One of my favourite mini-binge-watching shows was “No Reservations”, Anthony Bourdain’s first breakout show. It was different. It was fun. And it was the beginning of what is now known as food travel TV.
Ironically enough, the first such show I fell upon was “Bizarre Foods”, hosted by one of Bourdain’s best friends, Andrew Zimmern, who was inspired to make such a show by Bourdain. I saw Bourdain on an episode where Zimmern needed help finding strange places in a seedy part of Brooklyn. Bourdain came across as a wise guy; as someone who fit in everywhere and knew how to get in and out of almost any imaginable situation. I will always remember this episode the two travelling chefs made, mainly because it reminds me of the sheer juxtaposition of the two personas. Yet the two were good friends and had something in common — experience in the world of darkness. Zimmern asserted that Bourdain was one of the few people he could talk to about this darkness.
For Bourdain, it had been a life of addiction and, as he often overtly and covertly admitted, a search for inner piece of the soul. He had admitted to Zimmern and others that his current girlfriend may have finally, at 61, been the soulmate he’d been searching for.
Take his sensitivity, his wise guy persona, his creativity, his culinary skills, his great camera presence, and his will to travel and be a work horse, and you have the perfect recipe for the man who’d bring about a new TV genre and a different perspective on what food really is and what it can do.
MAN OF THE PEOPLE
When someone becomes a cultural force, almost everyone sees a part of themselves in him. In my case, I saw Bourdain as a renaissance man. He gave me creative ideas through the smallest things I saw in his episodes. A movement here. A flicker of the eye there. A drunken sleepless night waiting for a food stand to open in Reykjavik or somewhere like that. A political discussion while having a traditional meal with a family in Finland or Sri Lanka. Staying at a hotel in Havana waiting for the storm. You know, things that you would like to happen to you.
I read a tweet today saying Bourdain encouraged someone to quit their job and write a book. There are so many tweets showing so many ways of how this former drug addict inspired others.
APT QUOTE POST-MORTEM
“He was that uncle that came to your house and everything just seemed right and hopeful with the world again,” one of my acquaintances said.
“Once, at the peak of my depression, I accidentally saw him on TV. He was just enjoying life and appreciating everything. Now I travel on food journeys and am happy again,” another acquaintance said.
“That smile sometimes made me feel that he may have been forcing it. After all, a good soul like his has to have lived in the darkness. And once you’ve been there, you’re scarred for life,” said another.
Unfortunately, the last quote my have been the truest.
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Depression is a very broad term. Was Anthony Bourdain’s suicide just a simple overburdening of depression? Friends said he wasn’t himself lately and one of his best celebrity chef friends in Paris spoke of his friend’s very bad mood the last couple of days.
Maybe there were sudden overwhelming circumstances. Who knows? Maybe we’ll find out in time, if not for anything else than to understand what could make a man who was the idol of so many and was doing what he loved become so distraught as to feel the need to kill himself.
In the meantime, thank you Mr. Bourdain for re-introducing me to the power of the written and spoken word.
Rest In Peace, Sir.