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How Anthony Bourdain Inspired Us to Travel, Eat & Write

by:
June 12, 2018

Over the years, we’ve traveled around the world with Anthony Bourdain: as he wrote tell-all books, filmed A Cook’s Tour, and moved on to No Reservations and Parts Unknown after that, changing the face of travel and food writing in the process. His work is poignant, funny, enlightening, and yet so familiar, embracing the common threads among people, despite our superficial differences. That closeness he evoked, the willingness to share himself, was always there—we felt like he was sitting right next to us, chatting candidly, no matter what faraway place he was exploring that week.

So thank you, Tony. Our team and community honor you as someone who inspired us to be a little more curious, empathetic, intrepid. Here, we celebrate the thoughtfulness and joy you’ve brought to our lives:

Merrill Stubbs

When I first visited Vietnam about ten years ago, Amanda passed along some of Tony's food recommendations that he'd shared with her a couple years before. I took this as a personal challenge and visited as many of them as I could while I was there. My last day in Vietnam, determined to try what Tony had pronounced to be the very best bun cha in the world, I perched at a tiny table at Bun Cha Huong Lien, surrounded by Hanoi locals, and gobbled down a bowl of delicious noodles, salty grilled pork, and fresh herbs in ten minutes flat. I barely took a breath. The following morning I awoke with the chills and a terrible stomachache. Over the next 24 hours, I paid a steep price for that near-perfect food experience, but I wouldn't hesitate to do it again.

ChefJune

Used to frequently go to Brasserie Les Halles back in the day when he was cooking there. He was always authentic, and a damn good cook to boot. I especially loved Parts Unknown because with all the balderdash that's been going on in our country the past several years, he reminded me that there are indeed people out there who really care about the world we live in and the people in it. It gave me hope. I'll be cooking from his recipes while I process this…

Emma Laperruque

It goes without saying: If you want to be a chef, read Anthony Bourdain. If you want to be a food writer, read Anthony Bourdain. His books are invaluable to this field. But beyond his words, beyond his TV shows, something else meant even more to me: the way he stepped up, in recent years, to become an ally to the #MeToo movement. Few of his male colleagues did the same. Amid their silence, he proudly proclaimed: "In these current circumstances, one must pick a side. I stand unhesitatingly and unwaveringly with the women." I hope he knew how much that meant to women working in kitchens, like me.

BerryBaby

Such sad news. Anthony was one of a kind with his adventurousness and boldness. He took chances, explored the unknown with such ease. I admired him for all of it.

Tim McSweeney

I’m curious how many people at Food52 traveled and ate somewhere they wouldn’t normally have if it wasn’t for Anthony Bourdain. And as a result, he contributed so much to so many people around the world.

cv

What I got from Tony was never something as formulaic as the instructions to make ____ dish like a typical recipe. It was about traveling the world and using food as a commonality to connect with other human beings. Others might recognize the enormity of the loss of this great narrative, storytelling voice. But the American food industry has suffered a tremendous loss, because Bourdain did not focus on the mechanics of making a particular dish but instead wanted to connect to the people and culture who made them. Not so sure if there's any active American food writer who does this. As far as I can tell, this is the end of an era.

corazons_kitchen_chronicles

Chef, you famously described the taste of halo-halo, our signature Filipino dessert consisting of red beans, white beans, chickpeas, Jell-O, coconut, shaved ice, and leche flan, as follows: “It makes no goddamn sense at all.” My exact feelings on your sad passing, Mr. Bourdain. Thank you for expanding my palate and horizons in equal measure. You are already missed.

Hana Asbrink

So crushed. I lapped up every single episode of whatever show he was in, wanting to go wherever he went (where he always championed for the little guy, especially immigrant groups). I admired his lack of pretense, democratization of good non-fine dining food (seafood broth, noodles, tubed meat), and humility. His big heart (and loud bark) will be missed.

