only around the world but maybe also down the street from our own neighborhoods, or on the other side of the tracks. For this, to inspire us all to see ourselves in the other, I will be forever grateful to Anthony and his work.
Recently, I asked a few of our local Orlando restauranteurs, writers, food publicists for their thoughts in memory of Anthony Bourdain. The impact he left on our own food scene in Orlando runs deep.
“It was September of 2005. Janet and I had returned from Spain. Hurricane Katrina had spared Key West during this time but went on to wreak famous havoc on New Orleans. We had been invited by Tony to do a show with him on Key West. Janet and I were living there again with the belief we had re-settled ‘for good’. Tony was in great spirits. He was becoming quite famous by then and folks on the streets were eager to meet him as we walked Duval. Showing him the place that formed the roots of my cuisine was more deeply rewarding than I can convey. His pirate and writer spirits were perfectly aligned on the Island. As we waited to shoot one scene he asked me if I might help him find a house to rent for a few months. He wanted to write a follow-up to ‘Kitchen Confidential’. We joked about all of the fun+trouble we could get into together. It was a fantasy I shall keep forever now … in fantasy land. Rest in Peace my Friend.” – Chef Norman Van Aken, 1921 by Norman Van Aken
“Tony was 2 years older than I but we grew with quite similar backgrounds as he lived in in Leonia, New Jersey (one town over from my hometown of Bogota). He spent his summers 2 towns up from me & my family home at the Jersey shore where he & I started our culinary careers. He went on to the CIA to get serious about cooking (I couldn’t afford the $12K to go there so I took a scholarship to play Basketball @ William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey. Jumping forward, Reading Kitchen Confidential profoundly changed my outlook on Kitchen life & was a sheer delight as he shared all the experiences of growing up in Jersey.
In 2000, my first year of being nominated for a James Beard award, I walked into the Hall at The Marriot Marquis in NYC where the awards were held & after checking in the first people I ran into was Mario Batali who I had known for some years & Tony. It was then that I was introduced to Tony & was able to share all my Jersey stories & shared a lot of laughs & I then passed along my appreciation for all of his work thus far. He shared that he had heard of me & my Texas colleagues who had a Chef’s Band & how cool that was. Before I left them, both Mario & Tony put their hands on my shoulders & shared “don’t worry Tim, You’ve got this- we voted for you”. Soooooooo Cool.
I also ran into him the next 3 years that I was nominated at the awards & we shared similar moments. Needless to say, I was deeply moved & it remains one of the highlights of my career.
Being a Monster Fan of Tony & Parts Unknown & all that he had achieved, I must say that I was crushed when I heard of his passing. The World lost a great one. God rest his Soul!!” – Chef Tim Keating, Urbain 40
“There’s a lot I could say – but I’ll keep it simple. I never met Anthony Bourdain, but his outlook on the world really shaped me to who I am today. I didn’t grow up traditionally Thai. Like a lot of half-asian kids, I spent a lot of my early teens just wanting to fit in with the white kids. Tony’s outlook on the world and his shows like No Reservations helped me see the world differently, and largely made me see that my Thai heritage was something beautiful to be proud of. Not only that, his books and shows taught me that cooking was something honorable to do. I re-read Kitchen Confidential last year when I was staging in thailand. I would read 20 pages every day before I went into work. It made me excited about what I was about to do. It still does.” – Dylan Eitharong, Bangrak Thai Street Kitchen
“Kitchen Confidential was published in 2000 and was a huge influence in our lives as we prepared to attend culinary school in New York. We’ll never forget the thrill of devouring the book and realizing there was a whole world of people out there having experiences similar to ours. It opened our eyes and was a catalyst that has everything to do with who we are today. ” – Alexia and Rhys Gawlak, Swine and Sons
“I have a fair amount I wrote down that day but to keep it short. Anthony was a voice that made us proud to cook and BE cooks or hospitality workers rather than be ashamed of our seemingly endless toil in uncomfortably hot and painful places. All in all, he was an inspiration and like a wise man who had seen it all from our perspective and told the world but also became a voice in the world telling everyone about the adventure, pain, camaraderie, and joy of it all. I’ll always feel very lucky he wrote what he did and became who he did because i feel like a whole generation of cooks owe him a lot of our success.” – Chef Bruno Zacchini, Pizza Bruno
“I have kept quiet on the Anthony Bourdain situation for the last few days now. While everyone else posted their pictures, memories and condolences, I decided I would like to reflect and figure out the right way to describe how his work has impacted me. Despite the incredible fame he received from his tv shows and the platform they extended to him, I never really watched them. That’s not to say I wasn’t a fan of Bourdain, that is just to say that, those shows were not why I was a fan of Bourdain. The thing I liked most about him was his unfiltered and completely real portrayal of kitchen life. He was completely transparent in his work whether through interviews, articles, or books about what life is like in the kitchen. He is probably one of the main characters who actually shed light on the barbaric personalities and lifestyle you must live to be in a professional kitchen, at least prior to recent times. Bourdain’s biggest contribution to my life was that he showed that a cook can have other talents as well. I have been writing for months now nonstop but have not found anything I wanted to publish. I find it very befitting that this piece might very well be the first thing that I do.” – Joseph Roberti, Pizzeria Roberti – read the full piece here: https://medium.com/@josephroberti/in-memory-of-anthony-bourdain-a94dcf14c51b
“Hawkers’ entire concept was based on the idea that thanks to Anthony Bourdain and his loyal foodie community, Americans were finally ready to try, even embrace, flavors and textures from global cuisine that had been previously kept secret, shared only by locals. Chef Bourdain had a coolness about him that was palpable. His raw, bold, no-nonsense approach was the only fit for introducing the world to authentic food, cultures, and traditions – no one else could have done what he did. He taught me that pushing the envelope means more than just being adventurous. It means being appreciative and respectful of what other cultures have been enjoying for generations – flavors and foods that we are now lucky enough to enjoy, too. As my 71-year old mother said, “food today is what Rock N’ Roll was in the ‘60s. Everyone is talking about the next hot restaurant or flavors the same way we talked about bands back then.”
If that’s true, then Anthony Bourdain was our Elvis – an icon to be honored and remembered for his mark on foodie fans across the world. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.” – Kaleb Harrell, Co-Founder of Hawkers Asian Street Fare
“Chef Anthony Bourdain was one of the real ones. His passing reminds me of the importance of communing over food, and not just for food. Their are important stories of culture, injustices, and people that can be found in each dish that we consume. I’d like to think that uncovering these important elements of life was a big part of what Anthony advocating for. Sending love and prayers throughout the community. God bless, foodie fam!” – Chauniqua Major, Publicist and Founder of Project Pop
“Anthony Bourdain, I’ve read all your books, seen all your TV shows, cooked from your cookbook and felt like I knew you. An unapologetic storyteller who told the stories of those who would have never been told. Shed light on issues others did not want to talk about. An inspiration to broadcasters, foodies and travelers around the world. I’ve worked in the restaurant industry entire life. 14 years as a server & a publicist for restaurants the last six years. You brought my worlds together as writer, telling stories of the industry which had never been done before like it was a underground world. You were a person who appreciated art, music and those who were different. Your words and thoughts have been a part of mine and my husband’s life so much. I’ll never forget driving through the countryside of Spain listening to your audio books and feeling so inspired. Your wit and sarcasm have become quotable one-liners in my home.
There is a chapter in“medium raw” called “I’m dancing.” It tells the story at your daughter’s dance class and being the only dad they are among a sea of nannies. You discussed that moment where you danced with you daughter for the first time. I can’t get that moment out of my mind because it changed you then. I am really hit hard by this and the world will not be the same. #RIPAnthonyBourdain
One of my favorite @Bourdain quotes from “Medium Raw: “If you are literally serving shit to American children, I’ve got no problem with a jury of your peers wiring your nuts to a car battery and feeding you the accumulated sweepings of the bottom of a monkey cage.” – Maria Wyatt-Uhl, Senior Account Executive, Publicity
“He possessed a disarming intelligence and a no-bullshit eloquence that spoke to many a quiet adventurer. He was our generation’s Hemingway. Sadly, both Hemingway and Bourdain died at their own hands at the age of 61.” – Faiyaz Kara, Orlando Weekly
“We’re not so different, you and I.”
Anthony Bourdain probably never said that. But he was a major cinephile, and he probably would have scoffed every time a movie or TV character uttered that cliche. The line makes me chuckle every time, but there is truth in it.
I loved the cinematic quality of Bourdain’s food and travel shows, especially Parts Unknown. A lot of episodes were homages to classic films, with the shooting, the editing, even his narration. Some allusions surely went over my head.
But that’s what Bourdain did best. He was a raconteur, an adventurer, a storyteller, a tour guide, a journalist. He was one of my favorite writers and personalities. Incredibly witty, insightful, charming, and “woke.” He took us places and taught us and fed us, at least metaphorically. He made me think more about food, and definitely made me want to write about food. (Sorry, not sorry!)
In so many brilliant books and three wonderful shows (A Cook’s Tour on Food Network, No Reservations on Travel Channel, and Parts Unknown on CNN), he brought us along to all kinds of exotic and not-so-exotic destinations and showed us that everyone has a story that’s worth listening to, especially if we stop to listen and talk over a good meal. I think in this isolating age where society feels more divided than ever, he was on to something. Listening. Empathy. Sharing cultures. Food breaking borders and boundaries. Chefs as ambassadors and anthropologists.
And he seemed like such a cool guy. Someone with demons for sure, which gave him an edge, but we thought he had them under control. Maybe he did too. Most people I know have fought with anxiety and depression. Dear friends, family members, people I love more than life itself. I have too. I have moments of pure happiness, but mostly I just shoot for being content, figuring that’s the best most of us can ask for. But I apologize more than I should. I walk on eggshells too often. I deal with impostor syndrome, self-doubt, self-loathing at times. Maybe Anthony Bourdain did too, even with everything he seemed to have going for him. You look at these celebrities who seem to have it all, and feel shock when they buckle under the pressure. (They’re not so different, them and us.) You wish they had asked for help.
I’m a librarian. My job is to listen and to help if I can. Ask for help, even if you don’t ask me. There’s no shame in it. You matter, and we don’t want anything to happen to you.
We’re not so different, you and I.” – Louis Rosen, saboscrivner.com
“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food.” – Anthony Bourdain
How to get help: In the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.