Today we learned of the death of chef and author Anthony Bourdain. The loss is mourned not just by the culinary world, but by the world over because his impact and influence was that immense — it was boundless. To me, this man was an icon. As a young girl with a somewhat-untimely obsession with the Travel Channel, Bourdain helped introduce me to the world. Being raised by parents who already encouraged travel and exploration, he acted to open the door that much more, and in doing so he shaped the way I see the world today.
With his tattoos, cigarettes, and unapologetic attitude, I thought Bourdain was the absolute coolest. He embodied the bad boy persona that young me couldn't wait to grow older and experience for myself. And yet, along with his tough image and unmistakable confidence, he displayed profound humility and compassion. No matter where he traveled, be it Sukiyabashi Jiro in Japan or the favelas in Brazil, he approached the destination open-minded and eager to learn. I too was eager to learn, and lucky for me, Bourdain was there to teach me.
Right now the buzzword wanderlust is everywhere. While I can't really argue against the feeling of wanting to travel, I will say that what Bourdain sparked in me was something much deeper. It was not the romanticized notion of galavanting around the world with my passport in hand, but rather the desire to dive headfirst into all the places and cultures I'd never experienced before. I didn't want to watch from the sidelines, I wanted to be right in the thick of it all.
Bourdain was more than just a chef. Sure, the culinary arts were his expertise, but food was also the vessel on which he explored the world. He taught me that food was more than just how it tastes in your mouth, but a window into the workings of an individual, a family, and even an entire culture. I became enamored with not just the mouth-watering dishes or bizarre foods he dared to eat, but with the insight and knowledge it provided. He brought light to places off the beaten path, places others may have deemed too dangerous or dirty, and made them enticing and beautiful. And he did so not by glamorizing them, but by making them relatable and accessible — by making them human.
In that sense, I suppose I can credit Bourdain with teaching me about humanity. Or, something about it at least. He taught me that life is made to be experienced, and that the best way to experience it is with the help of others. He showed me that every place you go and every person you meet has a story to tell that you can't just read in a book or watch on TV. And he taught me that there is more out there to learn and experience than we'll ever have time for — which on a day like today could not be more heartbreakingly true.
Thank you, Anthony Bourdain, for showing me this world really is one hell of an amazing place. I will miss having you in it.