12 Lessons We Can Learn From Anthony Bourdain

Remembering  Anthony Bourdain, Lessons from  Anthony Bourdain

You know that question about who you would invite, if you could have dinner with anyone in history? Anthony Bourdain was always one of my answers. I'd never met him but because of how engaging and open he seemed, I felt like I knew him in some way and it would be quite an experience to share a meal and a conversation with him.

A celebrated chef, author, and television personality, Anthony Bourdain began his culinary career as a dishwasher, a humble start which he has acknowledged helped to foster a sense of discipline and structure which he greatly needed at the time. He was always brutally honest about his personal struggles with addiction and his own mental health.  His best-selling memoir, "Kitchen Confidential" launched into an award winning television career on the Food Network, the Travel Channel, and CNN. Bourdain had an far reaching influence on those in the food industry and beyond. He also had a way of connecting people through his unique and insightful brand of storytelling.

He considered food one of life’s great pleasure and saw in it a reflection of who we are. Bourdain believed that it could be used to unite and bridge differences. He shared meals with people around the world in a way that was refreshing authentic and filled with humility, respect and curiosity. No food was ever too lowly or gross for him to try because he understood the meaning behind it to the people who made and ate it. He was genuinely appreciative of his experiences as he opened our eyes to other cultures in a way that both humanized and legitimized them. His irreverence was both snarky and elegant and he had a way of shining a light on injustices and speaking the truth like no one else. Anthony Bourdain was someone who was aware of his incredible privilege and understood the voice which his position gave him. He didn’t take this responsibility lightly and tried to do good with his fame. How he left this world is heartbreaking  and he leaves behind a legacy of sincerity, openness and lack of prejudice that we could all do well to learn from.

Be curious but not judgmental
"Don’t be a snob. It’s something I will always at least aspire to — something that has allowed me to travel this world and eat all it has to offer without fear or prejudice. To experience joy, my father taught me, one has to leave oneself open to it.”

Be open to trying new things
“Without experimentation, a willingness to ask questions and try new things, we shall surely become static, repetitive, and moribund.”

Look for common ground instead of differences
"If you sit down with people and just say 'Hey what makes you happy? What do you like to eat?' They'll tell you extraordinary things, many of which have nothing to do with food."

Have integrity
"Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don't have."

Have respect for others even if you don't share their point of view
“I don’t have to agree with you to like you or respect you.”

Be nice
“Understand that when you’re in places you are … other than your home, you’re often the stupidest person in the room, meaning you’re the least aware of what’s really going on. People are generally nice if you’re nice.”

Learn from your mistakes
“Don’t lie about it. You made a mistake. Admit it and move on. Just don’t do it again. Ever.”

Realize that you don't know everything and that's okay
"It seems that the more places I see and experience, the bigger I realize the world to be. The more I become aware of, the more I realize how relatively little I know of it, how many places I have still to go, how much more there is to learn. Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom … is realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go."

Speak up for what matters to you
Anthony Bourdain held true to his principles and was a vocal advocate for #MeToo, LGBTQ, immigrant restaurant workers and marginalized communities.
“Right now, nothing else matters but women’s stories of what it’s like in the industry I have loved and celebrated for nearly 30 years — and our willingness, as human beings, citizens, men and women alike, to hear them out, fully, and in a way that other women can feel secure enough, and have faith enough that they, too, can tell their stories. We are clearly at a long overdue moment in history where everyone, good hearted or not, will HAVE to look at themselves, the part they played in the past, the things they’ve seen, ignored, accepted as normal, or simply missed — and consider what side of history they want to be on in the future.”

Embrace the journey
“The journey is part of the experience – an expression of the seriousness of one’s intent. One doesn’t take the A train to Mecca.”

Enjoy life
"Your body is not a temple, it's an amusement park. Enjoy the ride."

Traveling is a great way to learn
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”

Anthony Bourdain's loss feels so profound and personal because he meant a lot to me. Growing up I was made to feel ashamed about the food I ate at home and my culture because of public perception that it was weird and second rate. He was one of the first television personalities who didn’t look down upon Asian cuisine. In fact he had an unabashed appreciation for both the food and the heritage behind it. He managed to introduce it to the world with respect and an acknowledgement to traditions as well. This was major because Asian cultures and cuisines had often been marginalized as inferior and misunderstood by many Western cultures despite the fact that many types of Western food are actually rooted in Chinese history.

Bourdain had a way of promoting genuine human connection in the way he was able to see beauty in people and places that are often overlooked and that is something we really need in these turbulent times. A lesson in this is that life isn't perfect, even for those who seem to have everything.  The most successful people who may look completely normal may suffer from anxiety or other mental issues. If untreated, they might lead to chronic depression and ultimately to devastating situations like this one. Take care of yourself and pay close attention to those around you.

It's high time we realize the importance of recognizing mental illness as the serious problem it is. Mental health can't be stigmatized and really needs to be prioritized just as much as physical health. If you or someone you know live in the US and are experiencing depression and need support, please call the National Depressive/Manic-Depressive Association Hotline at 1-800-826-3632 or the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.



Doctor Anne said...

I had no idea Asian cuisine was considered inferior some time ago? With the rise of Asian Dining opportunities all over the world that is surely behind us now.

