Remembering Anthony Bourdain, The Chef, The Writer And The Traveller

Had he chosen to stick around, chef Anthony Bourdain would have been 68 today, still writing and travelling, if not cooking, and giving the world a lot more to appreciate.

Published On Jun 25, 2024 | Updated On Jul 04, 2024


“In the life of a cook, the imperative of 'passing through' is paramount. You work a station until you can do it in your sleep. You work it until you can taste things cooking, until you can feel the way they cook—until you can almost tell by the smell. And then you are pulled off. You move on to the next task, the next station—learning how to cook on the fly, learning the qualities of this new ingredient or that. You learn to cook 'by the seat of your pants,' as they say. You learn to cook 'intuitively.' It's not about recipes. You don't apply salt and pepper 'to taste.' You learn the ingredients, their behaviour, their particularities, their secrets—where they come from, what they are, how they behave, what they do. You begin to think like a chef. You are initiated. You learn to cook—and then you learn to work a station.” 

And that was chef Anthony Bourdain for you – unhinged and straightforward.

One of the world’s most maverick chefs, a wanderer, experimenter, TV personality, a friend to a few – Bourdain would have been 68 years old today, had he chosen not to end his life. 

Born in 1956, Bourdain's life —from a young chef in New York City to a global icon of food and travel—left a firm imprint on the world.

His journey into the culinary world started with the bustling kitchens of New York, where he moved up the ladder from being a dishwasher to a line cook. His breakthrough came with the publication of "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly" in 2000, a candid memoir that provided an unfiltered peek into the intense and chaotic world of professional kitchens that tossed Bourdain into literary stardom. 

In 2002, Bourdain ventured into television with "A Cook's Tour", a series that blended travel with culinary discovery. This was followed by "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations," which aired from 2005 to 2012, a show that won audiences with his unscripted approach, raw observations, and real interactions with people from diverse cultures. 

Then came "Parts Unknown," that aired from April 14, 2013, to June 16, 2018. The show originally aired on CNN and ran for a total of 12 seasons until Bourdain's untimely death in 2018.

It is during this time that Bourdain visited India and showcased his deep appreciation for the country's vibrant culinary traditions and rich cultural tapestry. He went on a journey across the country, exploring the diverse regional cuisines and street food. 

In cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, and Kolkata, he went into the busy markets and humble eateries, sampling everything from spicy chaat and flavourful curries to sweets and biryanis. He chatted with local chefs, street vendors, and families cooking traditional meals, gaining insight into the intricate flavours and histories woven into Indian cuisine. Beyond food, Bourdain also explored India's social and cultural dynamics, engaging with locals to understand their perspectives on tradition, modernity, and the evolving gastronomic landscape. 

"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," Bourdain had written his book, "No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach." 

In addition to his television success, Bourdain penned several more books, including "Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook" and "Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook." Through his writing, Bourdain continued to blend his wit with insights into the culinary landscape. 


Bourdain earned recognition for his contributions to the culinary arts over time, including five Emmy Awards for his television series for "Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown." He’s also won the Peabody Awards and the James Beard Foundation Awards, for his contribution to food, travel, and storytelling. 

In his later years, Bourdain became a vocal advocate for social issues and cultural understanding. He used his platform not only to celebrate food but also to address issues such as inequality, immigration, and the preservation of culinary traditions in an increasingly globalised world. He actively participated in humanitarian efforts and spoke out against injustices he encountered during his travels. 

Eric Ripert, co-owner of Le Bernardin in New York City and a regular guest on Bourdain's shows, described him as "a storyteller, a writer, and a visionary." Ripert highlighted Bourdain's ability to connect with people from diverse backgrounds and to shine a spotlight on the importance of food as a cultural bridge. 

José Andrés, a Spanish-American chef and humanitarian, remembered Bourdain as "a dear friend who cared about the world." Andrés and Bourdain collaborated on various projects, including relief efforts in disaster-stricken areas. Andrés admired Bourdain's passion for social justice and his unwavering commitment to using his platform for positive change.

Anthony Bourdain passed on June 8, 2018. His death opened conversations about mental health and the pressures faced by those in the public eye gained prominence. 


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Photo: Shutterstock; IMDB