To say Anthony Bourdain was just a celebrity chef is an understatement. He was also a world-renowned Emmy-winning television personality, journalist, a writer, a travel documentarian, and an outspoken advocate for the underdog. In fact, some people would call him a global ambassador for the way he united the world through his storytelling in his culinary and traveling adventures. When news broke that the 61-year-old died of an apparent suicide in his hotel room in Strasbourg, France, fans and colleagues alike were in complete shock. Whether or not you were familiar with Bourdain, it’s undebatable that he left an impact on the world that can’t be replicated.
Bourdain may have had a successful career as a chef, but he found a way to use that position to give those who didn’t have a voice, a platform to speak upon. When you watched his shows, Parts Unknown or No Reservations, you knew you were going to learn about international cuisine, personal stories, and the history of countries you may know little about. Whether he was traveling to Greece, Colombia, or even a city in the United States, he approached each experience as an outsider willing to learn from locals and allowing each location to do the storytelling.
Bourdain, known as the “bad boy,” outspoken celebrity chef had always been vocal about his support for immigrants, and most recently the #Metoo movement. He also unapologetically criticized President Trump and his approach on politics, especially his immigration policy. Bourdain addressed his respect for immigrant workers who were employed by his restaurants in his first book, Kitchen Confidential Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly stating:
“American cooks-meaning, born in the USA, possibly school-trained, culinarily sophisticated types who know before you show them what monterau beurre means and how to make a bearnaise sauce-are a lazy, undisciplined and, worst of all, high-maintenance lot, annoyingly opinionated, possessed of egos requiring constant stroking and tune-ups, and, as members of a privileged and wealthy population, unused to the kind of ‘disrespect’ a busy chef is inclined to dish out. No one understands and appreciates the American Dream of hard work leading to material rewards better than a non-American. The Ecuadorian, Mexican, Dominican and Salvadorian cooks I’ve worked with over the years make most CIA-educated white boys look like clumsy, sniveling little punks.”
This wasn’t the only time Bourdain showed support for the Latino community. He spoke out in 2015 during President Trump’s campaign when he addressed his plan for immigration reform. Bourdain called Latinos, “the backbone of the food industry,” and said during an interview with Peter Dominick on SiriusXM, “If Mr. Trump deports 11 million people or whatever he’s talking about right now, every restaurant in America would shut down.”
Additionally, Bourdain was one of the most vocal male activists tied to the #Metoo movement. After allegations came out that Harvey Weinstein and other high profile personalities had sexually assaulted actresses in Hollywood, Bourdain showed unwavering support for the victims coming forward. An excerpt from a piece he wrote for Medium expressed his stance declaring:
“In these current circumstances, one must pick a side. I stand unhesitatingly and unwaveringly with the women. Not out of virtue, or integrity, or high moral outrage — as much as I’d like to say so — but because late in life, I met one extraordinary woman with a particularly awful story to tell, who introduced me to other extraordinary women with equally awful stories. I am grateful to them for their courage, and inspired by them. That doesn’t make me any more enlightened than any other man who has begun listening and paying attention. It does makes me, I hope, slightly less stupid.”
He even owned up to his own toxic behavior that he says contributed to the “meathead culture” in the restaurant industry as depicted in Kitchen Confidential. He told Slate that even though he hadn’t been in the restaurant industry for over 17 years, he wished he’d done something about the disrespect women faced when he was a part of it. This inappropriate treatment of women especially hit close to home for him when his girlfriend, Italian actress, Asia Argento publicly revealed to The New Yorker that she was raped by Weinstein when she was 21. Bourdain took to Twitter to show his support stating how proud he was of her for coming forward with her story.
Since that point he became an ally of the #Metoo movement and encouraged other men to re-examine their own treatment of women and to intently listen to what they had to say. Bourdain proved to be an example of everything the #Metoo movement was trying to achieve and gave hope for that change.
Bourdain may have had a way of coming off as your “bad ass” uncle, but he also had a soft spot and wasn’t afraid to show it. As witnessed on his television shows, despite his tough guy exterior, he still knew how to connect with people of all walks of life and embrace their stories. Thanks to his multifaceted work, his legacy and memory will live on, and hopefully influence others to fight for those who don’t have a voice and stand up for what’s right.