CJBO33

I was a line cook in NJ/NY. Kitchen Confidential was written by one of us, about us. It was the book I used to tell parents to read when they said their child wanted to be a “chef.” Through the years, he kept me connected to the past. He inspired me to travel, to keep an open mind and an open palate.

Sarah Yaffa

Anthony opened my eyes and opened my heart. I remember the summer down the shore after I read his books and my family would tease me saying, “We get it—stop talking about Anthony Bourdain!” Little did they know, soon they, too, would be captivated by Anthony on Parts Unknown. There was a quote, I think from Medium Raw, that Anthony said at a time where he faced adversity—and it has always stuck with me. It's not the most eloquent thing he's ever said, but I always keep it in the back of my head: “I’m not going to tell you here’s how to live your life. I’m just saying, I guess, that I got very lucky. And luck is not a business model.”

quiche'n'tell

His ability to suck up the marrow of life, to speak from his gut, to empathize with all his heart and to connect with people and cultures in the far corners of the world earned my respect and admiration. The man cooked, looked, wrote, spoke and lived as only a true rock star could. I hope he is finally at peace. My world is a little less without him in it.

Eric Kim

"In a cook's life, Thanksgiving Day is for others; the next day is for you." He wrote that in Food & Wine a couple years ago. I loved picturing him on that one day of the year, not traveling or being fawned over for a selfie, but instead just cooking for his family.

Karen Fredericks

Kitchen Confidential probably saved me years of grief. His firm advice to all of us who ever wanted to open a restaurant for any reason—he shot them all down with facts, figures and humor. I will miss him immensely.

Lizzie Greene

I, like many, watched every show he made. Anytime I planned a trip, I made sure that Anthony had been there before. If he hadn’t, I would always wonder, why not? He inspired the location of my honeymoon, San Sebastián. I’m not a religious person, but when I found out about San Sebastián through Bourdain, I knew that I’d visit, and that it would be the closest thing I’d get to a pilgrimage. He ate at the very best restaurants in the world there but also told the story of the small cafes and bars that serve some of the best pintxos. I’ll never forget that trip.

Panfusine

I bought Kitchen Confidential out of curiosity at a bookstore in Mumbai in 2002. He taught me to proudly embrace the comfort foods of childhood: ingredients, techniques, tools, and traditions. He taught me that food has the power to unify. He helped me shatter any inhibitions with respect to culinary boundaries, inculcating respect and complete acceptance for food from all over the world in an almost spiritual sense. Rest in peace.

Faith Bledsoe

Anthony Bourdain was one of the first to teach me to taste food with every sense; to value and respect all the hands that had touched what I was getting ready to eat, whether it was from a street cart, a gourmet restaurant, or my own kitchen; and to reach and risk with my own cooking skills. I read his books and watched him travel the world and admired him as a man of authentic heart who lived fully into his vocation with food and people. Peace to you, brother. I will always be grateful for your gifts.

Erin Alexander

Anthony Bourdain’s searing insight and general badassery made him a true original—and made for endlessly watchable television and books I could read over and over again. But it's his curiosity and respect for every subject, big or small, "worthy" or "unworthy," that I'll always take with me. I never personally knew him, but it still feels like I've lost a friend. It's heartbreaking that his story ended the way it did. I just hope we can all take what he gave us and make something he'd be proud of.

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These remembrances have been edited and condensed for clarity.

To our team and community members who sent us their words on Anthony Bourdain: Thank you for sharing so openly. We’d love to continue hearing any thoughts and memories you have of him in the comments below.

4 Comments

jai June 18, 2018
He visited & explored parts that were very interesting, to say the least, sharing culture & tradition. I admired how he interacted with people, as if he'd known them for years. He was not a stranger. Great lesson in respect for food, people, & compassion. A great loss...
 
