FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Anthony Bourdain – In Memoriam

When I read Kitchen Confidential, I was in my twenties and it opened a world to me as it did for so many others. Food Was the New Rock, and you were its loudmouth, opinionated, take no shit and no prisoners punk pioneer. You were Joey Ramone.

You were fucked up and broken, and unapologetic for what you loved and what you thought sucked. The person I was struggling to become seized on this. I was not the only one, but like them I wanted the coolness, the nonchalance that you seemed to have. Like Hunter S Thompson before you, your words and deeds were a template for how we wanted to be. Social media today owes – for better and for worse – so much to those of us striving to mimic and find a voice like yours.

You inspired me to cook, to eat, to search out new experiences. I got your Les Halles cookbook and took to heart its ethos of using fresh, quality ingredients and cooking from scratch. Endless long nights with projects bubbling in the kitchen owe their existence to your spark. You inspired a generation of home cooks to strive to be better. I can only imagine the culinary school grads since you burst on the scene who were there because they read your work. Should this generation of foodies really be called the Bourdain Generation?

I watched your travel shows – didn’t we all? – but they were of course never just travel shows. You invited us to learn and experience new cultures, peoples, and regions and above all to not judge. Whatever your opinionated views on the Western food scene, you showed us a Morocco, a Beirut, a Thailand and asked us to see the stories of their peoples as human ones. In a world riven by anger, ignorance, and xenophobia, you tried to teach us how the world could be if we respected each other, if we broke bread with those different from, yet so similar, to us.

You inspired us to learn – your shows were filled with artists, musicians, thinkers, writers. You were positively giddy to meet your heroes like the cinematographer Christopher Doyle, who showed you his Hong Kong on a recent episode. How many times did I look for an album, a book, or a film after watching you for an hour? There was a depth and hunger in your work only the most driven artists have.

Your politics, too, were a sincere attention to the plight of the working class and their exploitation around the world. You wrote in support of the immigrant laborers in the kitchens you had worked. Your shows never lingered too long on the wealthy, but always returned to everyday people. In criticizing “foodie” culture you extolled the virtues of eating healthy and local while excoriating them for ignoring the need to fix the structural inequalities that prevented poor and working class peoples from enjoying that type of diet. You hated Trump and what he represented, but you visited Trump country to understand and empathize with the people who voted for Trump because neoliberalism had gutted their communities. You shared a beer and a laugh with anyone – your great strength. The left would do well to listen to your example on this.

You struggled with your demons – in interviews, on your show and in your writings you made this clear. As someone who has also struggled with depression I could see the twins of joy and sadness emanating from your work. For all the demons you also showed us a world of friends, family, and love. From your first awe-struck meeting with Eric Ripert – on camera! – to your close friendship, your relationships and loves, and the daughter of whom you spoke – your world seemed full. Yet, it’s clearly never so simple, is it?

I don’t know how best to end this eulogizing, but I can try. I’ll be in Strasbourg – the city where you ended your life – in a month. I intend to drink a bottle or two of wine in your memory. You’d better be there. And no – you don’t need a reservation.

More articles by:

Peter LaVenia received a PhD in Political Theory from the University at Albany, SUNY. He has been an activist and organizer for over 15 years and has worked for Ralph Nader in that capacity. He is currently the co-chair of the Green Party of New York, and can be reached on Twitter: @votelavenia.

Weekend Edition
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
Robert Fantina
Yemeni and Palestinian Children
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Orcas and Other-Than-Human Grief
Shoshana Fine – Thomas Lindemann
Migrants Deaths: European Democracies and the Right to Not Protect?
Paul Edwards
Totally Irrusianal
Thomas Knapp
Murphy’s Law: Big Tech Must Serve as Censorship Subcontractors
Mark Ashwill
More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells
Ralph Nader
Going Fundamental Eludes Congressional Progressives
Hans-Armin Ohlmann
My Longest Day: How World War II Ended for My Family
Matthew Funke
The Nordic Countries Aren’t Socialist
Daniel Warner
Tiger Woods, Donald Trump and Crime and Punishment
Dave Lindorff
Mainstream Media Hypocrisy on Display
Jeff Cohen
Democrats Gather in Chicago: Elite Party or Party of the People?
Victor Grossman
Stand Up With New Hope in Germany?
Christopher Brauchli
A Family Affair
Jill Richardson
Profiting From Poison
Patrick Bobilin
Moving the Margins
Alison Barros
Dear White American
Celia Bottger
If Ireland Can Reject Fossil Fuels, Your Town Can Too
Ian Scott Horst
Less Voting, More Revolution
Peter Certo
Trump Snubbed McCain, Then the Media Snubbed the Rest of Us
Dan Ritzman
Drilling ANWR: One of Our Last Links to the Wild World is in Danger
Brandon Do
The World and Palestine, Palestine and the World
Chris Wright
An Updated and Improved Marxism
Daryan Rezazad
Iran and the Doomsday Machine
Patrick Bond
Africa’s Pioneering Marxist Political Economist, Samir Amin (1931-2018)
Louis Proyect
Memoir From the Underground
Binoy Kampmark
Meaningless Titles and Liveable Cities: Melbourne Loses to Vienna
Andrew Stewart
Blackkklansman: Spike Lee Delivers a Masterpiece
Elizabeth Lennard
Alan Chadwick in the Budding Grove: Story Summary for a Documentary Film
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail