Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture – what’s new and old in entertainment.
As the year draws to a close, it’s the time on the calendar when we take a look back at who we lost this year. One such cultural giant was Anthony Bourdain, the famed chef and author turned travel documentarian.
His death is a curious one for me personally, because at the time of his death on June 8, I had very little exposure to his work. I had seen bits and pieces of his TV shows, but the night he died was the first time I ever watched an episode of Parts Unknown in its entirety. Bourdain’s library will be familiar to many of you: In each episode, he traveled somewhere in the world- it could be Houston or Chicago, Hong Kong or Puerto Rico, The Greek Islands or Hanoi, Vietnam. He would explore the terrain by eating their food and talking to locals about the cuisine and culture of whatever place he was in. By the time I went to sleep that night, I had zipped through four episodes, and was in love with his writing style and his adventures.
Since his passing, I have spent a lot of time with Anthony Bourdain. Before traveling to Melbourne last month, I made it a point to seek out an episode of his old show No Reservations where he went to Melbourne, and my wife and I modeled much of our trip after Bourdain’s. We sought out Middle Eastern food at two restaurants: Rumi and A1 Lebanese Bakery, both at Bourdain’s recommendation. We ventured into Chinatown, just as Bourdain had. I ate red chilis, barbecue quail, and a sausage at the Grand Victorian Market, just like Bourdain had. I was trying to retrace his footsteps, yes, but also he just had a way of describing food that made me absolutely have to try some of it for myself. Anyone on that trip to Australia with me heard me say his name at least a few times, because he became something of a travel guide for my trip. And the results were tremendous: the food was delicious and diverse. His words took us outside of the main Central Business District and urged us to take a trip to culturally rich corners of Melbourne I wouldn’t have even known about without him.
Since returning, I have spent the past few weeks reading his debut book Kitchen Confidential, where I have been able to learn so much more about him as a person: passionate, kind, and, yeah, rough around the edges with a certain brashness that lets you know he knows what he’s talking about.
When Anthony Bourdain died in June, I knew very little about him. But through his shows and his writing, I have gotten to know him like a friend. I’m so grateful for all that he left behind, and I so wish he hadn’t left the world of his own volition. There were more places that could have used a visit, or a return visit, from such a compassionate world traveler.
Resources for those contemplating suicide are always available at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or by calling 1-800-273-8255.
Anthony Bourdain was 61.
I’m Evan Rook.