Anthony Bourdain- Idol, Hero, Make-Believe Friend
I had to stop reading all the stories about Bourdain a couple hours after learning the news. Never would I have thought that I could be so deeply affected by someone I never knew. When I wrote about it on Friday I was still in shock. I just started writing because I thought it would make me feel better.
Half of the time I’m sad and the other half I keep telling myself what a sniveling idiot I’m being. But, seeing the outpour of thoughts and feelings from other people like me reminds me that I’m not the only one. People that aren’t his true friends or family. People that have never met or worked with him. There are others who are mourning the loss of a complete stranger too. We are all at a loss in our own way.
Today, I decided that I would read the articles and stories that I’ve been eyeing but didn’t want to dive into because I knew I would get wet. The first one on my list was Dianne Jacob’s post that included her interview with Bourdain years ago. In reading the first couple sentences, I realized it was a great choice. The interview focuses on food writing. I guess I should have assumed that since Dianne wrote “Will Write for Food.” I met her recently at a four-day food and wine writing workshop in Italy where she coached and shared her insights into food writing. I told her that one of the things that got me most excited about reading her book was when I saw that it was endorsed by Bourdain. I enjoyed and truly value the book itself, but that was the thing that got me reading it relentlessly.
I’ve read, watched, and listened to Bourdain’s work, trying not to miss one thing, recording every No Reservations, The Layover, and Parts Unknown episode, and going to the Pantages Theatre to see his Guts and Glory tour with Roy Choi in 2013 and his Hunger Tour in 2016. He is the reason I own the Global knives that I do, how I planned every stop on my first trip to Manhattan, and why I ate at the once number one restaurant in the world, Arzak. But, it was his writing that introduced me to him. Kitchen Confidential lured me in after a recommendation from a culinary school instructor. I never knew that a book could be something that I could relate to so much. At the time, I was just beginning my culinary career. I didn’t yet have the same experiences. I didn’t have a drug addicted past. Well, not as heavy and long-lived as his. I hadn’t even worked in a kitchen yet. But, I related to his voice, his honesty, and his humor.
I wanted to quote a bunch of the interview, but I think it should be read in it’s entirety. I just want to put these points about food writing, being a chef, or maybe just being a good human being in a place for me to look back on:
Don’t be afraid to get dirty
Enjoy things that feel good
It’s okay to have self-doubt, just don’t let it take over
Don’t be afraid to look like an asshole, especially if you were one or are one
Try to find humor in even the most painful experiences
Okay, one quote: “the table is the best reflection of a nation, the fastest way into that culture.” I believe this to be true not only for whole nations, but even within groups as small as one family or a gathering of friends.
I told my husband that my post on Friday got more views than any other post I’ve ever written, and he said, “Well, hopefully one of your heroes doesn’t have to die every time you want people to read something you write.” He got a light chuckle out of me. So, if you’re still here reading, thank you.
Maybe tomorrow, I’ll muster up the courage to watch that CNN episode that’s been recorded and nagging me to watch every night since. How the hell do these writers create and put these things out so god damn fast?! For now, I’m off to go get my feet wet in the other stories I’ve been putting off.
Goodbye, my our hero, my our idol, my our make-believe friend.
Thank you for this moving post, Jillian. I have not been able to watch the rest of the Hong Kong show nor the Berlin show yet. It’s kind of creepy, knowing what was to come.
Thank you for reading, Dianne. I can relate. It’s a strange feeling.
Mary Louise Tucker
I/we feel your pain. For about 10 years I have had a recurring dream that I am taking Anthony Bourdain around the Adelaide Central Market and he is digging the experience. Thanks for your beautifully written post. MLT
Thank you for reading and your kind words, Mary. I can imagine how those dreams might be.