Anne|Linda, Libra, Loca

Lilli said...

Hello Rowena, I've read very carefully your words and I am very impressed. It has been a huge lost, have no words that such a personality, mind and heart has gone in a very sad way...we all have our inner struggles..life unfortunately leave sad marks and is our skill to turn them in something more and better..I know is easy in words and very difficult to do. Last year I had a bad accident, a car ran over me while I was walking on the crosswalk..it hit me and I beat the head 2 times..also had a fracture, but Im alive and it was a huge miracle for how it happened, everyone wondered. We have to live life the best we can and have faith. Hugs dear xo

R's Rue said...

No adequate words for the love of this post.

Pilar said...

What a beautiful post Rowena. I agree mental health needs to be prioritized rather than stigmatized.

sepatuholig-Grace Njio said...

I first known Anthony B from the show No Reservation. And fall in love with him... the way he explain how food connects people in a way.
It is sad that he toom his own life, and I guess we dont know about other people struggles. We never know...
This is a great write up. The best of the day for me. Best of the week in fact.
Thank you for sharing!
IG @grace_njio

Emmylou said...

What a great post to commemorate a great man...thanks for this, chingu. Like you, it broke my heart when I saw the news about Anthony. I was still kinda going over my sadness over Kate Spade's death when this happened, and man....the week was definitely horrid. Before watching any of Tony's shows, I read Kitchen Confidential first, and that book just blew me away with his honesty. Became a fan after that. I still remember the way he was just lovingly talking about pho...before him, I never really appreciated that dish. It was due to his influence that I really appreciated the deliciousness of simple but well-made food.
I love his quote about travel...so profound.

Jenny said...

This is such a beautifully written post Rowena. Bourdain's death hit me harder than I had expected, especially since he showed so much passion for all the experiences life had to offer. Watching his show inspired my husband and I want to travel more and experience the food and cultures around the world. I agree that mental health needs to be prioritized to prevent tragedies like this from happening.

Jenny // Geeky Posh

Unknown said...

Wonderful post!
Have a nice week!
Gil Zetbase

Gabrielle said...

Gosh, what a beautiful and thought-provoking post. The first quote shared above is really lovely and I particularly like his point about integrity. What a wise man! Thank you for sharing this, Rowena :)

Gabrielle | A Glass Of Ice x

GlamourZONE said...

I love the point. I find Antony such an inspiring man. I think it is very important that people have respect for each other.

Paola Lauretano said...

Such a great lost... this story is very interesting!
Kisses, Paola.

Ivana Split said...

The first time I caught site of Anthony on TV, what drew me to continue watching was the fact he had an uncanny resemblance to my late grandfather (physically they were a lot alike, the same height, very similar facial features) but as I continued following his shows I fell in love with his directness and openness. I love that he was never a food snob, always open to everything and appreciative of other culinary culture. He was truly unique. My husband and I would often watch his shows together, and my husband ended up being even a greater fan of his than I was. It is truly heartbreaking the way his life came to an end. The suicide rate in the western countries is incredibly high, especially among men. This really is the time to start talking about mental illnesses more openly. Mental illnesses can be treated, there are so many options out there. Most mental illnesses are highly treatable. This is something that affects everyone, so it's something we need to talk about more.

ALLIE NYC said...

Insightful and heartfelt post. Yes mental illness is a real disease and needs to be less taboo. It is much better today then in the past but still taboo. It is a shame that two people who have known almost no hardship when compared to the world stage and got paid a lot of money to do what they love, but more then that it is the lack of true hardship. I think in addition to mental illness that suicide is a problem in the west in ways that it is not in less fortunate countries. Not sure why exactly. This would need a lot of study. I really don't know what to think of the world anymore. But I am at a point where I want to go dark and just drop out. No more news, no more media, no more internet, no more social media, no more. Go live on an island somewhere...

Allie of

Beauty Unearthly said...

Interesting post dear! xx

Shireen L. Platt said...

His death broke my heart and reading your words made me cry, thank you for this beautifully written piece on him, Rowena. I remember watching him, laughing along and completely mesmerized by his passion for both food and people. Mental health is not to be taken lightly and I hope more would reach out and get help for it.

Shireen⎜Reflection of Sanity

Mica said...

I actually wasn't aware of Anthony, I have seen many people talking about how sad the lsos is, and I think any loss like this is a sad one, but this is the first post I've read that shared what a great person we have lost.

Thank you for sharing, and for including the info at the end of your post. Over here it's a requirement to write about how to find help when discussing such topics in the medi and I think it's a lovely thing to do regardless.

Away From The Blue Blog

Klaudia Zuberska said...

you have a fantastic blog. I had to translate an entry into Polish, because I say, write and read mainly in Polish: D you write great, you are a very inspiring and interesting person! I really like it here :) when you have free time, I invite you to myself :)
Kisses from Poland :*

Kinga K. said...

Fantastic post 💝

Lena L said...

Reading this one for the second time and loving it all over again. I was heartbroken when I heard about his sudden departure. Like you said, I've always loved how he approached Asian cuisines - with a humble and open heart. It is not easy to learn to appreciate new kinds of food after certain age, but I truly believe he's influenced people to be "open" to new things in life, not just food.