Celebrity chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain was found dead of an apparent suicide on Friday morning at age 61. Here, we compiled some of the man’s best, most inspiring, most badass, most out-of-this world moments — no easy task when looking at a life lived so fully. Especially when, in Bourdain’s own words, “All the best moments are when the cameras are turned off, and me and the crew we stumble up on top of a sand dune and look out at life’s mysteries.”
So these aren’t the top 20, but 20 of the best we had the privilege to see when the cameras were still rolling.
If you are struggling with depression, please seek professional help or call the National Alliance on Mental Illness(NAMI) helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). If you are having thoughts about harming yourself, call 911 immediately or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
“Don’t Eat Before Reading This”
“Good food, good eating, is all about blood and organs, cruelty and decay…” with that, the opening words of his eye-opening, tell-all gross-out feature for The New Yorker in 1999, Anthony Bourdain was sky-rocketed into the limelight.
What made Bourdain a special travel host is that he never said no to a dish, but never looked down on a custom or culture, either. He gladly ate soup made from blood, and found it tasted better than he expected. Simple as that.
Bourdain was filming No Reservations in Beirut, Lebanon, when the Israel-Lebanon conflict broke out, trapping the host and his film crew in the country. “My crew and I are sitting there emptying the mini bar and the airport blows up,” he later explained.
The resulting Emmy-winning episode is one of the most surreal chapters of TV ever made, and probably the best example of the way Bourdain’s food shows were always about so much more than food.
One of Bourdain’s great talents was using his thoughts on food to articulate something bigger about life. A great example is his trip to American institution, the Waffle House, where “everybody, regardless of race, creed, color, or degree of inebriation is welcomed.”
When he championed the #MeToo movement
“In these current circumstances, one must pick a side. I stand unhesitatingly and unwaveringly with the women,” Bourdain wrote in a Medium post. “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. I am grateful to them for their courage, and inspired by them.”
When he cooked Thanksgiving dinner for three of Harvey Weinstein’s accusers
Last Thanksgiving, Bourdain’s home-cooked Thanksgiving meal was for his partner, Asia Argento, along with Rose McGowan and Annabella Sciorra: three of the leading voices of the #MeToo movement that took down serial assaulter Harvey Weinstein. “It was an honor to cook for this meeting of the minds,” Bourdain wrote.
His interesting thoughts on getting your ass kicked
“I happen to believe that everybody in this world, at one point in their life, needs an ass kicking,” Bourdain said during a No Reservations trip to South Boston. “It is an enlightening experience getting your ass kicked. When I got mine, I didn’t enjoy it, it was a learning experience.”
“Apparently they don’t know what tapping out means here,” Bourdain said during a Parts Unknown stop in Japan. “Because I was tapping like Western fucking Union.”
When he got a chest tattoo in Borneo
“My mistake was I thought, ‘Center of the chest, how bad could it hurt?'” Bourdain explained, of the hand-tapped tattoo he got during an episode of Parts Unknown. “The answer? A lot.”
Bourdain’s mostly self-parodying appearance as “The Bastard Chef” Lance Casteau on FX’s Archer is perfect.
You could call Anthony Bourdain a lot of things, but you could never call him a snob. His description of his love for LA’s In N’ Out Burger — and genuine anger that the fast food joint has no home in New York — is basically art.
When he re-evaluated his entire legacy
During a dynamic interview with Slate, Bourdain wrestled with his own past as the “bad boy” restauranteur in the wake of #MeToo, especially his break-out book Kitchen Confidential.
“I’ve had to ask myself, and I have been for some time, ‘To what extent in that book did I provide validation to meatheads?'” he said.
When he revealed he was a huge movie nerd
After catching flack for his less-than-positive review of Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver — a tweet that simply said “fuck Baby Driver” — Bourdain called up Daily Grindhouse while nursing a Negroni hangover to dive deep on heist films.
“I’m such a film nerd and I’m constantly saying, ‘I want this episode to look like…’ and I’ll mention some obscure film and chances are they haven’t seen it,” he said, about his travel show’s crew. “But it’s like, you went to film school for fuck’s sake.”
The Mega Agency
When he got shredded using Brazilian jiu-jitsu
“It’s…the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” Bourdain told us just last year. “Getting my blue belt was easily the most difficult accomplishment of my life.”
When he casually described lunch with Barack Obama
Bourdain’s 2017 Reddit AMA was filled with in-depth anecdotes and answers, but maybe none more impressive than his story of lunch with Barack Obama.
“Rarely have I seen someone enjoy drinking a beer from the bottle as much as the President.”
When he described the “ultimate broke ass” meal
In that same AMA, Bourdain saved thousands of college students’ wallets with some advice about Budae Jigae, an “unholy mix of ramen, hot dogs (or vienna sausage), spam, beans, kimchi, and Korean spices.” The best part? “You can google that shit.”
“I will tell you, with authority, that the perfect delivery system for marijuana, particularly good marijuana, is a joint,” Bourdain said during a 2011 Q&A.
There’s something so equally wholesome and badass about Iggy Pop and Anthony Bourdain — two punk icons in their own way — putting on reading glasses to read a health food menu while discussing all the wild shit they’ve done with their lives.
When he told Alec Baldwin he was “too dumb to pour piss out of a boot”
A legend. The world is a worse-off place without Anthony Bourdain in it.
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