Anthony Bourdain, in Your Words


Anthony Bourdain’s death on June 8, 2018, prompted an outpouring of comments from readers of his obituary in The New York Times. They recalled episodes of his television show, “Parts Unknown,” on CNN; his lacerating restaurant book “Kitchen Confidential;” his support of the #MeToo movement; and his example as a culinary — and cultural — adventurer. They expressed anguish at the inner torment that had led him to take his own life, and urged others in similar straits to seek help. A selection of reader comments, excerpted and lightly edited, follows.

We loved Bourdain because he wasn’t the “ugly American.” He traveled to our countries and didn’t treat them like objects of conquest and its peoples like the dregs of humanity. He gave street vendors the same airtime as Michelin-starred chefs. He educated the public about our history, our traditions, our food with words of admiration. He modeled for Americans how to be political with grace, charm, and humor. We need an army of Bourdains to change this world. I am so sad to lose him. — Malaouna; Washington

A couple years ago, I was at Ross Dock Park underneath the George Washington Bridge enjoying a cookout with my family and some friends from Mongolia. We saw Anthony Bourdain pushing his daughter on a swing. My friend ran over to him to invite them over to eat with us. My friend came back and said that he was with his family and that he very graciously said no. But then we noticed that he was coming over to us. He hurried up and said, “I can’t resist having Mongolian B.B.Q. in New Jersey!” and my friend proceeded to feed him with chopsticks straight off the grill. We all laughed, and then he rushed back to be with his family. What a cool guy. — librarian; NJ near NYC

I’ve watched every episode of his shows. Many of them over and over again. I’ve walked in his footsteps into many of the same restaurants. Used his wisdom on my travels: Get lost! First alley to the right. This colorful, multishaded, openhearted man who has given so much of himself, and was so good at sharing his stories about the world and humanity with the rest of us: He leaves behind so much of that. — André Sørhus; Moss, Norway

Anthony Bourdain has touched my life in a unique way. Ten years ago, I came to the U.S. to attend college. Until then, having spent my whole life in China (born and raised), I couldn’t help but hold a deep belief that Chinese cuisine is the most developed and sophisticated cuisine in the world, and any other country’s cuisine is simply no match. Confusion soon ensued. Indeed, in America, Chinese food is mostly regarded as cheap takeout food and is sometimes frowned upon. I started following Bourdain’s shows after I saw an episode on Shanghai. He sure enough had his way with words. But more important, to me, he was authentic, not afraid to admit his ignorance and showed genuine appreciation for Chinese food, the food I grew up with. I felt validated. It made me smile. —DERocketFan; Charlottesville.

“Parts Unknown” inspired this boring Midwesterner to skip out on lectures at international conferences in favor of wandering strange cities, get a little lost (on purpose) and eat unfamiliar food. These were the best parts of my travel. Thanks, Anthony. — Rower Mom; Ann Arbor, Mich.

When my wife and I started dating 15 years ago, the first gift I gave her was a copy of “Kitchen Confidential,” wrapped in Chinese delivery menus. I’ve tried hard and never made her happier with any other present. I’m gutted that someone with so much power for good has been lost. — RND; Queens, N.Y.

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