Carolyn G. June 14, 2018
This is something I wrote on my Instagram, which is a diary of my vegan home cooking. As a server in a New York City chophouse and a vegan in my personal life, I have a unique perspective on Bourdain. I understand the monumental impact he had on our community, but I see his mental illness from the perspective of someone who alleviated her suicidal depression with the help of a plant based diet. <br />Here is what I wrote: <br />I’ve had a pot of gravy on the stove for nearly the duration of this heavy, disorienting week. It’s a deep muddy brown, velvet in texture and tinted red from wine. It’s base is trash, of course- a tea made from onion scraps, garlic skin, mushroom stems. The roux I make to thicken it consists of my cultured dill & cannabis butter and a gluten free flour blend made from rice and roots. Over the course of several days I’ve introduced reishi mushrooms, fresh tarragon and rosemary, bean stock, red wine, more butter, applewood smoked salt. The end result of all this - is just a pot of gravy. One component of a dish. <br />——————<br />Yesterday I watched the last episode of the last season of Parts Unknown: Rome. I see Tony digging into the anger, the brawny passion and violence of the Roman palate, and by extension, the white male psyche. I see him identify a cycle of beauty and decay, and then sit back and bask in it. I know he must have understood the intricate ways in which we truly are what we eat, and I’m reminded that we are all dancing just as close to the edge. <br />——————-<br />The gravy I made added a bit of flavor to some caramelized onions, which I stirred into quinoa/corn spaghetti, topped with marinated artichoke hearts, garlic scapes, and soy-based parmesan. The skin from the onions I ate will be the base of next week’s gravy: this is the cycle I choose to engage in. <br />——————<br />I am so grateful to Anthony Bourdain for showing us the world. For putting himself in places I never could, so that I can watch from my couch while my gravy simmers. His ability to hold space for people as they truly are is unparalleled, his style marked by a radical acknowledgement of all the light and all the darkness in our world. My heart is shattered, however, because in order to show us the sad, broken parts of the world, it seems he had to sacrifice himself to them. <br />——————<br />All my love to all the incredible chefs, line cooks, prep cooks, food runners, bussers, servers, bartenders, managers, sommeliers, hosts, vendors, and food makers I have known since I joined this circus. Thank you for having me. <br />——————<br />
 
Phildup June 13, 2018
I first read Kitchen Confidential shortly after it was published and have been a fan of Bourdain ever since. (I do not call myself a fan of anyone easily.) He described a world I had some familiarity with having spent a number of years working in the dining room and kitchen of a restaurant in a gay bar in Washington DC, not to mention that my first job was washing dishes in the kitchen of a small hotel in Vermont and my second was waiting table at a grand old resort on the coast of New Hampshire. I knew the people he wrote about, I could identify with them. He hooked me.<br />When my partner and I went to New York for the first of many long weekends (2002 I think), visiting Ground Zero and dinner at Les Halles were the only two “musts” on our schedule. We went to the branch in the financial district that evening and the meal was Steak Frites.<br />I always enjoyed his appearances on tv and devoured the Les Halles cookbook like it was a novel…a really good one. It’s one of a handful of cookbooks I have read every word of, repeatedly. <br />All of his tv shows melded into one and I remember many of them…the escape from Beirut, the drunken nights in Russia, The tricks he pulled on Rippert, his seeming love affair with the people of Cuba, his unabashed connection with Japan.<br />I am truly surprised by my reaction to his death…<br />I have come into contact with many famous people during the years I spent in the hospitality industry. It was important to be discreet and allow them their privacy. I expect that if I had met him in a professional capacity I would have treated him the same. <br />But I have shed tears over his passing like he was a member of my family, and a close one at that.<br />He lifted the fog of ignorance, intolerance, xenophobia and stupidity. That fog is heavier now.<br />
 
Zozo June 12, 2018
"I never personally knew him, but it still feels like I've lost a friend."<br /><br />This. <br /><br />I never really watched much food tv until No Reservations came along and showed that curiosity and bravery (in many senses of the word) is just captivating as food itself. <br /><br />It's also another reminder to myself to tell people who I admire how much they mean. I did this a while ago when I lost a friend and personal hero, and I was so surprised by some of the responses.