June 12, 2018
Kitchen Confidential is topping bestseller charts in the wake of Anthony Bourdain’s death
by Taylor Sperry
The news of Anthony Bourdain’s death last week brought on a flood of moving tributes from his friends, family, and admirers—read ours here—and also, of course, of book sales.
For Eater, Daniela Galarza reports that Bourdain’s memoir Kitchen Confidential has jumped to the number one spot on Amazon’s best seller list (ahead of Bill Clinton and James Patterson’s The President Is Missing) and that book stores across the country are struggling to keep up with demand:
New York City’s Strand bookstore was sold out of copies over the weekend, and on Saturday at McNally Jackson Books in downtown Manhattan, a line of six people asked the front desk for Kitchen Confidential; the shop sold out of its stock on Friday but said 50 more copies were on the way. Powell’s Books in Portland also sold out of the books on its sales floor, but said more were coming in from its warehouse.
It’s worth noting that Bourdain himself recognized the ways in which Kitchen Confidential hasn’t aged particularly well since it was first published in 2000. He was an early and unwavering supporter of the #MeToo movement, and in an interview with Slate’s Isaac Chotiner during the height of the Harvey Weinstein story, Bourdain questioned whether the behavior he described in his book in any way “validated” what he called “meathead culture”:
Look, I accepted when the book came out, that I was the bad boy. There I was in the leather jacket and the cigarette and I also happily played that role or went along with it. Shit was good. People said a lot of silly things about me. People actually used the word macho around me. And this was such a mortifying accusation that I didn’t even understand it.
You know, to the extent that I was that guy, however fast and however hard I tried to get away [from] it, the fact is that’s what my persona was. I am a guy on TV who sexualizes food. Who uses bad language. Who thinks our discomfort, our squeamishness, fear and discomfort around matters sexual is funny. I have done stupid offensive shit. And because I was a guy in a guy’s world who had celebrated a system—I was very proud of the fact that I had endured that, that I found myself in this very old, very, frankly, phallocentric, very oppressive system and I was proud of myself for surviving it. And I celebrated that rather enthusiastically.
And in a post for Medium later, in December, he made his position absolutely clear:
In these circumstances, one must pick a side. I stand unhesitatingly and unwaveringly with the women . . . Right now, nothing else matters but women’s stories of what it’s like in the industry I have loved and celebrated for nearly 30 years—and our willingness, as human beings, citizens, men and women alike, to hear them out fully, and in a way that other women can feel secure enough, and have faith enough that they, too, can tell their stories . . . The extent [to] which my work in Kitchen Confidential celebrated or prolonged a culture that allowed the kind of grotesque behaviors we’re hearing about all too frequently is something I think about daily, with real remorse.
So while Kitchen Confidential may be the most visible commercial symbol of Bourdain’s legacy, his activism on behalf of #MeToo should be just as enduring. As Anna Silman writes for The Cut, “His empathy, insight, and courage should stand as a beacon to other men grappling with their own place in the #MeToo movement. For this, and so many other things, he will be missed.”
Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.