Anthony Bourdain was maybe one of a very, very few TV personalities that was famous for being able to do something apart from appear on camera. I’m sure that he could cook pretty well, but my God could that guy write.
He himself said that the only reason he was in the world’s most elite brotherhood of chefs was because he could write about the experience, their cooking was miles ahead of his.
When “Kitchen Confidential” came out I was working as a glorified busboy at Lemaire, a 5-star restaurant in Richmond, VA’s Jefferson Hotel. I basically lived in a rayon tuxedo stained with sweat and old hollandaise, lugging buckets of spoonbread and cheese grits to and from the brunch buffet like an ant.
Bourdain may be have been the only person alive to hate brunch more than me, and “Kitchen Confidential” felt like a mating call from a kindred spirit. I feel in love with that book in a stairwell on my break one afternoon, took little sips of it at the dish station and gorged on it in empty dining rooms that we’d hide in to nap and sneak whiskey to get us through brunch service.
It was the first thing I’d ever seen that showed how much you could hate your job and take pride in it at the same time — and it gave me a huge shove towards writing and storytelling. It was maybe the first time I understood that your insight into an experience could be bolder and brighter than the experience itself.
To say it was inspiring is such an understatement. I felt like a limp glove, pulled over a hand for the first time and really put to work. I wouldn’t be here, doing whatever it is I’m doing however the hell I’m doing it if it weren’t for that book.
Some people think it’s trite to write an essay about a celebrity death, like you’re taking their sad life and making it “all about you.” But if there’s one thing I learned from Anthony Bourdain’s work, it’s that if you’ve got curiosity, insight and a hell of a story to tell, you can connect with the entire world.
And if there’s one thing we can learn from his death, it’s that everyone in this world needs to connect a little more. Let’s take it easy on the people that are just trying to express themselves and go eat something new and great with real people instead.
Our time here is short but we can help each other make it a lot better and a little longer.