It took me a little while to warm up to Anthony Bourdain, but in fairness, it took Anthony Bourdain a little while to warm up to Anthony Bourdain.
Known widely as the bad-boy chef who threw back Oz’s curtain and exposed the masses to the long-protected secrets of the culinary trade, Bourdain was a man who remained uniquely himself as the world changed around him. And that was part of the great joy of following his many pursuits, from shows to books to podcasts and beyond. In an entertainment venturi where it’s easy to burn out on chefs, Bourdain was like a fine wine that aged gracefully over time, albeit with decidedly more F-bombs.
He was, in his own words, an “enthusiastic sonofabitch.” You could see that in everything he did.
For example, I love desserts. Who doesn’t? But I got a kick out of the dessert section of one of his books. This is the whole damn section:
It basically just says: “yeah desserts are great, but cheese is more important.” Can’t really argue with him about that.
“Cheese is magic. The cheese course, irreplaceable. All the knowledge accumulated by mankind and all the mysterious forces of the natural world reside in cheese.”
Bourdain was both informative and open to new ideas. He had never travelled extensively before the age of 42, and thus his shows capture a rare sense of wonder about what he’d been missing all those years. It was a dream job. Traveling, hanging out with people, eating and drinking. What a gig. And Bourdain enjoyed every minute of it. Frankly, it was a joy to watch someone get ahead who felt like ‘one of us’ and yet didn’t take his amazing job for granted. One of Bourdain’s defining characteristics is that he never forgot where he came from.
This is a fun article about all the things you never knew about Bourdain. Including a charming tidbit about how his first kitchen job was at 17 years old, as a dishwasher at a wedding. Later that very night he witnessed the chef having sex with the bride by the garbage, and he was hooked on the kitchen industry for life. That’s like a Raymond Carver short story right there.
“Later that very night he witnessed the chef having sex with the bride by the garbage.”
Here are Bourdain’s 5 Tips For Eating Out.
Here’s a very unfiltered (even more than usual) Bourdain talking about his career on the Joe Rogan podcast.
This interview, shot just six months before he died, Bourdain talks with Trevor Noah on The Daily Show. There’s a part of this interview where he’s sitting there listening to Noah, and with the thumb on his upstrage hand he’s just kind of tracking the underside edge of the desk. It’s just so human.
Bourdain’s humanity defined him, from appreciating the life force in others, to highlighting, owning and coming to terms with many of his own shortcomings.
In a time where there’s some complexity and uncertainty, it’s good to remember one of the most memorable American cultural influencers of the last two decades. A man who saw every meal as a story and every culture as both worthy and interesting.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”
Fans of Bourdain can remember his wit and fascination and passion and taste. It was a thrill to witness the unfailing curiosity he brought with him to the most remote parts of the world, but even more memorable was what he brought back, and shared with all of us.
This is a moving tribute to Bourdain by his friend and colleague, Anderson Cooper.
Anthony Bourdain was truly one of a kind.
For our UK family, our partnership with Endemol gets you the first three seasons of Bourdain’s much beloved series, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. Watch it for free, on Plex.
And for those of you still hungry for more cooking shows? There are a bunch of options.
Britain’s Best Bakery, Season 1 (US, UK & AU) and Season 2: (US, UK, CA & AU) 50 total episodes for you to proof to your heart’s content.