In Memory of Anthony Bourdain
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.
You see, Bourdain spoke of the harsh realities of what kitchen life was like, but never with malice, or dislike, or regret. He spoke of it with humor and praise. This lifestyle of a chef, cook, or any kitchen or restaurant position to be honest is what molded him into becoming the Anthony Bourdain we all know today. The reason why Anthony Bourdain’s persona was not so shock and awe to me as it was to most of his fans is because I can name many people with the same exact personality. In fact, I can name many people that can fit the mold of most of his characters in his highly acclaimed book, Kitchen Confidential. What impressed me the most with Bourdain was his ability to communicate this to the outside world. His writing was incredible and he never polished his answers to questions. He gave true and direct answers much like a chef would to his cooks or fellow chefs. He was blunt and to the point, did not dance around a touchy subject. I believe a lot of what Bourdain has exposed to the world was completely misconstrued.
What were albeit raunchy, crazy, wild, stories to the public, were simply memories and experiences to him, to all cooks. The public perception of “how could people work like that” and the invasion of lawyers and HR departments have changed this culture nowadays. Due to this invasion of outside influence on kitchens now, I feel not many new cooks will experience the world as Bourdain did, prior to becoming famous. Yes, working conditions might improve, pay might improve, yes “PC” culture might take over what was once a den of lions behind the line, but is something much greater being lost? I know this might come off as somewhat masochistic but I miss that lifestyle in the kitchen. That lifestyle created great chefs, talented and disciplined individuals. That lifestyle created the legendary persona we all knew as Anthony Bourdain.
I always perceived Anthony Bourdain as the anti-celebrity chef, which might seem somewhat like a contradiction, given his celebrity status. A lot of cooks and chefs today vie for tv and other accolades in search of celebrity. Some people actually get into this industry because they want to be a
celebrity. Bourdain was not that, he was much different. Bourdain I do not think ever planned on becoming a celebrity and ultimately, I think that is what was so attractive about him to the public, he just was. His books, his shows, his travels, and his celebrity would never have existed without those experiences stated within the pages of his books. The culture in the kitchen might be changing, but at least we still have his work to remember the old days. I believe that as we honor the man who has now gone on to his final exploration, we also honor his memory by appreciating who he really was at heart, setting all the accolades aside, Bourdain, like many of us was simply a brilliant cook.