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
February 22, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Timothy M. Gill
Why is the Venezuelan Government Rejecting U.S. Food Supplies?
John Pilger
The War on Venezuela is Built on Lies
Andrew Levine
Ilhan Omar Owes No Apologies, Apologies Are Owed Her
Jeffrey St. Clair
That Magic Feeling: the Strange Mystique of Bernie Sanders
David Rosen
Will Venezuela Crisis Split Democrats?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
Curtain Call: A Response to Edward Curtin
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump’s National Emergency Is The Exact Same As Barack Obama’s National Emergency
Paul Street
Buried Alive: The Story of Chicago Police State Racism
Rob Seimetz
Imagined Communities and Omitting Carbon Emissions: Shifting the Discussion On Climate Change
Ramzy Baroud
Russian Mediation: The Critical Messages of the Hamas-Fatah Talks in Moscow
Michael Welton
Dreaming Their Sweet Dreams: a Peace to End Peace
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming’s Monster Awakens
Huma Yasin
Chris Christie Spins a Story, Once Again
Ron Jacobs
Twenty-First Century Indian Wars
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Venezuela: a Long History of Hostility
Lance Olsen
Climate and Money: a Tale of Two Accounts
Louis Proyect
El Chapo and the Path Taken
Fred Gardner
The Rise of Kamala Harris
John W. Whitehead
Rule by Fiat: National Crises, Fake Emergencies and Other Dangerous Presidential Powers
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Biomass is Not “Green”: an Interview With Josh Schlossberg
John Feffer
Answering Attacks on the Green New Deal
W. T. Whitney
US Racism and Imperialism Fuel Turbulence in Haiti
Kim Ives
How Trump’s Attacks on Venezuela Sparked a Revolution in Haiti
Mike Ferner
What War Films Never Show You
Lawrence Wittner
Should the U.S. Government Abide by the International Law It Has Created and Claims to Uphold?
James Graham
A Slow Motion Striptease in France
Dave Lindorff
Could Sanders 2.0 Win It All, Getting the Democratic Nomination and Defeating Trump?
Jill Richardson
Take It From Me, Addiction Doesn’t Start at the Border
Yves Engler
Canada and the Venezuela Coup Attempt
Tracey L. Rogers
We Need a New Standard for When Politicians Should Step Down
Gary Leupp
The Sounds of Silence
Dan Bacher
Appeals Court Rejects Big Oil’s Lawsuit Against L.A. Youth Groups, City of Los Angeles
Robert Koehler
Are You White, Black or Human?
Ralph Nader
What are Torts? They’re Everywhere!
Sarah Schulz
Immigrants Aren’t the Emergency, Naked Capitalism Is
James Campbell
In the Arctic Refuge, a Life Force Hangs in the Balance
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Corregidor’s Iconography of Empire
Jonah Raskin
The Muckraking Novelist Dashiell Hammett: A Red Literary Harvest
Kim C. Domenico
Revolutionary Art and the Redemption of the Local
Paul Buhle
Life and Crime in Blue Collar Rhode Island
Eugene Schulman
J’Accuse!
Nicky Reid
Zionists are the Most Precious Snowflakes
Jim Goodman
The Green New Deal Outlines the Change Society Needs
David Yearsley
The Political Lyre
Cesar Chelala
The Blue Angel and JFK: One Night in Camelot
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail