Strangely, I was attending a food festival in Stockholm when I saw the news flash – Anthony Bourdain had taken his life. The celebrity chef made a career out of traveling and eating, sampling the flavors of different cultures. It certainly felt very appropriate to honor his legacy by having some chicken curry with a nice glass of Riesling, followed by brown-butter ice cream. Life is too short not to do that, and I’m sure Bourdain would agree. In the CBS interview above, he talks about the political meaning of food.
This particular celebrity death did affect me. This is how I want to live, as a citizen of the world, curious of new impressions, not some nationalist sad sack who hates every foreigner they see.
Born in New York City in 1956, Anthony Bourdain’s interest in food came alive during visits to France with his paternal grandparents. While studying, he worked in seafood restaurants in Massachusetts and eventually became executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles in Manhattan. He started writing books in 1999, creating a New York Times bestseller with “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly”, a behind-the-scenes look at restaurant kitchens. The book gave an honest impression of a person who was the real deal and it became the basis of Bourdain’s celebrity persona.
As he continued to write books, Bourdain started hosting TV shows. The first was A Cook’s Tour for the Food Network, but his breakthrough came with No Reservations (2003-2012) for the Travel Channel, which had him traveling all over the world, meeting new cultures, trying new flavors. An episode that had him and the crew trapped in Beirut during the 2006 Lebanon War was particularly memorable. The clip above shows him sharing his anger over what happened.
In that clip where he talks about the Lebanon War, Bourdain points out that the experience made him feel that food is not always what matters. Sometimes when important news events happen while they’re shooting an episode, focus might need to change. Perhaps that was one reason why Bourdain decided to leave the Travel Channel for CNN in 2013; the network gave him plenty of room to do whatever he wanted with Parts Unknown. In the clip above, Bourdain talks with Anderson Cooper about his visit to Vietnam in 2016, which is also when he was having a bowl of noodles with President Barack Obama…
I didn’t expect the outpouring of grief that I’ve seen on Twitter today. So many people have talked about meeting Anthony Bourdain; so many journalists have talked about what a pleasure he was to work with. Hopefully he can serve as an educational example to anyone who feels that America can do without allies, who has no interest in the world outside heartland America.
Suicide is never an answer. A typical reaction we have is to think that if only there was some way we could have helped, a death could have been avoided. Fortunately, there is help. If you live in the United States, and feel that you might need help, this is the national suicide hotline: 1-800-273-TALK. For crisis support in Spanish, call 1-888-628-9454. If you live in Great Britain, please call (0) 8457 90 90 90.