It’s been over a week now since Tracey and I heard the news about Anthony Bourdain’s death. When any celebrity passes, especially under circumstances that are grim like this one, the eulogies fly quick. Some are heartfelt, others are out to garner attention either by pointing out the flaws of the individual, or by putting them up on a pedestal so high that the myth becomes larger than the man. After a week of sorting it out in my own head, I had a few words to add.
Many who bother to write about travel, food, or both in the last 10 years owe a great deal to Tony. Some were drawn in by the book “Kitchen Confidential” in 2000, his brutally honest assessment of a cook as rock star, and it became a New York Times best seller. It was on that base that “A Cooks Tour” was developed on the Food Network in 2002. He moved to the Travel Channel with “No Reservations” from 2005-2012 and “The Layover” from 2011-2013. In 2013 he went to CNN in a move that had many questioning both parties but as it turned out, “Parts Unknown” became the high point of a career that had seemingly had not reached it’s peak.
He had become for many, a voice that one never hears anymore in this time of decreasing journalistic integrity. Showing an ability to rip off the mask off our view of a country to peer into it’s realities, complexity and all. We find that once you put away the simplistic nationalistic view of a region that many are folks just like us who aspire for a better life, many who’s situation make it a day to day struggle. He also reminded us that the best food wasn’t always at 5 star restaurants, in fact some of the most life changing meals can be found on the street, sometimes peering into a bowl of something that looks and smells good, but isn’t quite always identifiable. Tony showed us that while the language and political standing might be different, a good meal, good wine and conversation could lead to a lot of understanding. This is a lesson that could do us all good.
It was that kind of honesty that won over a large amount of fans from not only here, but all over the globe. I had been a fan since “A Cook’s Tour”. While Tracey admired his storytelling ability, she was put off by his swagger and machismo. Her attitude about him began to change as Tony himself began to change. Being a dad for the first time at the age of 50 began to mellow him. He never lost the swagger, but began to speak honestly about his own addictions in the 80’s, about the irony of taking swipes at “celebrity chefs” while his own star was rising, and to take seriously his voice for the under protected from all over the world.
Listening to the opening theme of “Parts Unknown” last weekend, I couldn’t help but get a lump in my throat thinking about the family he left behind, and those who’s lives he touched on a regular basis. In the end it reminds us first of all that we never know what demons that a person has to deal with. Hell, most of us have problems admitting to our own. But mostly his life reminds us to live. Sure, we might not be able to hop a flight to Italy or Cuba, but we can choose to take that car ride to the out of the way place that looks suspicious, but seems to always have a lot of cars around it. Perhaps it’s to sit across someone that might be different background, or color or religion and talk over kids, family and life, you know…the things that really matter. The one thing that we have now that Tony Bourdain does not is life, let’s not waste it.
Since we write about recipes…I thought we would finish things with Tony talking eggs.