Goodbye, Mr. Bourdain

In 2007 I was lost and listless, without a path or a passion. In a dumpy dimly lit studio in Bradenton, Florida, I sat alone on a goodwill loveseat and watched as a man on tv explored the world and ate food that shaped each community he visited. Before my culinary career had even begun, Anthony Bourdain was teaching me what it could become.

After completing culinary school and finding myself disenchanted with the back of house, “Kitchen Confidential” opened my eyes to the idea that my specific experience was, in fact, universal. I knew that my dedication to cooking was not, “masochistic or irrational”, at least not yet. I left the industry to pursue further education.

Mr. Bourdain taught me that there is place for me in the culinary world beyond the line. His open curiosity of other cultures was inspiring, and his acerbic wit entranced me. He was somehow able to tap into my passion and translate it into beautiful and sometimes searing sentiment to which I felt like he might be the only person on Earth that understood my innerworkings and obsession with food.

Most memorable to me, was a time when Mr. Bourdain found himself in Namibia with a local tribe offering him the anus of a freshly killed and spitfire roasted warthog. Bourdain accepted, consumed and then reacted honestly in both disgust and gratitude. I find myself dwelling on this scene when presented with a new food that I don’t want to sample. “If Anthony Bourdain can eat a warthog anus, I can eat whatever this is. It will not kill me (hopefully).”

I don’t think I could qualify my respect for Mr. Bourdain as fandom. I haven’t read each of his best-selling books, and admittedly I outgrew his travel show a few years ago, as I turned to focus on my own career. However, today as I work feverishly to launch my new business, centered around food, but far from the heat of the line, I reflect on my culinary, food science, nutrition and wine education. I wonder if I would be where I am today without the distant influence from a celebrity chef with an insatiable thirst for knowledge and understanding. I mourn the loss of Mr. Bourdain, one of our most honest, and therefore greatest voices.

 

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