I no longer eat margarine, or order restaurant seafood on Mondays, thanks to Anthony Bourdain.
I was Johnny-come-lately to the Bourdain fandom. I discovered him just a few years ago — not via his myriad of travel shows, but through the book that started it all, Kitchen Confidential.
If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend doing so. You’ll discover why I switched from margarine to butter, and why I went shopping for a gourmet knife immediately thereafter.
As a traveller, writer and gourmand, I was vastly inspired by Bourdain’s journey from an unfulfilled and drug-fueled existence as a chef in Hell’s Kitchen NYC… to an adventurous livelihood as a globe-trotting TV host with an infectious love and respect for the cultures and peoples of our world.
Never in his wildest dreams did he imagine he would end up hosting a travel show one day… let alone becoming the most watched travel host of the early 21st century.
“Food, culture, people and landscape are all absolutely inseparable.
I like delicious food, but I’m just as interested in who’s cooking it and why.”
The trajectory of Bourdain’s life changed 19 years ago, the moment he had the courage to put pen to paper… once again.
By that juncture, he was in his 40s and neck-deep in failure. His high-profile, Manhattan restaurant had gone belly up months before. And he was the anguished author of two novels that had flopped just as hard.
Driven by an innate love of writing and the written word, he found solace in penning an essay on the good, bad and ugly of what goes on behind the kitchen doors of upscale restaurants. He hoped to get it published in the local, free paper… just to bring a wink and a chuckle to his comrades in the industry.
The free paper accepted the piece, but week after damnable week, it kept getting bumped by other news stories.
One day, he aired his frustration to his mom, who offered to give the essay to her co-worker, who was the wife of the editor-in-chief at the New Yorker.
Bourdain knew there was fat chance the venerable New Yorker would give him — a chain-smoking chef with nary an MFA or fancy portfolio — a second’s glance. But he gave a copy of the essay to his mom anyway.
A few weeks later, on April 19, 1999, Don’t Eat Before Reading This, the little essay he had penned for winks and chuckles, was in the hallowed pages of the New Yorker for all the city’s literati to see.
Days later, Bourdain signed a book deal with Bloomsbury Publishing.
A year later, in August 2000, his first memoir, Kitchen Confidential, hit the shelves and became a New York Times bestseller.
And soon thereafter, he signed on to host a travel show on the Food Network — A Cook’s Tour, which debuted in January 2002.
“When the book came out, it very quickly transformed my life.
[It] changed everything.”
When I reflect on the life of Anthony Bourdain, I think of a man who followed his heart and stayed true to himself in the wake of an avalanche of failure — when ‘the road less traveled’ was nowhere to be seen.
I think of a man who exuded a raw and earnest authenticity that endeared him to millions of people around the world.
Inspiring them to venture off on their own adventures.
To parts unknown.
With no reservations.