With the passing of beloved chef, traveler, and storyteller Anthony Bourdain on Friday morning, the outpouring of tributes from his friends and colleagues has been nothing short of remarkable. Beyond simply being a television personality and host, Bourdain gave his audience a new perspective on travel, food, and culture. He treated both food and travel with a genuine sense of curiosity, never pushing a Western agenda. In a world where it’s easy to regard unfamiliar dishes as “strange” or “exotic”, Bourdain simply presented them within their cultural context, and people tell their own stories, both about the food and themselves. While he clearly had a significant impact on his audience of devoted viewers, he had perhaps an even greater impact on those who knew him personally.
Anderson Cooper, his colleague at CNN, devoted his entire Anderson Cooper 360 broadcast to Bourdain. He expressed:
“shock, confusion and sadness that a man who was seemingly having the ride of his life in the middle of his life has now suddenly reached the end of his life…he loved and was loved in return…he gave me hope for what one’s life can become, can be at 61.”
Bourdain’s colleagues in the culinary world have been coming out in force to express their profound sadness.
Chef Eric Ripert, who was with Bourdain in France when he died, tweeted:
Anthony was my best friend. An exceptional human being, so inspiring & generous. One of the great storytellers who connected w so many. I pray he is at peace from the bottom of my heart. My love & prayers are also w his family, friends and loved ones. pic.twitter.com/LbIeZK14ia
— Eric Ripert (@ericripert) June 8, 2018
Chef Andrew Zimmern, a longtime friend of Bourdain’s, spoke at length about the loss in a phone call to Eater:
“We lost, in my opinion, one of the greatest social commentators and brilliant minds of my generation…there was never a better person to talk about music and movies and social justice and any of that with.” Of their friendship, he said “it was a beautiful relationship…he was an incredible sounding board, and a gracious and kind friend to me…over the last few years, he told me many times he had never been happier.”
Jose Andres, another chef who was a good friend of Bourdain’s, mourned the loss via Twitter:
My friend..I know you are on a Ferry going to somewhere amazing…..you still had so many places to show us, whispering to our souls the great possibilities beyond what we could see with our own eyes…you only saw beauty in all https://t.co/Ltw9HrCBb2 will always travel with me https://t.co/Yv4Ntud6X0
— José Andrés (@chefjoseandres) June 8, 2018
Reflections are coming not only from those in the culinary and media world, but one of the most high-profile guests on his show, Parts Unknown. Barack Obama tweeted:
“Low plastic stool, cheap but delicious noodles, cold Hanoi beer.” This is how I’ll remember Tony. He taught us about food — but more importantly, about its ability to bring us together. To make us a little less afraid of the unknown. We’ll miss him. pic.twitter.com/orEXIaEMZM
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 8, 2018
Food writer Michael Ruhlman spoke to CNN about his close friend, including his struggles with drugs and depression. “He was a gentle soul,” Ruhlman said. “Remember that he would have hated it … he would have been appalled by the platitudes that I’m saying. He would have told me to shut the f— up. Was he a bad boy? Yeah, he was. But that’s what made him great.”
Chef and television personality Eddie Huang wrote for Rolling Stone about Bourdain being a professional influence:
“From day one, the directive was to outdo Tony. His name was the name we all said in meetings, the field, the van, the edit and in desperate emails when we felt like we were losing. He was, is, and always will be the Michael Jordan, Hunter S. Thompson and Mick Jagger of this shit, and we all wanted to beat him. Yet, every time, he turned the other cheek, stepped up his game, and pushed all of us to get closer to the truth.”
“But the rabbit is gone now. You don’t realize how much someone means to you when you’re chasing them like a greyhound. They’re your inspiration, your role-model, your North Star. I don’t think any of us would be the people we are without Tony setting the standard not just as a writer, not just as a host or spirit guide, but as a human that always made it his duty to pick someone up that was down. He single-handedly made us care about each other all over again through food.”
Chef and Top Chef head judge Tom Colicchio (Bourdain was a frequent guest judge on the show) spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about Bourdain’s activism in the #MeToo movement, of which his girlfriend Asia Argento was a prime Harvey Weinstein accuser.
“He was willing to speak up and he came out strongly against sexual harassment in our industry. Privately we talked about it, and it was good to have someone who was willing to put himself out there,” Colicchio said. “He was thoughtful and found a way to fit into the food world when he no longer wanted to cook. I feel that the best was yet to come and now those stories aren’t going to be told.”
Argento delivered her own heartbeaking statement via Twitter:
— Asia Argento (@AsiaArgento) June 8, 2018
If you or someone you know is struggling, don’t hesitate to get help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or go visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com for a list of resources.