Anthony Bourdain died on June 8. The chef-traveller-storyteller had a way with words and was not afraid to speak his mind. Here are a few of his quotes – some humorous, many that we may learn from, and others that may even offend.
Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.
I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurised Stilton, raw oysters or working for organised crime ‘associates,’ food, for me, has always been an adventure.
Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. The body, these waterheads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein. It’s healthier, they insist, though every vegetarian waiter I’ve worked with is brought down by any rumour of a cold.
Bourdain’s final Instagram post.
To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living.
“We know, for instance, that there is a direct, inverse relationship between frequency of family meals and social problems. Bluntly stated, members of families who eat together regularly are statistically less likely to stick up liquor stores, blow up meth labs, give birth to crack babies, commit suicide, or make donkey porn. If Little Timmy had just had more meatloaf, he might not have grown up to fill chest freezers with Cub Scout parts.”
“Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonald’s? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble tacqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head? I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.”
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.
If you’re 22, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.
Bourdain on one of his travels in his show Parts Unknown.
“Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.”
Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don’t have.
I don’t have to agree with you to like you or respect you.
Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.
“Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind; no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom… is realising how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”
Anthony Bourdain, who killed himself on June 8 in France at age 61, will always be remembered as an amazing world-travelling food storyteller. He also made an impression on people who have interviewed him and worked with him, as well as those who have only known him from his TV shows and books.
Below, Malaysians pay tribute to Bourdain.
He was known as the “bad boy chef” for the no-holds-barred way he expressed himself. Sugar coating? Not him.
He also, apparently, didn’t suffer fools.
It was for this reason my stomach was in knots for days prior to my phone interview in 2015 with Anthony Bourdain who was doing promotional interviews for a new travel food show.
But I needn’t have worried. Bourdain was charming, friendly and took time to answer all questions with much thought and even more enthusiasm. The guy loved food and it was obvious. He shared stories, anecdotes and more and the call went on for an hour.
When asked about his celebrity status and about a group of fans who allegedly waited at his hotel lobby for hours for a glimpse of him, he said: “You know, I never saw it coming. I don’t know how younger chefs feel … they probably grew up expecting to be famous but for (chefs of) my generation, it came as a huge surprise.
“I mean, I like chefs. I respect their work. I feel very strongly that, at the very least, chefs do something useful. Chefs feed and nurture people. They work very hard at becoming good at a craft that is useful to people. So, I think it’s far more appropriate that a chef is a celebrity than a … Kardashian.”
Anthony Bourdain with a film crew on June 4, 2018, at Wistub de la Petite Venise, a restaurant in Colmar, France. Photo: AP
But there was one question he wouldn’t address: Did he enjoy Malaysian or Singaporean food more?
“I’m not touching that question with a 10-foot pole. You’re not getting me to side with one or the other. I mean, they’re both … I would like to contemplate and compare (the two) for the rest of my life because it’s really just … I love both. Nice try, though.”
What a guy. What a loss. – S. Indramalar, Star2 assistant editor
Chef Wan posted a photo together with Bourdain on Instagram in 2017.
Notable celebrity chef Redzuawan Ismail or better known as Chef Wan appeared in an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations travel show back in 2005. Bourdain was in Kuala Lumpur to sample some local food and Chef Wan was his guide. When contacted, he expressed sadness over Bourdain’s death.
“I remember we had fun filming that episode in Kampung Baru. At the end of the shoot, we exchanged a lot of ideas about food. His director at that time even said that I outshone him during our segment,” he recalled the memory fondly.
He added: “Later in another interview, I found out that Anthony said he was impressed with my contribution to his show. I’m thankful for the opportunity to have worked with him.” – Interviewed by Angelin Yeoh
This might be the most popular photo of Sarawak Laksa ever. Bourdain shared this on social networks, attracting more than 100,000 Likes in total.
Celebrity chef Anis Nabilah, host of shows like AFC’s Icip Icip and TV3’s 1, 2 Bakar is a huge fan of Bourdain and was very upset by his death.
“It’s devastating, I really can’t believe it. He had such a great impact on the culinary world and on me. He was a brilliant man and storyteller, there is no one else like him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family,” she said.
Anis added that Bourdain’s amazing storytelling skills in his cookbooks are part of the reason she feels she just isn’t ready yet to write her own cookbook.
“I always say I’m not ready yet to write my own cookbook, because I cannot tell stories like Anthony Bourdain.
Anyone can pick up his cookbooks and it’s like reading a beautiful story book,” she said. – Interviewed by Abirami Durai
Asia’s guru of grub, Singaporean KF Seetoh, founder of Makansutra and the World Street Food Congress of which Bourdain was a collaborator, was almost speechless.
“I am beyond shocked,” he said. “I lost a very sincere and hardcore partner in this journey to celebrate life and real food culture. I was just in New York last month speaking to some partners on how we can revive his nixed Bourdain Market … and now this.”
