Godspeed, Tony

Anthony BourdainHow do you mourn someone you don't know? How do you grieve for someone you've never met? Anthony Bourdain's passing raises these questions for scores of chefs, food writers, travel enthusiasts, and food lovers shocked by his untimely death. I count myself among those in Bourdain's debt who are reeling from this news. 

In 2000, I was taking the first baby steps in my culinary journey. After moving into a house where I had my first proper kitchen, one where I didn't get a shock every time I touched the faucet and where the wires that powered the oven didn't burn in two inside the fuse box, I was eager to learn how to cook. I devoured cookbooks like dime-store novels and suffered though costly and smoky kitchen mistakes.

The internet was not quite in its infancy but had only achieved toddler status at the turn of the last century. Still, with a few clicks of the mouse you could find people as obsessed about cooking as you were, even if you lived in a food backwater as I did. I happened upon a recommendation for 'Kitchen Confidential' while browsing an online bulletin board populated by food geeks.

I blew through the book in one sitting. Bourdain's adventurous spirit was infectious. I discovered his cooking shows, watching in rapt attention, and I admit to having impure thoughts while so doing. No other TV food personality moved me in the same way. His swagger was irresistable, even if I didn't always agree with his opinions (like those about vegetarians) or behavior (I yelled at the TV for him to wear a helmet because he was a reckless and ungainly motorcycle rider). Bourdain's joie de vivre was palpable. He was genuine, a rarity in the polished and scripted world of food television.

As it did for thousands of others, Kitchen Confidential inspired me to contemplate culinary school. As much as I may have admired him, however, I could never muster Bourdain's ability to grab life by the balls. I won't ride my motorcycle without a helmet. I don't go out in the sun without applying sunscreen. Even though I obsess over food from morning until night (and even in my dreams), I didn't have the gumption to leave a stable desk job for the vagaries of culinary school and restaurant work.

Although I did not make bold decisions, Bourdain's brash appetite propelled me to continue my culinary quest in other ways. It prompted me to write about my food experiences and pushed me to seek opportunities in that arena, resulting in a weekly food column gig for a (now-defunct) local paper. I was fortunate to find a home here, too, where I can keep my fingers on the pulse of food via cookbooks.

I have read dozens of articles by industry professionals and celebrities reminiscing about their experiences with Bourdain. The description of each encounter enhances my regret that I never met him. Even though our paths never crossed, I mourn Bourdain as I would a friend. Let his passing remind us to take advantage of every opportunity, eat something new, sit down at the table with people unlike us, and always remind our friends and family how much we love them. Godspeed, Tony. 

5 Comments

  • Jenny  on  6/9/2018 at 10:22 AM

    This expresses beautifully how I am feeling. When Appetites came out - I received a ton of grief about my raves about the book - I loved it - people complained it wasn't Parts Unknown-esque but that is what made Bourdain so flipping amazing - he shared everything - food he loved at home, for friends, in jungles and more. He was the most interesting man in the world. Thank you, Darcie.

  • lgroom  on  6/9/2018 at 3:32 PM

    Darcie, thank you. I have had many impure thoughts about this dude.

  • ToPieFor  on  6/9/2018 at 7:52 PM

    Beautifully said Darcie. Thank you.

  • annmartina  on  6/13/2018 at 9:47 AM

    He changed the way my husband and I travelled and viewed food. We've had so many amazing experiences we wouldn't have had if we hadn't started asking ourselves, "What would Tony do?" I met him briefly in 2004 at a cooking class he gave when the Les Halles cookbook was released. I had always thought he had beautiful hands and was happy to get to see them in person :)

  • nadiam1000  on  6/28/2018 at 7:14 AM

    This really captures how a lot of us felt about him. I was shocked and crushed when I read about his suicide, I could not stop crying for a man I had never met but who touched me deeply. The fact that he was so troubled that he could not go on was so disturbing and sad. I read and listened to Kitchen Confidential, hearing his voice tell the stories made it all the more impactful. He helped us see and taste the world, going to places I will never visit, eating food I will never eat yet somehow made me feel like I had made the trip with him. I was thrilled to see him speak live once - I think he was promoting Medium Raw at the time. He was reckless and opinionated and a little dangerous and it seemed maybe he had finally mellowed a bit, becoming a dad and settling into the latter half of his life, still traveling the world but grounded at home by his daughter. He had so many more stories to tell us that we will never hear. Bon voyage Tony.

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