Anthony Bourdain Showed Me The World

Anthony Bourdain was a man who made me curious about the world and more empathetic to the people who inhabit it.

Photo: Frederick M. Brown / Stringer (Getty Images)

My mother showed me Anthony Bourdain's Food Network show A Cook's Tour when I was a teenager. She had already latched onto the mythology of Bourdain as a brash and talented chef, and had given me a copy of his memoir, Kitchen Confidential.

The only episode of A Cook's Tour I remember is the one where he visits Cambodia, a place he says he visited because it was "the last place in the world he really wanted to go".

After learning that Bourdain died by suicide yesterday, I put this episode on. He eats cockroaches and durian, and looks startlingly young in his sleeveless shirt and tiny round sunglasses.

His narration is awkward. He's still learning how to be a person who talks about food on TV, but I can still see all the things that made me love him. He's so curious about Cambodia and the people who live there, meeting them on their own terms and sharing their food. There's little gawking or sensationalism - he just wants to learn and experience something new.

Watching him eat tripe and visit markets, I realised this episode was the origin point for my own disdain for people who act like tourists.

Bourdain and a friend meet a family cooking dinner and ask for a taste of what they're making, watching how the mother cooks. Bourdain is so complimentary to her technique, marvelling at the way she controls the flame under her pan. They laugh together.

"It's the people that makes the difference," he says. "If you're going to travel, it always wonderful to eat what the people are eating at your destination. This is the way they feed themselves, this is the way they live. … If you're really curious about a country, eat how everyday people eat."

When I watched this as a teenager, I was pretty self-centred, like a lot of teenagers are. Thinking about how people lived in Cambodia was not something that would occur to me. Bourdain's empathy opened up my world. It helped me to understand what America did to Vietnam.

Bourdain's experiences in Cambodia have always lived at the back of my mind. When I think about how I can try to be better to the people around me, I think about Bourdain's warmth and openness.

When I texted my mother today to see how she was doing, she told me that she felt like she lost a friend. "And I didn't even want to meet him," she said. "He just made the world seem more interesting."

If depression is affecting you or someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.


Comments

    Seen his pics around but never actually watched anything he was in. Sad for his family and friends.

    His cooking show was more a travel show with food, and it is great. Sad to see him go. :(

    When I saw the news I sat in shock, not just because I was a fan but I knew I then had to break it to my best friend who adored him and found him an inspiration beyond measure. I felt like I was breaking the news of a loved ones death, not just some celebrity.

    Sad news :(

    I enjoyed his shows & he lived a hell of life so I'll focus on the good times

    It's a time for alot if young chefs inspired by Anthony, his first book was given to me in 2001 and I became an apprentice chef a few months later, 6 years ago I got to work with him for the day and it was a dream come true, such a great guy

    The episode of him enjoying Waffle House is great. That lack of pretension about food and his gratitude for anyone who would take the time out to serve him ... there's a humbling nature about that which we need more right now.

    My god(ofwar), on Thurs morning I watched his episode of No Resrvations and it was dynamite. I've always taken comfort in Bordain even just to sleep to on repeat on the food network or something but Thurs morns ep was unreal he went to E.A and they even made an in character game for him, he went to the filmset of Farcry and it was just my 2 loves combined. My depressive comfort and videogames = Euphoria! Hunt that episode people its great!

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