Above all else, he will remember his buddy for his “brutal honesty”. – Interviewed by Julie Wong
He’s the chef and superstar of real food, known for his no bullsh*t approach. I interviewed him about his quest to save street food during the World Street Food Congress in Manila last year. He had this amazing clarity about the heart and soul of food, and street food in particular, for him embodied the culture, history, heart and soul of a region.
“I was at that time miffed that Malaysia never got into the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list and he told me, ‘now you don’t have anything to worry about, that list is just bullsh*t’. I didn’t quote him on that then, but I think he should have his say. – Julie Wong, former food editor at Star2
Malaysian food writer Helen Ong appeared in an episode of Bourdain’s No Reservations back in 2012.
In 2012, Anthony Bourdain filmed an episode of No Reservations in Penang and met with food writer Helen Ong. Some of the things he ate in Penang included a mouth-watering Peranakan food spread prepared by Ong’s mother.
“Unlike other chefs I’ve interviewed, Anthony was flexible. He said I could ask him anything. He was charming and nice. It’s sad really to hear about his death. I got the impression that he enjoyed Penang very much. He loved the food. I’m sure my mother, who is 85 now, would be upset too to hear that he is gone,” she said. – Interviewed by Angelin Yeoh
Celebrity chef Sherson Lian, owner of restaurant Hello by Kitchen Mafia and star of shows like AFC’s Family Kitchen With Sherson has been watching Bourdain on television since he was 17 and is deeply saddened by his death. “It just doesn’t seem to make any sense. To me, he was someone very special. We’re all still cooking food, but he’s sharing places that people would never think of going with the the world,” he said.
Lian is also a fan of Bourdain’s no-holds-barred, true-to-himself approach to being on television. “He was the only one who smoked and drank on television. That’s the beauty of his personality, it’s him we want to watch – it goes beyond food. He wasn’t trying to please anybody, just true to his core, which is why those of us in the industry always looked up to him.”– Interviewed by Abirami Durai
The list of warning factors for suicide reads, in part, like a catalogue of everyday modern ills: lagging self-esteem, depression, loss of relationships or economic security, insomnia.
“When you look at those lists,” says Eric Beeson, core faculty member at Northwestern University’s Counseling@Northwestern, “it almost seems like who’s not a candidate for suicide?”
And yet, in the wake of a highly publicised death by suicide like that of fashion designer Kate Spade or celebrity chef and author Anthony Bourdain, our scrutiny of the act centres around a need to quickly settle on a cause and, on some level, to distance ourselves from it.
Spade’s longtime friend Elyce Arons told The New York Times that when the subject of celebrity suicides came up in their discussions about Spade’s depression, her friend assured her, “‘I would never do that. I would never do that. I would never do that.’ And I believed her.”
“At some point in everyone’s life,” says Beeson, “they have said they would never do that. But I believe we are all just a few life events away from considering it. So for me, we’re all on that continuum.”
National Institute of Mental Health data show that in 2016, one million US adults made plans for death and attempted suicide. Yet most of us lack even the most basic understanding of what leads to these deaths, beyond those well-known risk factor lists.
The picture is much more complicated, says Beeson, and it might be time to take a more nuanced view. Suicide risk is not as simple as a list of risk factors.
“We talk about suicide as this one thing,” says Beeson, “but suicide is really this spectrum of behaviours. You always ask, ‘Are they suicidal?’ and for me that’s really a limiting question.”
In assessing whether someone might kill themselves, Beeson looks at “key variables that seem to be more related to death”. Those are:
• Perceived burdensomeness, “this idea that my death is more valuable than my life”;
• Thwarted belongingness, “meaning I try to make meaningful connections and they just don’t work out”;
• Hopelessness, “OK, I have this and it’s never going to get better”;
• Acquired capability, the ability to set aside normal psychological and physical constraints and perform an act that may be painful or horrifying.
With the first two factors, Beeson says, people begin to have ideas about suicide. Adding hopelessness can bring on planning of a suicide. But the final factor is the hardest to discern. Clinicians like Beeson look for clues that the person might have become more inured to pain, shame or guilt.
Past histories of abuse, substance abuse disorders, assaults or even professions such as medicine that make contact with death part of the everyday can constitute a slow wearing away of the mental and physical barriers to self-harm.
“People work along that continuum until they start to overcome the pain, the shame and the guilt,” he says, “and then the value of suicide starts to outweigh the pain shame and guilt.”
- Anthony Bourdain at the New York Society for Ethical Culture in New York City, October 2017. Photo: AFP/Getty Images/Craig Barritt
- Kate Spade during an interview in New York, May 2004. Photo: AP/Bebeto Matthews
Suicide is not typically an impulsive act.
“People talk about it being selfish, people talk about it being irrational,” says Beeson, “but actually I think a lot of suicides are very well thought out, very well contemplated. And generally not impulsive.
“Generally, this is a long process for an individual that started with a faint idea that gradually took hold as those risk factors mounted and as the capability came into their purview.”
