I have never been a chef. I’ve never worked in a kitchen. I have never really worked in a restaurant (save those three days at a Pizza Hut my Senior Year of High School…shudder). I couldn’t relate to Anthony Bourdain on a professional level. I could relate to him and his travels on a personal level. His dislike of standard tourist destinations and the awfulness of stereotypical tourists and their fanny-packs. Their need to go to a destination, take the standard photo or now the ubiquitous selfie. He wanted to be with the locals. Eat like the locals. Understand the locals.
I yearned to travel like Bourdain. When I visited new places I did make a list of the standard places I wanted to see, but as important to the list that included such places like the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Reclining Buddha and the Bund at Night, were the restaurants (ranging from hole-in-the-walls to fine dining) I’d read about from other travelers, chefs and proud locals.
I think back mostly to his episodes focusing on Paris. The one where he chased the green fairy (No Reservations S1E1). The one with the mine encounter followed by the outrageously complete seafood tower (The Layover S2E2). It wasn’t about the cost of the food, it was about uniqueness of the selections, dining on fresh local ingredients (and in that last example to screw the producers who organized the mime interaction).
While planning a trip, I would check out his episodes on the destination, and I would dream. I would download them and watch again while in transit. Nothing makes a 16 hour flight to Hong Kong fly by than watching Bourdain meet locals and eat well.
Yesterday we lost a man who I loved. A love that was only one way. We never met. If we ever did, I’m sure we wouldn’t have meshed. We were very different people with very different backgrounds. He made me laugh. He made me hungry. Hungry not only for food, but for travel, for drink, for experiences…for life.
I won’t pretend to know what he was going through. I won’t pretend to know his pain. I won’t pretend that his death is truly impacting me personally. I am saddened for his family, for his fans and for idea that he represented. We need to continue to fight the battle Bourdain fought: Travel for the experience, not the photos. Get to know the people – they aren’t very different from you and me. Know their food and you’ll know them.
Now go online and find your favorite episode of one of his many shows. Take a moment to raise a glass (or several) in honor of Mr. Anthony Bourdain, who without him, my travels would have been much different.