I feel compelled to write about Anthony Bourdain. Not because I feel an otherworldly connection to a celebrity that I never met. Not because I obsessively watched his shows. Not for any reason, really, other than he seemed to be a great guy who seemed to have a great goal with the work he did.
Bourdain, was found dead in his hotel room in France on Friday morning. He was working on new episodes of his show, Parts Unknown.
"It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain," CNN said in a statement. "His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink, and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller. His talents never ceased to amaze us and we will miss him very much. Our thoughts and prayers are with his daughter and family at this incredibly difficult time."
Bourdain previously struggled with heroin and crack addictions. He is survived by his daughter and girlfriend, Italian actress Asia Argento. Argento spoke out against Harvey Weinstein, accusing the disgraced film producer of rape, with Bourdain's full support.
In his recent work life, Anthony Bourdain went where others wouldn't and showed Americans a glimpse of the world they rarely get to see using the common thread of food. Anthony went places like Gaza and Iran and showed Americans that these places are full of living, breathing humans with thoughts, opinions, and favorite meals. He showed the humanity of cultures Americans think of as "them" in the seemingly never ending us vs. them climate this planet seems unable to escape from.
Sure, it was his job. He got paid to do it. But he didn't have to do it. He could have been judgemental while he did it. He could have refused to go to certain countries. He could have avoided touching certain people. He could have acted like he knew it all. He could have been an ass. But he wasn't He went to learn and experience and brought us along for the ride. And hopefully he opened some eyes and hearts along the way.
Below are a few quotes, stories, clips and photos of the late Anthony Bourdain.
Once you've been to Cambodia, you'll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands.You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking... While Henry continues to nibble nori rolls and remaki at A-list parties, Cambodia, the neutral nation he secretly and illegally bombed, invaded, undermined, and then threw to the dogs, is still trying to raise itself up on its one remaining leg.
Watch: "Iran is not what I expected"
"I was really knocked sideways by how well we were treated in Iran and how delicious the food was and how hospitable ordinary people were to us."
Bourdain revealed his Jewish ancestry in the opening monologue of the episode in which he traveled to Israel and Gaza, “I’ll be seen by many as a terrorist sympathizer, a Zionist tool, a self-hating Jew, an apologist for American imperialism, an Orientalist, socialist, a fascist, CIA agent, and worse.”
You can watch Bourdain's Gaza experience here.
In 2014, Bourdain received an award from the American Muslim Public Affairs Council for his episode on Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank. Bourdain's acceptance speech was full of wisdom:
"I was enormously grateful for the response from Palestinians in particular for doing what seemed to me an ordinary thing, something we do all the time: show regular people doing everyday things, cooking and enjoying meals, playing with their children, talking about their lives, their hopes and dreams. It is a measure I guess of how twisted and shallow our depiction of a people is that these images come as a shock to so many. The world has visited many terrible things on the Palestinian people, none more shameful than robbing them of their basic humanity. People are not statistics. That is all we attempted to show. A small, pathetically small step towards understanding."
"I stand unhesitatingly and unwaveringly with the women," Bourdain wrote in an article published last year. "Not out of virtue, or integrity, or high moral outrage — as much as I’d like to say so — but because late in life, I met one extraordinary woman with a particularly awful story to tell, who introduced me to other extraordinary women with equally awful stories."
"In these current circumstances, one must pick a side. I stand unhesitatingly and unwaveringly with the women. Not out of virtue, or integrity, or high moral outrage — as much as I’d like to say so — but because late in life, I met one extraordinary woman with a particularly awful story to tell, who introduced me to other extraordinary women with equally awful stories."