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Anthony Bourdain’s Most Memorable Quotes

The late and great had a way with words

Anthony Bourdain dead Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

Anthony Bourdain, the host of culinary travelogue Parts Unknown and one of the food world’s biggest voices, has died. He was a father, filmmaker, television host, chef, speaker, educator, and author. To most of the people that knew him or knew of him, Bourdain was simply strikingly, delightfully good with words. Though his focus was within the world of food, he could speak eloquently and powerfully on nearly any topic, from Armenian genocide to working in restaurants to American politics to omelets.

Here, now, some of his most memorable quotes and quips, from his many television shows, speaking engagements, interviews, and books.

On his surprising success as a TV star: “I assumed from the get-go that every minute I was on television was a freakish anomaly that would be over quickly. It came as a sobering and confusing moment when I realized I was still on the air. What the fuck is going on?”

On traveling, on culture, and on moving: “If I am an advocate for anything, it is to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.”

On dining with Obama: “I’ve never seen someone enjoy a cold beer on a little plastic stool more than President Obama.”

On eggs: “An egg in anything makes it better.”

On his life philosophy: “Life is complicated. It’s filled with nuance. It’s unsatisfying... If I believe in anything, it is doubt. The root cause of all life’s problems is looking for a simple fucking answer.”

On why he quit smoking: “I mean, I’ve had more time on this Earth than I probably deserve, and I enjoy cigarettes very much, but now I feel that I owe this child who loves me to at least try to live a little longer, you know?”

On his work: “I have the best job in the world. If I’m unhappy, it’s a failure of imagination.”

On learning to cook: “Basic cooking skills are a virtue... the ability to feed yourself and a few others with proficiency should be taught to every young man and woman as a fundamental skill. [It’s] as vital to growing up as learning to wipe one’s own ass, cross the street by oneself, or be trusted with money.”

On humanity: “I’m not that optimistic [about] the human race...

“Without experimentation, a willingness to ask questions and try new things, we shall surely become static, repetitive, and moribund.”

One-time personal motto: “Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”

On filming in West Virginia: “You know, I went right at those things — guns, God, and Trump — and I was very moved by what I found there. I hope that people who watch the show will feel the same kind of empathy and respect, and will be able to walk in somebody else’s shoes, or imagine walking in somebody else’s shoes, for a few minutes in the same way that hopefully they do with one of my other shows.”

On the #MeToo movement: “Look, obviously, it’s personal for me. I mean, if I didn’t have a personal involvement with Asia Argento, I can’t tell you that I would have suddenly woken up. It was very intensely brought home to me in a very personal way. I found myself next to someone who was going through an incredibly difficult and traumatic time and telling her story, and I saw what was involved in making that decision and the aftermath. And then because of her situation, a community of women formed around her who were also telling their stories, often in my presence. It became a personal thing, and I can’t claim that I had a burning bush moment on the road to Damascus, where the scales fell away from my eyes. It was personal.”

On America: “I think it’s worth acknowledging that this is a country founded in violence, a country that has always worshipped outlaws, loners, cowboys, and people who got the things they got by the gun.”

On having an agenda: “I don’t have an agenda, but I do have a point of view, and it might change from minute to minute.”

On putting up with Trump: “I’m sticking it out, I’m not gonna run away to Canada. I’m gonna pay my fuckin’ taxes, I’m gonna vote, I’m gonna do all of that. But I’m not going to be taking it to the streets any time soon — well, we’ll see.”

On success: “Without new ideas success can become stale.”

On character: “Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don’t have.”

On wisdom: “Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom... is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”

On life: “As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”

Anthony Bourdain Dead at 61 [E]
In Anthony Bourdain, the Food World Found One of Its Strongest Voices [E]
Anthony Bourdain Rewrote the Rules for Food and Travel Shows [E]

If you or anyone you know is considering suicide or self-harm or is anxious, depressed, upset, or needs to talk, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. For international resources, here is a good place to begin.