Read the 1999 Anthony Bourdain essay that started it all

Originally published at:


I couldn’t concur more with these simple words.

Viva la Bourdain.


Tony’s ability to be both humble - in admitting mistakes and also teaching us and showing it in himself that part of travel is LEARNING and LISTENING - and irreverent (for lack of a better term) is what I found most amazing about him.

I’ve been a fan since the early days, reading his books, seeing him go from FoodTV to the Travel Channel and to CNN. The latter show, IMO is one of the most important things on TV. That constant quest to understand other people and cultures is so vital to a healthy world, and I feel they did that in spades.

Last month, Bourdain was the keynote speaker at a tech conference I attended in New Orleans. I was excited to see him live, but also was wondering what he would have to say to 5000 nerds and sales people. A good amount of his talk was some version of stuff I had already heard him tell stories about. But he also took a big amount of time to spell out things he’s learned in his life through growth and age, as well as “words to live by”. Like not being an asshole, not surrounding yourself with assholes and to be kind to service people. He also hammered home the above-noted importance of learning about other people and cultures. Listening rather than talking, appreciating what it’s like to live somewhere else, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Empathy. These are not trivial things. May he rest in peace and may his family and friends find peace…


He was a person who helped make the world a little less xenophobic, and so this is a great loss.



I was extremely surprised this morning when I read that he likely took his own life. What a loss, he was a definite inspiration to me and I’m saddened that whatever he was going through was dark enough to want to end it. As someone that suffers from depression I gotta say that whatever you’re going through you are not alone, you are not burdening anyone with your issues. At my darkest lowest moments I was always helped by the unlikeliest of people, offered compassion in surprising ways from loved ones.

Rest in piece Bourdain. And if anyone here suffers from depression remember that you are loved and cherished more than you realize.


I’m typically unmoved by most celebrity deaths but this one really hurts. At a time when shitty things are happening all over the world, Mr. Bourdain’s shows provided a much-needed window of equanimity. I’m sorry that this is what he needed to find peace.


Re-read the essay.
As a service industry vet—front-of-house, back-of-house, catering, deliveries—this was a perspective that needed to be shared, whose time had come. Everyone goes to restaurants. Their whole life, they experience a highly filtered con-job of what a restaurant really is. Of course, this is necessary, or else nobody would go. All the gripes, truths, and perspectives Bourdain offers are like a salve: “Yes! Let them know!”—and still true today. Like all of his writing, it remains a joy to read.


Some of the most talented troubled food people I’ve known really liked him.


He was an excellent writer. He really found his own unique voice that rings loudly even in a nearly 20 year old essay.


Well said. I’ve had this thought all day today, but couldn’t quite get the words right. Anthony was truly an ambassador of the world to the world.


Here’s another “Bourdain was a mensch” anecdote:


Lotsa these to go around.


That was a beautiful thing to say.


What I and my family found most impressive about him was his legendary candor, how he seemed able to talk to, instantly open up, and befriend anyone, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, religion, gender, or class. That was impressive.

Whether he was in a family hut in a war-torn or impoverished country eating a meal of bugs and tree bark with those who had next to nothing, or in an exclusive restaurant eating a gourmet meal that none of us could ever afford (possibly also of bugs and tree bark, but fancier) with the super-wealthy, he had the same appreciation and interest. And showed us that they weren’t really all that different.

He’s known for having openly lived and talked about a not-so-saintly life, a past of drugs, drinking heavily on his show, cursing and being irreverent. But at the same time, he always showed a core of respect, honor, integrity, and acceptance like that of Mr. Rogers or Bob Ross. Just as their shows were comforting to me when I was a kid, his shows were when I was an adult.

He lived an interesting life and had a major positive impact on a lot of people all over the world, leaving a lasting impression. Cheers to the man who united saints and sinners, the super-wealthy and the impoverished, the local families and the distant foreigners.

I won’t say rest in peace, because I could never tell whether he was searching for that or just more adventure. So rest however you want, dude, you’ve earned it.


See, this is what has upset and angered me so much about Bourdain’s death. It’s always the same with suicides, particularly celebrity ones. The widespread outpouring of grief is utterly heartbreaking, as is the sense that if just one person was able to say or do the right thing at the right time, we wouldn’t be mourning another loved one, whether known to us personally or not.

About 15 years ago, I attended the funeral of a firefighter who’d suicided. More than 500 people were there, and most of them had respected and liked, perhaps even loved, this bloke enough to wear dress uniform and shine their shoes. So even before the service began, I looked down… and was again brought to tears by the absolute sea of shined black shoes, all buffed for this man who’d felt such despair for so long he’d killed himself.

The twitter tributes to Bourdain and articles such as this one have set the frothing anger aside and forced the tears to come, much like the shined shoes for the firefighter.



Fav line of the whole essay;

“People who order their meat well-done perform a valuable service for those of us in the business who are cost-conscious: they pay for the privilege of eating our garbage.”


I look at the people in that picture and wonder how it is possible that the people in the background aren’t completely astonished at what is happening.

1 Like

The “excerpt” link is somewhat broken.

I read the essay (the first link works), and, being a vegetarian (or rather: pescetarian), I felt a little annoyed by his description. However, different times, different perspective, different opinions. And his writing is good.

Just FTR, I knew some chefs and sous-chefs, and heard enough never to even consider running a restaurant. And I heard about several chefs committing suicide, including Benoît Violier.

I think it’s an awfully hard job in a most toxic working atmosphere. And no suicide and no #metoo moment seems to be able to change that, if you ask me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be defeatist here. But I think this specific branch of work is inherently fucked. The whole culture around it is fucked. Even the essay celebrates the fuckedness, contemplating dishes thrown, but patting themselves on the back for not stabbing each other to death.

What a world.