“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. Walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food. It’s a plus for everybody.”
— Anthony Bourdain
Anthony Bourdain backed up his words with action — all the while urging us to do a lot more than simply try new foods in exotic places filled with fascinating strangers. He desperately wanted us to break out of our comfort zones and see the world (in person) through the eyes of people we would never otherwise meet. Watching his TV shows — first “No Reservations,” and then “Parts Unknown” — enabled us to spend time with a real-life explorer who trotted around the world in search of, well, the things that make us all human. Food, yes. But also love, spirit, and passion.
Bourdain, who suffered from depression, took his own life in 2018 at the age of 61. “Anthony was my best friend,” tweeted French chef and close friend Eric Ripert at the time. “An exceptional human being, so inspiring & generous.” Ripert, along with another longtime friend, José Andrés, declared June 25 (Bourdain’s birthday) Bourdain Day in 2019.
If you’re thinking about suicide, worried about a friend, or in need of emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the U.S. Call 800-273-8255.
Bourdain Day timeline
Anthony Bourdain Legacy Scholarship created
This will provide grant money to one or more Culinary Institute of America students per year to study abroad. Bourdain attended the school’s Hyde Park, New York, campus in the late '70s.
His CNN show focused on food as well as culture and politics. President Obama made an appearance during an episode shot in Vietnam. Bourdain had left his Travel Channel show "No Reservations" in 2012 after a fight with the network.
A narrow escape
War between Israel and Lebanon broke out while Bourdain was shooting "No Reservations" in Beirut. He and his crew managed to escape the country with help from the U.S. Marine Corps.
Bourdain published his most famous book — "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly." The book wound up a New York Times bestseller and would change Bourdain's career forever. This followed a series of both fiction and nonfiction works.
Bourdain became executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles. He stayed there for many years — eventually becoming what the restaurant called its "chef at large."
How to Observe Bourdain Day
Perhaps it's best to spend discretionary income on experiences rather than objects. Amazing things can happen when you're in faraway places. Start packing, if you can.
Catch up on "Parts Unknown"
Bourdain's most recent TV series took him all over the world including Berlin, Vietnam, and Antarctica. He's one of the most compelling personalities you'll ever see on television. If you really can't travel, this is the next best thing.
Consider living in a foreign country
An estimated 9 million Americans live abroad. Those include retirees as well as a growing number of so-called "digital nomads" who, thanks to increasingly reliable WiFi in many countries, can work from anywhere. Living overseas, even temporarily, can alter your outlook on everything.
5 "Parts Unknown" Episodes You Need To Watch Immediately
Bourdain met his future girlfriend Asia Argento during this episode. At one point, they wind up at a boxing match and dine on spaghetti during the fight.
TV host W. Kamau Bell joined Bourdain for this one. This was the first episode to air following Bourdain's death. Said Bell during the episode: "The idea that I’m sitting here with you doing this now, knowing where my life and career have come, it’s pretty cool."
Bourdain and close friend Eric Ripert playfully explore the country — eventually winding up in the Andes where they visit farmers who harvest the cocoa used in the duo’s gourmet chocolate bars. The experience seemed to leave Bourdain somewhat disillusioned about the chocolate business.
Bourdain met with married journalists Jason Rezaian and Yeganeh Salehi. Both were imprisoned following the episode. While captors released Salehi after a few months, Rezaian, who wrote for the "Washington Post," remained jailed until 2016.
Undoubtedly one of the show's all-time highlights, this episode featured President Obama just six weeks before the 2016 election. They shared a tiny table while eating the pork and noodle dish "bun cha."
Why Bourdain Day is Important
Bourdain gave us the blueprint for a more courageous life. He wanted everyone, especially Americans, to see the world and experience other cultures firsthand. Google Maps only takes you so far.
All the success and fame in the world couldn't save Bourdain in the end. It's well known that he battled substance abuse early in his career. He also suffered from depression. Bourdain's death came just three days after New York City designer Kate Spade took her life as well. Mental health issues deserve our full attention.
Bourdain started out as a restaurant line cook who could barely make the rent. He wound up a celebrity chef, author and television host with mass appeal and a worldwide following. Through it all he achieved a measure happiness — though it unfortunately wouldn't last.