“Travel changes you. As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life – and travel – leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks – on your body or on your heart – are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.”
— Anthony Bourdain
We loved Anthony Bourdain for many reasons, but the most obvious was that he was one of us. Imperfect. A rebel spirit. Reformed. A guy you wanted to have over for dinner, just so you could ask him everything.
What endeared him to us is, perhaps, a deeper quest for our own best-selves. He traveled the world effortlessly experiencing life and culture through food, and did it by actually talking to people.
When he visited my adopted home state of Mississippi for an episode of “Parts Unknown” in 2014, he said, “I have long since learned to find myself comfortable in as ‘foreign’ an environment as Saudi Arabia, Liberia, or Cambodia. Why can’t I get to know and love this part of my own country?” The state collectively rolled her eyes, held her breath and braced for impact when the episode aired, expecting another patronizing smarty-pants New Yorker eating fried chicken with a smile on his face.
Instead, we saw the Mississippi we knew, which only meant one thing: he actually got it. Which means, of course, he didn’t get it at all. “We sure as hell didn’t explain Mississippi in this episode,” he said.
He wasn’t afraid of anything, and everything and everyone were equals. His quest to further understand the human condition was evident with each interview he did, each bite of food he ate. He challenged us to not only find meaning in food, but to consider the hands that prepared it.
Bourdain’s passing hits us especially hard because he took food, the one thing that each person on the planet has in common, and managed to build bridges with it.
The job of a chef is to take care of others. Now, we’re left wondering, “Who was taking care of him?”
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.