How Anthony Bourdain Changed My Life
Anthony Bourdain was one of my favourite storytellers, but not just because he inspired me as a writer (which he did). He also had a very big, very real impact on my life.
Honestly, it’s hard for me to condense and articulate why, but I’ll do my best.
In my early twenties I still saw the world through a lens of all or nothing, right or wrong, black or white. Deep down I knew there was more to life — that the best parts were hidden in shades of grey — but I was afraid. Mostly of failing, of getting it wrong.
When I read Kitchen Confidential, followed soon by A Cook’s Tour, it was like Bourdain had come into my kitchen, pulled all the pots and pans out of the cupboards, and thrown them onto the floor like a tyrannical two year old.
But in a good way.
He dismantled all the preciousness I’d held about food and health, and spoke to the part of me that was dying to get out and taste life.
He invited me to roll back my rigidity, discard my perfectionism, and instead, get hungry. Hungry to eat, yes, but also for something more. His invitation was less like a restaurant reservation and something more akin to Captain Picard’s command, “let’s see what’s out there.”
In other words, a mighty big invitation.
In a world that prizes convenience and familiarity on one end of the spectrum, and a never-ending, flag-planting quest for “the best” on the other, Bourdain scoffed at both.
He helped me see that our own rules and sacred preferences can function like borders: to keep ourselves contained, and others out.
And he showed me an alternative. To put exploration over comfort. Experiences over certainty. Curiosity over judgment. Appreciation over curation.
And so, I made a choice. To be on the side, as best I could, of showing up and taking part in what the world has to offer. To connect with human beings without carrying around my own preconceived notions and judgements like one big, overloaded backpack.
When in doubt, to say yes. To go. To try. To taste.
Of course, I don’t do this (or anything) perfectly. In fact, his loss reminds me not to get too comfortable. But he showed me a different path — actually, endless paths — than the one I started on.
I want to celebrate what he gave me, because Bourdain did something that the best storytellers do. That is, he didn’t just give me his stories, he helped me rewrite my own.
And for that I’m grateful.