The passing of Anthony Bourdain on June 8, 2018 hit cooks & chefs worldwide with remorse and a great sense of sadness. Although most of us had never personally met Anthony Bourdain, the vast majority of cooks felt a sense of loss because we consider him to be a bother, a fellow comrade of the kitchen, a representation of both who we are and who we can be.
I think of Anthony Bourdain not as the stereotypical cook/chef but more so as the archetypal cook/chef. He represents so many aspects of who we are as cooks…brutally honest, somewhat (or a lot!) antisocial (because we are brutally honest), desiring honest human expression rather than political correct bullshit, having our own addictions & demons, beating some of our own addictions & demons, and so much more. Bourdain was above all else unapologetically human and honest. Something which most cooks either consciously or unconsciously endeavor to be. It’s what gives us our antisocial reputation.
After reading “Kitchen Confidential” many years ago I realized that here was a true person, willing to expose “the underbelly” of professional kitchens, giving legitimacy, expression, and identity to the normal cook’s life. He had no shame in exposing his ego/arrogance in claiming that he was a fantastic grill cook in order to get a job (in Kitchen Confidential his assistant out performed him!). And he successfully revealed the commitment, pain, stress, and adrenaline needed to successfully survive in the professional kitchen.
To me, Anthony Bourdain is an icon and the archetypal cook because he made people realize what it is like to be a professional cook, what it takes, how hard it is to achieve the physical & mental fortitude needed in order to serve 300 – 500 demanding people (including some worthless pompous assholes who probably can’t cook ramen correctly!) a perfect meal.
If he recognized your educated opinion he gave you an honest, educated response. But if you were just a self-aggrandized prick he called you out. Chefs hate nothing more than someone who pretends to be someone who they are really not, or pretends to have talents which they actually lack. Bourdain was articulate to a fault for calling out culinary fakes, wannabes, or impostors.
Some of Anthony Bourdain’s famous quotes include:
“I assumed from the get-go that every minute I was on television was a freakish anomaly that would be over quickly. It came as a sobering and confusing moment when I realized I was still on the air. What the fuck is going on?”
“Don’t touch my dick, don’t touch my knife.” – Kitchen Confidential
“Bad food is made without pride, by cooks who have no pride, and no love. Bad food is made by chefs who are indifferent, or who are trying to be everything to everybody, who are trying to please everyone… Bad food is fake food… food that shows fear and lack of confidence in people’s ability to discern or to make decisions about their lives.”
“Anyone who’s a chef, who loves food, ultimately knows that all that matters is: ‘Is it good? Does it give pleasure?”
“There are people with otherwise chaotic and disorganized lives, a certain type of person that’s always found a home in the restaurant business in much the same way that a lot of people find a home in the military.”
“I’m not afraid to look like an idiot.”
“Oh yes, there’s lots of great food in America. But the fast food is about as destructive and evil as it gets. It celebrates a mentality of sloth, convenience, and a cheerful embrace of food we know is hurting us.”
“Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans … are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit. Oh, I’ll accommodate them, I’ll rummage around for something to feed them, for a ‘vegetarian plate’, if called on to do so. Fourteen dollars for a few slices of grilled eggplant and zucchini suits my food cost fine.”
“Being a vegan is a first-world phenomenon, completely self-indulgent.”
“I’m sure that at no point in my life could I ever have shown the kind of focus and discipline and commitment necessary to work a station at elBulli or Le Bernardin. No. That ain’t me.”
“I feel that if Jacques Pepin shows you how to make an omelet, the matter is pretty much settled. That’s God talking.”
“”[When I die], I will decidedly not be regretting missed opportunities for a good time. My regrets will be more along the lines of a sad list of people hurt, people let down, assets wasted, and advantages squandered.” – Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly
“Don’t lie about it. You made a mistake. Admit it and move on. Just don’t do it again. Ever”
“It seems that the more places I see and experience, the bigger I realize the world to be. The more I become aware of, the more I realize how relatively little I know of it, how many places I have still to go, how much more there is to learn. 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 realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”
“Few things are more beautiful to me than a bunch of thuggish, heavily tattooed line cooks moving around each other like ballerinas on a busy Saturday night. Seeing two guys who’d just as soon cut each other’s throats in their off hours moving in unison with grace and ease can be as uplifting as any chemical stimulant or organized religion.”
“Life is complicated. It’s filled with nuance. It’s unsatisfying… If I believe in anything, it is doubt. The root cause of all life’s problems is looking for a simple fucking answer.”