Long before I married a chef, long before I followed him into this industry, I’ve pursued a love for food. I was a student on a budget in university so my gastronomic pursuits weren’t to the food capitals of the world, but to our own—for the lechon of Cebu, the batchoy of Iloilo, the mangoes of Guimaras, the sisig of Pampanga, the pinakbet of Ilocos. I was a perennially hungry literature undergrad with a track in creative nonfiction whose cultural consciousness was molded by the culinary awakening of the aughts: a widespread obsession with food, its context, and the people who make it. I wanted to write about my experiences in the way that this man did, who made it as intimate and personal as it was revelatory, rooted as it is in the unfamiliar, in history, in the experiences of others. Now, checklist eating and chef worship are no big deal, and say what you will about the pitfalls of that, but we all care a little bit more about what we eat, and Anthony Bourdain had a lot to do with that.
He started this particular pursuit late in life, but in doing so magnified our consumption of food and affected the way we talk and act about it. His New Yorker essay about his first ever trip to Tokyo for Les Halles led to this book, Kitchen Confidential—his first nonfiction title, and a cultural artifact at that. It uncovered the gritty, badass lifestyles of cooks—who were then underestimated and undervalued members of the workforce. The books and shows that followed took his stories from the sweaty confines of the kitchen out into the world, which all made our tongues a little bit more curious, a little bit more adventurous.
By all accounts, from what we’ve read, what we’ve watched, the places and experiences he has so generously and beautifully shared with you and me, the likes of which many of us will never get to see, he lived a good life, didn’t he? We don’t know why he took it, but despite the tragedy, it was a life that made me savor mine—culinary experiences and otherwise—with more thought and attention, a little less caution and unheeded reservations. Anthony Bourdain was a real (anti)hero to me.