The Final Course: Thoughts on Bourdain, Food, and Travel

A void was left by the untimely death of Anthony Bourdain, a giant in seemingly whichever field he chose to work. I felt a connection to this man whom I never met. We shared physical stature, geography (I live not too far from where he got his culinary start in Provincetown, MA), and the love of both cooking and writing. Less superficially, we both became fathers to daughters later in life, fought battles with substance abuse, and as it is now painfully evident, struggled with mental health issues.

The outpouring of grief following his suicide suggested that I underestimated how many people also felt a connection. I shouldn’t have, as he was a supremely gifted raconteur. Bourdain began his professional career in the restaurant industry, one known for attracting outsiders, oddballs. And it was this fresh perspective that made his observations so captivating. Edgy, often sarcastic, always brilliant, he held up his own brand of binoculars to our eyes so that we could better see not just foreign lands, but parts of our own cities we often overlook. As a writer, his voice was strong and consistent throughout whatever he touched. As I read (and re-read) his breakthrough account of a working chef’s life, Kitchen Confidential, many years ago, I couldn’t help but hear his voice in my head as if it was an audio book.

It’s no wonder that food and drink were such potent vehicles for Bourdain’s storytelling. Wine can offer a window into a place – from the soil and geography (or terrior as it is known) to the climate. Food is the history of a region, amalgamations of the cultures who have came and went, served up on a plate. The other pillar of his works was travel, which is a bit of a different animal. Travel is about your story; it’s your experience and it can only be truly appreciated once you stop listening to tales of others and open yourself to the world. I feel that Mr. Bourdain’s legacy is best honored not by “likes” or retweets, but when you put down the phone, get off the couch, and go out there and live your own stories.