Anthony Bourdain, who lived life a constant adventure, has committed suicide. He was 61. The shock of his death is gutting.
Bourdain projected a sense of invincibility. There seemed no challenge too steep, no situation too uncomfortable, or location too remote for him to tackle with gusto. He seemed at ease with chaos, infinitely malleable, and, most importantly, willing to listen. And learn.
He first starred in the kitchen, where he was a rebel with a recipe. His persona and writing revolutionized the way we view chefs and those who work in the restaurant industry. Bourdain wrote beautifully and aggressively, seasoning his prose with just the right amount of spice.
This was before he truly broke out on television with shows that celebrated food, culture, and flight. The world was his passport and he was more than willing to serve as the entry point for those who also dreamed big.
Bourdain was the ideal travel partner, both for those with a sense of adventure and those who felt more comfortable enjoying from home. He was funny, witty, and unfailingly curious.
Though his sense of confidence was unmistakable, his greatest gift was allowing his hosts and guides to set the ground rules. He engaged on their terms. He ate the local food, visited the local market, spoke to the common people.
Bourdain could make you want to go to the end of the Earth for a cup of stew. He could make you want to go back to a place you’d been before but with fresh eyes. And he made every damn place on the planet feel like next door, like a place you knew.
He did this through magnificent storytelling. Food and flavor were the keys that unlocked it all, but once through the door he showcased universal humanity. No one was better at setting the scene. Time. Place. Atmosphere.
Bourdain’s brilliance was understanding that the ingredients didn’t have to be perfect, they had to be authentic. He worked with what he had and created rich, challenging slices of life. A Renaissance man living the American Dream. A former addict who had a spectacular second act.
It was a joy to share a walk through this beautiful world, no matter how brief.