San Francisco, California

Bourdain

Over the past week a lot of friends have shared this story by Anthony Bourdain, supposedly his first published piece, called Don’t Eat Before Reading This and in true Bourdainian style it’s lovely as all hell:

I love the sheer weirdness of the kitchen life: the dreamers, the crackpots, the refugees, and the sociopaths with whom I continue to work; the ever-present smells of roasting bones, searing fish, and simmering liquids; the noise and clatter, the hiss and spray, the flames, the smoke, and the steam. Admittedly, it’s a life that grinds you down. Most of us who live and operate in the culinary underworld are in some fundamental way dysfunctional. We’ve all chosen to turn our backs on the nine-to-five, on ever having a Friday or Saturday night off, on ever having a normal relationship with a non-cook.

When I heard news of Bourdain’s death I gasped because it’s inconceivable to me that we’ll never hear his voice again. And what a voice it was; one that loved a good list and always had a crackling, romantic metaphor ready at hand. But regardless of the voice or familiar face that we’ll surely miss it’s clear now that amongst everything else it was his kindness that will be the most shocking loss. He stood up for people when he didn’t have to. He didn’t dodge his taxes. He despised bro culture. He was a feminist and handled fame with grace:

Bourdain’s fame wasn’t the distant, lacquered type of an actor or a musician, bundled and sold with a life-style newsletter. Bourdain felt like your brother, your rad uncle, your impossibly cool dad—your realest, smartest friend, who wandered outside after beers at the local one night and ended up in front of some TV cameras and decided to stay there. As a writer himself, he was always looking out for other writers, always saying yes, always available for interviews and comments. You had to fight through a wall of skeptical P.R. to get to someone like Guy Fieri, but Bourdain was right there, for everyone, in equal measure. He remembered names. He took every question seriously. He was twenty minutes early to every appointment, to the minute. Every newspaper, every magazine, every Web site that asked got its Bourdain quotes—and good ones, too! Not pre-scripted pablum but potent missiles of cultural commentary—bombastic wisdom, grand pronouncements, eviscerations of celebrities, flagrantly named names.

Far beyond the cooking and the jokes, the suave bad boy attitude with the good heart, it’s “being there, for everyone, in equal measure” – that’s what we can learn from Anthony Bourdain and it’s how we ought to spend the rest of our time here together, aspiring to be there for everyone.