10 unforgettable quotes about life and food from the late Anthony Bourdain
Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain was found dead Friday morning in an apparent suicide at the age of 61. News of the "Parts Unknown" host's death triggered an outpouring of love and tribute from his many fans and the people who knew him. Bourdain began his path to international fame as a writer, and throughout his career he's been known for his wit and storytelling abilities.
His writing is filled with rich tales of kitchen life in his New York City restaurants, his thoughts on the places he'd visited, and the pleasures of opening your mind to new experiences. Here are some of the best quotes from interviews over the decades.
1. Kitchens are for misfits
Bourdain began his path to international fame after publishing an essay in a 1999 issue of New Yorker about his life as a chef in New York City. The essay evolved into the critically acclaimed and bestselling book 'Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly' the next year.
"I love the sheer weirdness of the kitchen life: the dreamers, the crackpots, the refugees, and the sociopaths with whom I continue to work. In America, the professional kitchen is the last refuge of the misfit. It’s a place for people with bad pasts to find a new family."
2. Seek new experiences
One of Bourdain's life missions was to advocate for new experiences. As he wrote in 'Kitchen Confidential', "I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once." Talking with Matha Stewart in a radio interview he said:
"Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonald's? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria's mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head?"
3. Break away from the typical chef
Bourdain admitted in a 2017 interview with The Guardian that, for a time, he acted like a stereotypical tyrannical chef. But he made progress to break apart the ill will that environment created. He suggested his bad attitude came from the drug issues he openly dealt with.
"I’d put aside my psychotic rage, after many years being awful to line cooks, abusive to waiters, bullying to dishwashers. It’s terrible - and counter-productive - to make people feel like idiots for working hard for you."
4. Connect the world
Bourdain saw 'Parts Unknown' as a way to connect the world over shared cultural traditions. Pretty much everyone, he pointed out in a 2016 PBS News interview, likes food and can talk about food. "Food may not be the answer to world peace, but it’s a start."
Bourdain felt fortunate to survive his drug addiction. He didn't take his unlikely success for granted, as he told Biography.com, "I should’ve died in my 20s. I became successful in my 40s. I became a dad in my 50s. I feel like I’ve stolen a car - a really nice car - and I keep looking in the rearview mirror for flashing lights. But there’s been nothing yet."
6. Speaking about Batali
Bourdain was an outspoken against sexual assault. He dated Asia Argento, one of the women who first spoke about alleged sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein. When several alleged victims accused Mario Batali, Bourdain's on the celebrity chef circuit, with sexual misconduct in late 2017 and early 2018, Bourdain wasn't soft on him.
"Retire and count yourself lucky. I say that without malice, or without much malice. I am not forgiving. I can’t get past it. I just cannot and that’s me, someone who really admired him and thought the world of him."
7. Sexual misconduct
"I’ve had to ask myself, and I have been for some time, 'To what extent in ['Kitchen Confidential'] did I provide validation to meatheads?'" When the national conversation about sexual misconduct began, Bourdain openly reckoned with his past work. 'Kitchen Confidential' presented an image of macho life, which he called "meathead culture," that he thought may have made him seen insensitive to workplace issues.
"I've known some of these women and I've known women who've had stories like this for years and they've said nothing to me," he told Slate. "What is wrong with me? What have I, how have I presented myself in such a way as to not give confidence, or why was I not the sort of person people would see as a natural ally here? So I started looking at that."
8. Change your life through travelling
"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."
"Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands." Bourdain's world travels gave him a strong perspective on international affairs. Discussing a visit to Cambodia in his 2001 book 'A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines,; Bourdain criticized former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger for the US bombing Cambodia in 1969 and 1970.
"You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking," he continued. "Witness what Henry did in Cambodia - the fruits of his genius for statesmanship - and you will never understand why he's not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milošević."
10. Food should be fun
Bourdain's most direct message to the world, as he wrote in 'Kitchen Confidential,' was that food should be fun. "Your body is not a temple, it's an amusement park. Enjoy the ride."
Bourdain's work articulated a way of life that celebrated food, travel, and cultural exchange. In today's current climate of greed and isolationism, we could all take something from this man's astounding life.