Monday, June 11, 2018

Remembering Anthony Bourdain

I'm not a fan of shows about food or dessert if it's just reality television competition style, or describing recipes. I'm more interested in shows about food as a docu-film style. I've come to thoroughly enjoy Anthony Bourdain's shows. In fact, his shows and his comments probably exerted a fair amount of influences on my early attitudes towards food. My first fine dining experience on my own as a rather young imp was at the now-closed Les Halles in Manhattan, New York City. Then I began to explore and later on moved away from ‘fine-dining’ on pristine tablecloths in opulent restaurants, and welcome foods and cuisines that are just as fine eaten anywhere.

One of Anthony Bourdain's earliest column writing is for The New Yorker in April 1999 titled 'Don't Eat Before Reading This', just before he published 'Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly' (2000). Anthony Bourdain's first television series began at about the same time I was interested in food as more than a form of sustenance for hunger. There were Food Network's 'A Cook's Tour' (2002-2003), The Travel Channel's 'No Reservations' (2005-2012) and 'The Layover' (2011-2013), and his current 'Parts Unknown' (2013-2018) on CNN. The Washington Post and many other publications have described him as a 'culinary adventurer'. They're spot on about that. His shows held that exciting edge that other sugary-coated shows don't. He was a storyteller, and he was a dreamer, curious about cuisines and respectful of cultures. I like his take on Seattle in S10EP7 of ‘Parts Unknown’.

“If I am an advocate for anything, it is to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.”

There's the celebrity, and there's always a personal side to any reasonably successful person whose job is to be somewhat talented and famous. Over the years, I've come to like Anthony Bourdain's public image, comments, and many of the opinions and causes he stood for. In this world of celebrity chefs and stardom, I appreciate the humility and the seemingly genuine emotions he had chosen to show us. For the lack of a better description, he was very relatable. Well, I also appreciate his taste in music and comics. His last few tweets were about the mix Michael Ruffino adapted and made specially for the episode Hong Kong titled 'Rising Sun Blues'.

I feel a deep twinge of sadness at Anthony Bourdain's untimely death. His choice took away the continued sharing of this immense talent with the world. It's such a shame. He didn't even wait for his 62nd birthday to pass. I can't even begin imagine the immense inner turmoil and pain he was dealing with. Yet he lived, boldly, loved fiercely, and had generously shared many wonderful foods and experiences with the world. He is missed. A photo from an episode in Season 8 of 'Parts Unknown' about Vietnam will always remain with me, and no one could describe that photo in a tweet better than Barack Obama did.

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