Everyone Has a Bourdain Story
Meeting in real life not a requirement.
June 8, 2018 ● 2 min read
By Cassandra Landry | Photographed by Norman Jean Roy for Vogue, November 2016
I won't burden you with mine, suffice it to say that I worshipped his writing. It had teeth, as the maxim goes.
Every time we lose someone, it's proof of how much we need each other, how deeply we hold that unconscious tally of who exists along with us in the world. You may not have thought of him yesterday, or the day before that, but today there's a fierce, public chasm where there wasn't one before. He's left us far too soon, at age 61.
It's impossible to quantify how many cooks and writers and eaters and travelers let Bourdain's conviction guide their lives, how many lived with a little piece of him kicking around in their brain. I can't imagine it was easy being everyone's idol, the impetus for a whole generation's new kind of culinary devotion. He functioned as both a mirror and an aspiration: a talisman you could see when you weren't so sure you were going to make it, or the manifestation of the kind of life you could live. He was shorthand for a certain attitude—equal parts joie de vivre and fuck the Man. He made people feel seen.
Of course, he was also deeply human, as complicated and scarred as we all are in some way. I think the difference may have been how willingly he shared those scars, and how they didn't stop his prolific flow of creation—whether it was the melodic, lusty prose of Medium Raw, the bloody gore of Get Jiro, or the relentless traversing of our world in search of its culinary gems. It's impossible to capture the largeness of his legacy.
"His height, his voice (carved from years of cigarettes snatched between shifts), the deep lines in his face — they all seem an exaggeration of what you’ve seen onscreen," wrote Richie Nakano in a piece celebrating the launch of his book with Laurie Woolever, Appetites: A Cookbook. "Talking to him feels like talking to an old friend, perhaps because he's been the narrator in your head for years."
I wish I had a better way to end this, but I'm overwhelmed by the sheer volume he added to so many lives. He passed in France, which for some reason is one of the more tragic parts about all of this. Through his memories, France was the gateway into the resonance of great food to those of us who had only dreamed of it.
All I can say is: thank you, sir, from all of us at ChefsFeed. It's no exaggeration that we wouldn't be here without you, and we'll forever continue to carry a torch. We hope you're out there discovering the infinite beyond with your usual verve, buzzing through on a janky motorbike.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, at 1-800-273-talk (8255), or the Suicide Crisis Line, at 1-800-784-2433, or text 741741.