It is remarkable to me how the world is reeling from the loss of Anthony Bourdain,who will be remembered as the every man’s culinary hero of the early 21st century. The outpourings of grief from such diverse circles shows what an impact he had on contemporary society. I have a very different perspective.
As a rising female chef on the mid 1990’s I read Bone in the Throat, Bourdain’s first novel about the culinary underbelly, which might I add is dead on. Ironically my life was a bit of the flip side of Anthony Bourdain’s, I was a trained writer with a degree in English working as a chef on a Caribbean Island. I grew up in Manhattan and at that point wanted to distance myself as much as possible from that world. When I left the Caribbean I headed to Cape Cod where my husband and I have been raising our two daughters, now teenagers. See that is supposed to be one of the perks of being a chef, you get to live and work in these supremely beautiful places people spend all year saving up for a week long trip to visit.
So my journey has brought me to where Bourdain’s journey began, but though our paths may be an inverse of each other his love of food and adventure has profoundly affected my work and many of my fellow Culinarians. Food is a powerful thing, it manages to cross political and social boundaries like nothing else. Food brings us together, food sustains us, food brings us pleasure. It is a profound part of the human equation and Anthony Bourdain sought to teach the masses how important this aspect of the human condition was to society. Food is unique to geographical and cultural regions, just like flora, fauna and even language. Food can tell us so much about a society or region, in a way that nothing else can. Food allows social connections that profoundly affect families and communities. I think this is part of why Bourdain’s tragic death has affected so many people, he helped us see the power of food and its ability to cross social divides that nothing else can.
His death is a tremendous loss to not just the culinary world, but to all of contemporary society that seeks to find meaning and connection. A shared meal is a powerful thing that should be savored and respected and Anthony Bourdain did his best to help the world try and understand this simple fact.