June 12, 2018

We’ve been known to write about Anthony Bourdain


Anthony Bourdain at South by Southwest in 2016. Detail of a photo by Anna Hanks. Via Flickr.

By now, unless you’re holed up in the International Space Station, you’ve probably heard the devastatingly sad news of Anthony Bourdain’s death last Friday at the age of sixty-one.

People all over the world have been sharing their respect and affection for Bourdain, and we’re no exception. If you missed it, we ran a farewell yesterday, with a look at “the power of storytelling: it is the stories writers bring us, true and fictional, that crack open our worldview, rushing air into our lungs and offering a clearer future.”

Today, we note that Kitchen Confidential, the book that made Bourdain a household name, has rocketed back up bestseller lists since his death, and 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.’”

A few days back, we also wrote that “Bourdain, deeply beloved, was the self-described ‘Chuck Wepner of chefs,’ adored for his eloquence and sincerity, his sense of wonder, his staunch refusal to go along with bullshit, his sweetness and decency, his commitment to a more just vision of society, and his willingness to tell the truth about America’s restaurant kitchens… His suicide in France at the age of sixty-one has shocked the world, provoking moving responses of many kinds… Here’s wishing him vongele in heaven.”

But our history of Bourdainological explorations extends back years. Nearly a decade ago, our co-fearless co-leader Dennis Johnson wrote about Rachael Ray’s efforts to gradually win Bourdain’s affections, deploying such tools as New York Dolls fandom and non-puppy-murder.

Another classic from the vault is this 2009 piece about Jonathan Safran Foer’s failed attempt at converting Bourdain to vegetarianism in a CNN green room. With characteristic wit, Bourdain noted, “Mr. Foer is surprised that after a casual and brief conversation with Himself, I did not instantly convert to vegetarianism — somewhere between green room and studio.… I would suggest that perhaps he flatters himself.”

And just about a year ago, we published a wonderful rumination from Jacques Berlinerblau, whose book Campus Confidential bears, let us say, the mark of a certain Bourdianian inspiration. “It was abundantly clear to me that Mr. Bourdain, how you say, did not give a shit. The author was unfettered by any allegiance to, respect for, or illusions about his beloved vocation. Wherever there lay a Professional Secret Under No Circumstances To Be Divulged, Bourdain was going to share it, with the directness of any braggart, drunk, or freshly dismissed FBI director. His fealty was to his reader, not his guild.”

There remains much to think, say, read, write, and eat in memory of Anthony Michael Bourdain. For now, remembering his commitment to the worlds of writing and publishing, we’ll end with this gem, from an episode of Bourdain’s show No Reservations that brought him to Cleveland, where, with author Harvey Pekar, he stumbled upon an unfathomably massive collection of used books for sale in an old Twinkie factory. It was just the sort of thing that tended to happen to Bourdain. Enjoy: