Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown/CNN Playboy
Courtesy Parts Unknown/CNN

Read

Anthony Bourdain Democratized Food Like No One Before Him

I worked in restaurant kitchens for 10 years before I became a writer. I don’t think I could have even conceptualized that career path had it not been for the dog-eared copy of Kitchen Confidential that came into my life at the beginning of my days as a cook. Back then, the food media landscape was bare; for the food-obsessed (like I was), there was Cook’s Illustrated and Martha Stewart Living, and there was Emeril and others of his ilk on the new Food Network.

To read this brand new writer whose words crackled and sparked on the page—with anger, wit and sly humor—and have the subject matter be the very world I was in? 

The wild west of kitchens has existed as long as the restaurants they fueled, but never had it been written about so perfectly. For us—his fans, the cooks and chefs of the world—Anthony Bourdain was our MFK Fisher, our Julia Child. 

He wasn’t some dilettante traipsing through Provence seeking out truite au bleu. Bourdain was a washed-out punk chef with a drug problem who could write like a motherfucker. He was the voice of a generation and his message gave my little line cook heart hope for a future beyond the flattop.
Bourdain democratized food in a way that the glossy rags and TV hadn’t. Instead of getting a man in chef whites to show us how to make ramen on a soundstage, we saw a hardscrabble cook out in the world with an endless curiosity and an open heart.
Then he went off and conquered food television. With his partners, Lydia Tenaglia and Chris Collins, he formed ZPZ Productions and revolutionized foodie pop culture. They shot in the real world, with real people. A man as beloved as he was could have had his pick of celebrity chefs and bigshot guests, but he was more interested in the street vendors of Saigon or visiting hole in the wall noodle shops in Bangkok.

Bourdain democratized food in a way that the glossy rags and TV hadn’t. Instead of getting a man in chef whites to show us how to make ramen on a soundstage, we saw a man we knew—a hardscrabble cook out in the world with an endless curiosity and an open heart, exploring how other people lived with every sip of camel milk and bite of pungent durian. This was not some grinning talking head, no spoiled gourmand. This was our guy, someone who’d been in the same trenches, who knew poverty and hard work, who knew the beauty of sitting around a table, tablecloth be damned.

Who else would have chosen, for the highest profile interview of his career, to take out the president of the United States for beers and noodles at some unknown joint in Hanoi? He was a real person, and we loved him for it. What a lucky bunch we are to have had Anthony for the time we did.
The Laments of Michael Avenatti

WHAT MATTERS NOW

RECOMMENDED BY THE EDITORS OF PLAYBOY

James Bond Origin: A Train to Catch

Explore Categories