Leaving behind a note, as Kate Spade reportedly did, can be interpreted as evidence of the contemplation suicide often entails – it may be an attempt to remove the last psychological barriers to death.
“Some people might say that it’s a last way to cope with some of the guilt,” says Beeson. “The guilt can be a protective factor in a certain way, so some people might say that’s a way to reduce that. There’s something about this that the person is still not okay with, so they are trying to address that.”
The philosophical debate on suicide is more present than ever.
In ancient societies, suicide was sometimes interpreted as an available and even noble choice. Today, in countries like Switzerland, where there are euthanasia clinics, assisted suicide is accepted. Five US states and the District of Columbia have “Death with Dignity” laws that allow assisted suicide in cases of terminal illness.
“That gets us into the discussion of whether it is ever okay and under what circumstances,” Beeson says. “Some people would argue that if I have a chronic mental health condition that interferes with my quality of life, is that any different than a fatal medical condition? And that’s a really really hard discussion to have.”
To shift your perspective on suicide, think back to the events of 9-11, and how you felt about the people who chose to jump from the Twin Towers before the burning buildings collapsed. “That analogy is not too different from someone who has a depressive disorder,” says Beeson.
“It’s not true flames, but it’s the flames of something. It’s easier for us to look at the 9-11 example and say, ‘Yeah, I’m not going to judge that person,’ but what if it’s flipped around and these are not real flames, but it’s something that’s very real to that person?”
Given any of these circumstances – the burning building, the terminal cancer or the extreme, persistent mood disorder – Beeson points out, none of us really know what we would choose to do.
Condemning suicide might hinder prevention. “I think we run the risk of looking at it as a black and white thing,” says Beeson, “and that’s just not the way it is. I really do view suicide as a continuum and frankly we are all on it in some way. Some of us are just much farther from it than others.”
There is a movement aimed at destigmatising suicide, including changing the ways in which we talk about it – “committed suicide” conjures an image of committing a crime, while more straightforward language – “died by suicide” or “killed themselves” avoid those punishing overtones.
Willingness to view suicide as a part of human behaviour, without judgement, may be difficult. But, Beeson says, it can be the key to helping someone who is considering killing themselves. “If we view ourselves as too separate from people and we think that we’ll never be there, then it’s really hard to connect with people in a meaningful way.”
Before talking to someone about whether they are contemplating suicide, he suggests, think about where you’re coming from.
“Have the hard dialogue with yourself: ‘Am I so far removed from this?’ and if I am, I’m probably going to be perceived as coming from a judgemental place. That’s going to make it harder to connect with someone and catch it sooner, if you will. You want people to be able to be open enough to share with you before it gets to the point where they’ve made the plan, they’re set on this and it’s going to happen.”
The goal? To get past the suicidal thoughts, and offer an alternative. “We try to find out what they are trying to achieve with this choice,” says Beeson, “and then show them another way to get there.” – Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service/Cindy Dampier
IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE, CONTACT:
Befrienders Malaysia, Selangor at (03) 7956-8144 or (03) 7956-8145
Life Line Association Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur at (03) 4265-7995
CNN today confirmed that Anthony Bourdain has died, and reported the cause of death as suicide. Bourdain, a chef, author and storyteller who was a massive television personality, was 61.
In a statement released on June 8, CNN said: “It is with extraordinary sadness we can confirm the death of our friend and colleague, Anthony Bourdain.”
“His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller. His talents never ceased to amaze us and we will miss him very much. Our thoughts and prayers are with his daughter and family at this incredibly difficult time.”
According to Brian Stelter, senior media correspondent for CNN and host of the CNN programme Reliable Sources, Bourdain was in France working on an episode of his award-winning CNN series Parts Unknown.
Bourdain’s close friend and French chef Eric Ripert reportedly found Bourdain unresponsive in his hotel room Friday morning.
In 1999, Bourdain wrote a New Yorker article, “Don’t Eat Before Reading This”, that became a bestselling book in 2000, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures In The Culinary Underbelly. The book set him on a path to international stardom.
First he hosted A Cook’s Tour on the Food Network, then moved to Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations on the Travel Channel. No Reservations was a breakout hit, earning two Emmys and over a dozen nominations.
In 2013, Bourdain joined a cable television network best known for breaking news and headlines. He quickly became one of the principal faces of CNN. Season 11 of Parts Unknown premiered in May 2018.
The Smithsonian once called Bourdain “the original rock star” of the culinary world, “the Elvis of bad boy chefs”. In 2013, Peabody Award judges honoured Bourdain and Parts Unknown for “expanding our palates and horizons in equal measure”.
“He’s irreverent, honest, curious, never condescending, never obsequious,” the judges said. “People open up to him and, in doing so, often reveal more about their hometowns or homelands than a traditional reporter could hope to document.”
While accepting the Peabody, Bourdain described his approach to work. “We ask very simple questions: What makes you happy? What do you eat? What do you like to cook? And everywhere in the world we go and ask these very simple questions,” he said, “we tend to get some really astonishing answers.”
This post contains material sourced from CNN.