Remembering Anthony Bourdain and His Impact on Me
On June 8th, 2018, Anthony Bourdain tragically passed away. Bourdain was a celebrity chef who hosted multiple travel shows centered around international cuisine, culture, and people. He inspired thousands of people across the globe with his storytelling, outlook on life, and adventures.
Like thousands of others, I was deeply affected and devastated by the loss of Bourdain. He was one of the key reasons I started traveling and even experienced numerous things while traveling. He was one of my biggest heroes and idols. I resonate with almost no other celebrities, so this was a crushing loss.
Because of his recent and devastating loss, I felt I'd create a blog post dedicated to who he was and what he meant to me. Specifically, I centered the blog post around things I saw Bourdain do in his shows that later, I did myself.
Who was Anthony Bourdain?
Anthony (a.k.a. Tony) Bourdain was born in New York in 1956 and grew up in New Jersey. He started working in kitchens at a young age, slowly climbing the culinary ladder. During that time, he became addicted to heroin and cocaine. Eventually, through incredible bravery and hard work, he beat his addiction.
Then, after becoming a chef, he came out with his first book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. Almost immediately, his book blew up and became extremely popular. From there, he got his first TV show called A Cook's Tour. Some time after, he got three more travel TV shows: No Reservations, The Layover, and Parts Unknown.
His TV shows all included indulging in culinary delights, drinking alcohol, meeting locals, delving into different cultures, and experiencing almost everything the world has to offer. In one memorable episode, he ate noodles in a local Vietnamese restaurant in Hanoi with President Barack Obama!
How Bourdain Affected Me and My Life
Before traveling for the first time ever in 2014 when I moved to Thailand, I prepared myself for my adventures by watching travel shows. That's when I really discovered Bourdain (along with Andrew Zimmern).
This was one of the first episodes I ever watched. It was right before I left for Thailand. I honestly had mixed feelings about the episode, but couldn't help but feel that the show had so much more to offer me. I knew not to judge him or the show off of this one episode.
Fortunately, I didn't give up on him or his shows and gave it another shot. Normally, I would have because most travel shows and hosts tend to be boring, unimaginative, and monotonous. However, Bourdain was far from any of those things. He was a genius who illuminated places, people, cultures, and food in a way no one else ever had before. He was a no-nonsense dude who told you how it truly was: good, mediocre, horrible, strange, or incredible.
Bourdain showed me that travel doesn't have to be scary. He was able to relate to anyone and everyone he met along his journey, from royalty to poverty.
From then on, every time I've ever visited or planned on visiting a new city, I'd find an episode across his four shows and watch what he did, where he went, and what he ate. Many times, I did what he did.
At one point in this episode, Bourdain went to an indoor tiki-bar restaurant called the Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar. It looked like such a unique and fun place to go! The restaurant was centered around this small man-made lagoon that also had a floating barge on it where a band would play. How cool, right?!
So, while in San Francisco, I obviously needed to go there.
I went with a couple of friends to this restaurant after galavanting around the city all day. Little did we know, however, that this place was super ritzy. We waltzed in and were sweaty, wearing shorts, and just did not fit in. In response, the staff sneakily sat us in the cocktail area, not the dining area. We were only given appetizer menus and not dinner menus.
Naturally, it was extremely overpriced and with tiny portions. Not really our jam. We couldn't help but feel a little annoyed with Bourdain. But, then again, we didn't do our research! Plus it did make for an interesting story!
When I was planning to backpack through Vietnam, my first thought was to watch the various episodes Bourdain had on Vietnam. As it turned out, one of his favorite countries in the world was Vietnam. How perfect was that?
I watched the Hue episode and planned to do some of the things he had done, such as go to the market, the citadel, and eat the food there, which is far different from food anywhere else in Vietnam.
First, I ate the food there, but hated it! Everything was so goopy and slimy to me personally, the big foodie! Then again, I did eat at the wrong restaurant…
I never got to the citadel or the market or anywhere. Why? Because it was dangerously hot outside. It was 126°F/52°C with humidity!
Although I didn't fully enjoy Hue as much as Bourdain, I still felt a small connection with him just by being there and the fact that I fell in love with Vietnam. It has become my favorite country in the world as well.
