The Many Ways Anthony Bourdain Was a True Global Citizen
Bourdain's interests went far beyond food.
Anthony Bourdain loved pork. Over the years, he ate pig heart in Australia, pig entrails in Italy, and Spam in South Korea.
It was a food the celebrity chef and “Parts Unknown” host shared with people all over the world, and if he had a favorite type of pork, he didn’t insist upon it — it was always prepared in the style of the place he was visiting and consumed with delight.
Throughout his time hosting various TV shows, Bourdain embodied a form of reverse-ethnocentrism — he wanted to know how other people viewed the world, and knew that there were other perspectives that were equally valid to his own from which he could learn.
"We ask very simple questions: What makes you happy? What do you eat? What do you like to cook? And everywhere in the world we go and ask these very simple questions," he said, describing his approach to work when accepting a Peabody Award in 2013. "We tend to get some really astonishing answers."
Bourdain died Friday morning in his hotel room in an apparent suicide, according to CNN. He was in France filming an episode for his CNN show “Parts Unknown,” which recently aired its 11th season.
"It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain," the network said in a statement Friday morning. "His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink, and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller.”
I ate with Bourdain. Probably 2004. He was big even then but he took time to sit with me in Chinatown to talk “weird” food for a magazine piece I was writing. He taught me that our “weird” is the world’s delicious. We ate chicken feet. The afternoon vibrated with life. RIP— John Hodgman (@hodgman) June 8, 2018
Before his time at CNN, Bourdain hosted "A Cook's Tour" on the Food Network and "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" on the Travel Channel.
He first developed a following after the publication of his book “Kitchen Confidential” in 2000, which describes the sometimes seedy and always resourceful culinary world.
Over the years, Bourdain was widely recognized for being sardonic and generous, irreverent and deferential.
I’m sure many will say many things about Anthony Bourdain. One of my favorite things about him was how he weaved political education into food culture. He advocated for immigrant restaurant workers and featured the Black Panther Party in his stories on food culture in the Bay.— Sarah J. Jackson (@sjjphd) June 8, 2018
He was known first and foremost as a culinary ambassador, exploring the backstreets of major cities from the Bronx to Sao Paolo to bring his audience a fuller sense of the world’s foods and cultures. But he was also vocal about a range of social and environmental issues.
"If I have a side, its against extremism–of any kind: religious, political, other: there’s no conversation when everybody is absolutely certain of the righteousness of their argument. That’s a platitude. But it’s still true."— Cristian Cardona (@dreamsin4d) June 8, 2018
RIP Anthony Bourdain 🙏🏼
Last year, he narrated and starred in a film called “Wasted! The Story of Food Waste” to raise awareness about how 40% of the world’s food gets wasted, while more than 815 million people around the world go hungry every day.
During the #MeToo movement, Bourdain spoke out against sexual harassment and assault.
And over the past several years, he emphasized the dignity of marginalized populations and shone a spotlight on the many injustices in the world.
For example, Bourdain consistently spoke out in defense of immigrant rights in his shows.
“The bald fact is that the entire restaurant industry in America would close down overnight, would never recover, if current immigration laws were enforced quickly and thoroughly across the board,” Bourdain said in 2007. “Everyone in the industry knows this. It is undeniable … I know very few chefs who’ve even heard of a US-born citizen coming in the door to ask for a dishwasher, night clean-up, or kitchen prep job. Until that happens, let’s at least try to be honest when discussing this issue.”
When he visited Ethiopia in 2015, he put the journey of chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson, who fled the country decades ago as a child refugee, front and center.
Like in other episodes of “Parts Unknown,” Bourdain tried to fade into the background, giving space to other voices. The audience learned about refugees, hunger crises, the thriving and scrappy Addis Ababa, the history of political movements, and agricultural communities.
During his life, Bourdain resisted being branded an advocate, but this episode, and so many others, quietly advocated for a very global citizen approach to life, one in which people come together and treat each other with kindness.
“If I'm an advocate for anything, it's to move,” Bourdain said at one point. “As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else's shoes or at least eat their food, it's a plus for everybody.”
Maybe we all wanted to hang out with him. He was that cool, fun, frank, insightful. He introduced us to distant lands and to people with different traditions. And without ever preaching, he reminded us that we humans are far more alike than different. Thank you Anthony Bourdain pic.twitter.com/QMznx4JMhS— Mia Farrow (@MiaFarrow) June 8, 2018
Global Citizen campaigns to end extreme poverty around the world, and you can join this cause by taking action here.
If you want to talk to someone or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can find international resources here.