Anthony Bourdain influenced the way many chefs, food writers, and other people in the industry see the world we live and eat in. Bourdain died today at age 61, and some of his peers reflect on his death and what he meant to the food landscape.
Eric Ripert, chef and television personality:
Anthony was a dear friend. He was an exceptional human being, so inspiring and generous. One of the great storytellers of our time who connected with so many.
I wish him peace. My love and prayers are with his family, friends and loved ones.
Kat Kinsman, senior food and drinks editor at Extra Crispy and founder of Chefs With Issues:
I got to know Anthony Bourdain when we had a fight on Twitter. He’d written something that pissed me off. I’d written a response that pissed him off. He tore into me online, and I’d rarely in my life been so terrified. The incredible thing that came from it is that I got to find out that he was just as fierce in his kindness when you got to know him. This is a bone-deep loss for the industry and we’ll feel it for years to come. Tony hadn’t worked in kitchens for years, but his tie to the culture of it is inextricable — especially reflected in his past struggles with addiction. If one small crack of light can come through this tremendous darkness, I hope to hell and back it’s that more people start talking about mental health and addiction and know that they don’t have to suffer through it alone.
Daniel Vaughn, barbecue editor at Texas Monthly:
Tony gave me the opportunity to express my voice. He gave me a book deal and all the support that entails. He is more responsible for the circumstances of my current life than anyone else, but that’s what he has done around the world. He gave people who had never had an audience an opportunity to share their stories, recipes, and grievances. He gave a voice to countless cultures around the world so we could all learn from them. Tony made the world seem smaller, and reminded everyone that what we all have in common is greater than what divides us. I will miss him and his work.
Andrew Zimmern, chef and TV host:
We lost, in my opinion, one of the greatest social commentators and brilliant minds of my generation. His wisdom — people saw him traveling and doing food, but we would spend hours together and we would never talk about that. There was never a better person to talk about music and movies and social justice and any of that with.
I think Tony’s legacy is immeasurable. He was a brilliant social commentator and he was inspiring and awakening an audience that had not previously been interested in it. He was singular in his presentation and what he was portraying. He was not derivative; he was original. And he was the loveliest of anarchists. I remember at dinner a long time ago, he and I were both quasi lecturing some younger folks in our industry. They were all insisting that they could do what he did, and he said “Good luck. The minute you sign that contract you sign away a huge piece of yourself.” He understood the Faustian bargain we all live in. Read Zimmern’s full statement here.
Michael Twitty, culinary historian and writer:
Anthony Bourdain was... and “was” is an extremely difficult verb to say... a humble and poetic advocate for the least of these — the poor and working class, the isolated — he ate with Tahitian trans women; he centered the narratives of people of color and ennobled Black cooking and Black cooks the world over and didn’t shy away from conflict and the impact of human suffering. He exposes in President Obama a quiet introverted foodie and humanized him in a time of deep critique, and broke bread with Felicia Snoop Pearson from The Wire. Anthony Bourdain was also funny as hell and he knew how use that humor to make you empathize and not pity his subjects, not the least of which was his drinking buddy, Zamir.
Whether it is mental illness, substance abuse, or anything else that may cause pain: Suffering is not shameful and asking for help is not weakness.
This serves as a reminder that just because people appear to be living a “perfect” life, they may be struggling and need help.
If we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t take care of the ones we love.
Every life is so incredibly valuable and equally as fragile.
David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker:
He had a real life force. He invented something on television. Which is to say, under the guise of food journalism, he was showing more parts of the world than most television does at all. What other show is going to Burma, Congo, Vietnam, and Cambodia? He went everywhere. He was insatiable in that way. And food was the excuse the way that food was the excuse for a lot of writers, like [A.J.] Liebling, who he really admired. Read the full statement here.
Yotam Ottolenghi, chef, restaurateur, and cookbook writer:
I was fortunate enough to work with Anthony on a couple of occasions. What struck me most about him was his curiosity and his passion not only for food but for the people behind the food. He wasn’t scared to tackle the difficult subjects, either. The program I did with him in Jerusalem was one such occasion: He managed to engage with Israelis and Palestinians and tell their stories through food. He was someone who challenged us to see the world and its cultures through food. There was no one like him and he will be sorely missed.
Jason Wang, CEO of Xi’an Famous Foods:
Today’s a day of extreme sadness for us here at Xi’an Famous Foods. I’ve lost a dear friend today, and we mourn with the rest of the world. I remember the time in 2007 when Tony first visited our basement food stall in Flushing for Travel Channel’s No Reservations while I was still in college (even though I didn’t know who he was at the time). I remember my father preparing interesting off-menu dishes to get his opinion on when he visited our store. I remember years later in 2015, after interviewing together for an article, I approached Tony and told him, while he may have no idea what he has done for our family and business by simply saying he enjoyed the food, I wanted him to know it helped bring our family out from living in one room in Flushing to living the American dream. We were able to grow our business and provide great food for our guests, and opportunities for our employees. I looked at him in the eyes and said, this is something we will always be thankful for, Tony. And he simply replied, “I’m just calling out good food like it is, that’s all.” See the full statement on Eater NY.
Ruth Reichl, food critic and writer:
I’m completely devastated. As an editor, he was a complete dream. Funny, generous, always willing to do whatever we wanted to make a story better. We’d sit in meetings, laughing at his wisecracks.
As half of [parody Twitter account] Ruth Bourdain... People around us thought we should stop it, but Tony and I got together and agreed that it was both flattering and funny.
And as a television personality... it was such a pleasure to watch him grow into a powerhouse, changing food television and inspiring millions of people. He was unique and important, and I’m just so sad that he is gone.
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 Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. For international resources, here is a good place to begin.