Anthony Bourdain

I am not sure what leads people to take their own lives. I have had friends commit suicide and for the most part they had been diagnosed as “bipolar.” Invariably they were over-achievers, but perhaps in their own ways of thinking, their efforts and accomplishments fell short of their expectations.

Robin Williams, and more recently Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, decided to end their lives, and their decisions leave us shaking our heads. Certainly I do not have the answers, nor will I attempt an explanation. But to accentuate the positive and spend a few minutes here on the life of Anthony Bourdain.

And here is Anthony – he always seemed to have a rumpled look – enjoying a wee dram.

Anthony was the quintessential New Yorker; born there, educated there, worked there, and travelled with a view of the world that comes from being a New Yorker. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, in 1978 and went to work. By 1998 he was the Executive Chef at Brasserie des Halles, a very prominent New York restaurant, and very French-looking. Unfortunately, now closed.

In 1999 Anthony wrote an article for the “New Yorker” entitled “Don’t Eat Before Reading This,” a sort of exposé of the restaurant scene in NYC. My friend Dave Crowley provided me a copy of the article (which inspired this blog page) and with it some of the insights shared by Anthony, including:

  • The chef orders seafood for the weekend on a Thursday; it arrives on Friday morning with the hope that it will sell out by Sunday evening. As he says, “the Monday-night tuna has been kicking around in the kitchen since Friday under God knows what conditions.”
  • “In New York, locals dine during the week. Weekends are considered amateur nights – for tourists, rubes and the well-done-ordering pre-theatre hordes.”
  • “Save for well-done.” Like your steak well-done? According to Anthony what you will get is “a particularly unlovely piece of steak – tough, riddled with nerve and connective tissue … and made a little stinky with age.” Go with rare or medium rare.
  • Anthony quickly dismisses “brunch” as “breakfast” and goes on to say that, “Even more despised than the Brunch People are the vegetarians. Serious cooks regard these members of the dining public – and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans – as enemies of everything that’s good and decent in the human spirit. To live life without veal or chicken stock, fish, cheeks, sausages, cheese or organ meats is treasonous.” A little harsh perhaps, and with apologies to my vegan friends.
  • Anthony was not a fan of chicken – “it bores the hell out of chefs.” He says, “Pork, on the other hand is cool.” “Pork tastes different, depending on what you do with it, but chicken always tastes like chicken.”

There was much more to the article and it seems to start Anthony on a different path – one that broadened his interests and his appeal. There were the requisite cookbooks (do we need them anymore?) and he kept those to a minimum as he moved into food journalism. The best of Anthony Bourdain were his forays into television; shows like “A Cook’s Tour,” “No Reservations,” “The Layover,” and “Parts Unknown.” The latter two shows are currently available on Netflix – worth your time.