Anthony Bourdain RIP: Local reflections on the chef and raconteur

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anthony bourdain

The spontaneous outpouring of reflections on the passing of chef-multimedia storyteller Anthony Bourdain on Facebook today is a striking testimonial to how many people loved the man and were profoundly influenced by him. Even more notable, for the most part, is the lack of morbid preoccupation with Bourdain’s demons, but rather the tone of gratitude and gentle encouragement towards others who are experiencing depression to reach out for help.

Jay Pierce, chef, Mozelle’s: “I was a line cook in New Orleans at NOLA when Kitchen Confidential came out. It followed his article he wrote for Food Arts magazine, an industry-only magazine, about the dirty little secrets of restaurants and advising people not to order fish on Mondays. Celebrity chefs had not exploded yet, we were working for Emeril Lagasse and took pride in being the dirty pirates behind the successful man. Bourdain was our poet, our shining star, our hope for making it out of the trenches by any means necessary and having our stories heard. I have followed his career very closely, and I am always aspired to walk in his footsteps, that’s why I started writing about food. I am at a loss. We never truly know the human being behind the icon, the image, the name that is up in lights.”

Chris Boyette, national news editor at CNN, former contributor to Amplifier, UNCG graduate, former reporter at The Carolinian and former host on WUAG 103.1 FM: “Bourdain’s talent — outside of the kitchen, beyond storytelling — was his genuine curiosity, interest and respect for those he met on his travels. This is what made him such a good journalist and storyteller. He sincerely aimed to listen and to understand. He showed as much genuine interest in a woman making corn tortillas in her stone kitchen as an Iranian political prisoner as even a star-struck young associate producer [Boyette]. Thoughts today to his family, his crew and those he touched as a traveler and raconteur.”

Eric Ginsburg, freelance journalist, New York City; co-founder, Triad City Beat: “I knew I liked Anthony Bourdain, but when Kacie took me to see him in October, I pretty quickly started asking myself how I could be more like him. His late shift to writing, his compassion, his no-bullshit attitude, his unfettered politics, his raw honesty, and his insistence on grappling with complexity all inspired me. I finally read his first book. I wrote more about the collision of food and politics. I asked myself hard questions.

“I try not to have heroes. But Anthony Bourdain left an indelible mark on me, like he did so many. It’s moving to read what he meant to friends and strangers, and I’m really grateful that he shared so much of himself with us. He’s already dearly missed.

“You are not alone. The world is plenty fucked up, but it’s still better with you in it. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone, call 800.273.8255, or go to speakingofsuicide.com/resources for help.”

Danny Timpona, activist, Winston-Salem: “Bourdain’s creativity, compassion, truth telling, humor, and storytelling will be deeply missed. He used his platform to provide a glimpse into the everyday, told stories others often ignored, brought misrepresented cultures and people into homes around the world — humanizing them in the process and providing folks with a more informed political lens to view the world, and hit home on our common humanity and the simple joys and subtle goodness of the people and world around us amidst all the chaos, corruption, greed, and destruction.

“If you haven’t read any of his writing eviscerating Trump, Giuliani, Kissinger, and other powerful people while also humanizing undocumented laborers, Palestinians, and many millions more around the world who go unseen and unheard… I highly recommend. From West Virginia to Palestine to Cambodia, he will be missed. Rest in power.”

Ed Bumgardner, bass player, Luxuriant Sedans, rock journalist: “Life is fun. Life is hard. Life is long. Life is short.

“To touch someone else’s life with something you create is a blessing, yes, but one that can be equal parts curse.

“In the end, all one can do is cherish the art and the memories, the gifts given, the shared journey taken, and accept the ending of the story as best one can.

“Anthony Bourdain was an enormous and highly entertaining influence on me. I will miss him, his talent, his boundless curiosity and his cutting sense of humor.

“The void is profound.”

Victoria Bouloubasis, writer and producer, Markay Media; former food editor, Indy Week: “Anthony Bourdain knew so much about the world, investigating it with sincere curiosity and love. Unearthing and confronting the horrors of it. And he kept sticking up for what is right, in his crass, brash way. He listened to justified critiques, and came out of that with better, more responsible work.

“When you do that through food, the majority of people are hesitant to accept it. Or they flat out tell you you’re divisive. (I don’t have to tell you that I’m speaking from very personal experience.) Bourdain took his privilege as a white man and did the best he could to elevate what most food and travel professionals choose to ignore, to keep food political, to celebrate and honor humans while delving into complexities that are hard to stomach. And through this he left an indelible mark on so many of us, regardless of our jobs or cooking aspirations.

“Mental illness is real. And deep, emotional work as a storyteller is taxing, in addition to our own personal demons. Thinking of so many friends today. Here for you.”

Ed E. Ruger, rapper, Greensboro: “Another one gone. He was amazing. I watch his shows often. Please tell people you love them. Mental illness is a real issue. Reach out to someone if you need to talk. We care even if you think no one does. RIP man.”

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