A lot of words will be written about Anthony Bourdain. Deservedly so. These are mine.
I didn’t know him, but Bourdain’s work changed me. It wouldn’t be an understatement to say the man was a personal hero of mine. I snacked on No Reservations, but I devoured Parts Unknown. The first episode on Myanmar changed how I understood storytelling. I hadn’t known you could tell one with such wonder, beauty, and sincerity. I didn’t watch a lot of TV, but I caught every episode since.
Bourdain had a way of making the world seem bigger but people closer. He seemingly went everywhere, into the furthest corners of the world — and showed that people everywhere were essentially the same. He approached Michelin-starred restaurants and roadside stalls the same way he met the rich and the poor; with heart, nuance, and consideration. He told their stories, you felt, with respect and honesty.
Bourdain had a wit and wisdom that was street and raw. I’d often shake my head after a scene and wonder how he’d written that. When I got stuck in my own writing, one of my favorite hacks was to fire up an episode of Parts Unknown and listen to his candor challenge my clutter.
And — I’ve never admitted this, but this is as good a time as any to say it — his late success in life inspired me. Maybe, I thought, I might not be such a fuck-up after all. If this guy could make it in his 40s and 50s, there might be hope for this middle-aged fellow yet.
I wanted to be like him. I think many did. But despite everything we saw on the outside, there was something inside of him. Something I don’t think any of us will ever understand. Something I wished he could have healed. It was something that took him from us, far too soon. And I’m heartbroken it did.
Farewell, enthusiast. May you travel well into those greatest parts unknown.
I am not a journalist. I am not a foreign correspondent. I am, at best, an essayist and enthusiast. An amateur. I hope to show you what people are like at the table, at home, in their businesses, at play. And when and if, later, you read about or see the places I’ve been on the news, you’ll have a better idea of who, exactly, lives there Anthony Bourdain