I lived in Osaka, Japan for three months in 2016. Once I moved there, I knew I had to watch an episode of Bourdain when he went. In the episode, he made sarcastic remarks about how Osaka is the "most dangerous city in Japan" because it had the highest crime rate in the country. However, the statistics for the crime rate there were impossibly low!
During the episode, he also witnessed a Hanshin Tigers' baseball game in Osaka. Watching the episode, I was mesmerized by this, since I greatly enjoy baseball. It was unlike any baseball game I'd experienced in the States! I knew I had to go.
And I did. I witnessed the passionate cheering from the crowd, ate the food there (we ate curry and rice!), drank beer (people walked around the stadium with kegs on their backs and poured beer on the spot!), and the incredible 7th-inning stretch. In Japan, the fans during the 7th inning somehow become more alive than before. Everyone blows up balloons and releases them into the air.
Watching the balloons fill the sky above us and whistling through the air in zigzag patterns was hypnotizing! It was one of my favorite moments in Japan.
And that was all thanks to Bourdain.
Prior to my backpacking trip through Taiwan, I watched this episode on Taipei. In the episode, Bourdain goes to Taipei 101, which was, at the time, the second tallest building in the world. But, more notably for me was what he ate at the bottom floor: all the dim sum. He ate at a restaurant called Din Tai Fung, which offers numerous types of dim sum. All of the dim sum are made in house and you can even watch them make it in their intricate and meticulous process!
Naturally, that was one of the first places I ate at when I got to Taipei.
And I ate an embarrassing amount of drool-worthy dim sum. But, it was “sum” of the best I've ever had.
Thank you again, Tony.
During this particular episode, Bourdain visited Prague. He did plenty of typical things, like eat all the goulash and other meaty dishes, but he also visited something off of the beaten path: Sapa Market, or Little Hanoi.
On the outskirts of Prague, there's a large market dedicated to Vietnamese cuisine, products, and even some questionable activities.
While there, Bourdain and his cameramen tried to record in the giant warehouses there, which hold tons of clothing items and other various items. However, the workers there immediately stopped them and refused to let them record inside.
I found that particularly interesting and, once I moved to Prague in January 2017, I almost immediately went to Sapa Market. I ate incredible pho (before realizing my gut can’t handle it), walked around, and even bought some morning glory, my favorite vegetable in Asia!
But, I also tried to record inside the warehouses there. And, just like Bourdain, I was yelled at and stopped instantly.
Yet another wild experience thanks to Tony!
Throughout this episode, Bourdain is shown getting inebriated with a crew of random Korean business men. He ate tons of delicious food, like Korean barbecue, and drank tons of alcohol, like soju (Korean liquor) and Cass (Korean beer).
The best part of the episode was when Bourdain said that he absolutely hated karaoke and would under no circumstances do it that night.
Of course, after enough drinks and good times, he did it anyway.
I loved this episode so much because it was an awesome representation of Seoul and South Korean nightlife overall. During my 5 months living there, I continually did exactly what Bourdain did in that episode: eat all the barbecue, drink all the alcohol, and sing all the songs at karaoke.
And what made this even more perfect somehow was that I myself swore to never sing karaoke. But, of course, I did, too-- just like Bourdain.
Once again, thank you, Tony.
If you couldn't already tell, I am devastated by the loss of Anthony Bourdain. I've personally never been so affected by a celebrity's death before because I almost never relate to any celebrities. I've felt saddened by some, but most, I didn't feel much because I wasn't "close" to them.
However, Bourdain's passing was a different story. He led me around the world and taught me lessons that I couldn't have learned on my own. His attitude, outlook on life, admiration for almost everything, and storytelling was mesmerizing to me. He pushed me to travel the world and because of him, I did. I feel like I've lost a close friend. Without him, I wouldn't be who I am today.
Thank you, Anthony Bourdain, for everything. I will always miss you and will continue to watch your adventures while doing my best to experience the world like you did.
Please remember: suicide is a serious thing. If you or anyone you know needs ANY help, please reach out to anyone, whether it be a family member, friend, or hotline. Here's the suicide prevention number in the US: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)