After landing at JFK early this morning, I was in an Uber stuck in traffic on the way back into Manhattan when I saw a news alert pop up on my phone that Anthony Bourdain had died this morning in France while shooting his show Parts Unknown. I actually felt chills all over when I read the alert: how is this possible? Is this real? And what’s worse was how he died: he had hanged himself. It was suicide.
I just felt numb. Anthony Bourdain, for me, epitomized everything amazing about life: he had a genuine curiosity about the entire world, about everything that was unlike him, and eagerly sought to constantly learn more and educate himself about every culture, every cuisine, every person. He was blunt and to the point, at times offensive to some, but that’s what the world really needs — more realness, more rawness, more people speaking about things the way they truly are instead of how they romanticize or wish the world could be, or… for some, ignorantly believe the world is based on the tiny bubble they choose to exist in. He was brutally honest, no bullshit, and always to the point about how he felt. Anthony loved food, and he saw food for more than just something to fill his stomach and keep him alive. He saw it in the way that I’ve always thought about it, as an expression of culture. I’ve always thought that if you want to learn more about another culture, another people that you haven’t been exposed to, the easiest first step is to try their food. Therefore, if you hesitate to try another culture’s food or immediately write it off as disgusting… you’re probably more likely to be racist. There’s a strong correlation there in my opinion. Food tells a story that is more than just “I’m delicious” — it’s about a culture, its rich history, its geography, economy, politics. It’s about how people live, where they live. Food tells a story. And stories reveal important ideas about how and why people are the way they are. And that’s compelling and complex.
He exposed so many truths about all parts of the world, from Palestine to Africa to Southeast Asia, that most of the world didn’t want to see or look at. He humanized the people that other travel shows and magazines wanted to ignore, everyone from people making street food in India to even the Mexican and Central American workers who staff the majority of our restaurants here in the U.S. He was a white male, yes, but he was extremely cognizant of his privilege and continued to ask questions and follow his curiosity around the world and understand more.
To this day, I haven’t ever really felt much when a well known celebrity has passed, but this time, I really did feel something. His death is a tragedy to the entire world, and now, when I hear his words being quoted or see his shows now, a part of me will hurt. He had his inner demons, as he mentioned many times in the books I’d read he had written and in the shows he starred in. He talked about how he should have died in his 20s or 30s, and really shouldn’t have been around to see his 50s. To me, I always suspected this would be a way that he’d leave the world. I just hoped it wouldn’t be true.
He always said he had the best job in the world. He died while traveling for work. I suppose that is a way that he would have wanted to go. I miss him, even though I never knew him personally.
On traveling, on culture, and on moving, he said: “If I am an advocate for anything, it is 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. It’s a plus for everybody.”
I could not agree more wholeheartedly.
Rest in love and peace, our beloved Anthony Bourdain. The world is a worser and frankly, less honest place without you in it anymore.