In a food world filled with self-proclaimed mavericks and bad boys, what set Anthony Bourdain apart was his abiding interest in other people, what they eat, and why.
The prolific writer, TV host, cook, and traveller, who died today, didn’t just teach us how to travel better; he taught us how to live more adventurously, globally, and generously. The most fitting way to honor that considerable contribution is to gather your people, your friends and your family, and eat a good meal. While you do it, raise a glass to toast him. (Bourdain might scoff at the notion of pouring one out for him. It’s a waste of perfectly good booze!)
Here are some suggestions of how to do this today:
Though Parts Unknown made him globally famous, Bourdain had an even stronger voice on the page than on the screen. Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles Cookbook is, hands down, one of the best French bistro cookbooks money can buy. Many of the recipes that shine in it are braises better suited for a Dutch oven and autumn weather. Same for the Sunday gravy and budae jijae in his more recent Appetites. Or how about a spring-appropriate menu of frisee aux lardons (in the Les Halles Cookbook the ingredients include the note “That’s real Roquefort, knucklehead!) and moules marinieres? A meal of mussels with crusty bread is cheap, easy and perfect for a crowd—and for wine.
The internet is full today of tributes to Bourdain, and the difference he made to individual cooks, restaurants, and cuisines around the world. At Xi’an Famous Foods, a New York City restaurant that now has a cult following and branches around the city, CEO Jason Wang credits Bourdain with changing the fortunes of his father’s food stall in Queens more than a decade ago.
Years later, Wang recalls in a thread on Twitter, he told Bourdain as much, that “while he may have no idea what he has done for our family and business by simply saying he enjoyed the food, I wanted him to know it helped bring our family out from living in one room in Flushing to living the American dream. We were able to grow our business… and provide great food for our guests, and opportunities for our employees. I looked at him in the eyes and said, this is something we will always be thankful for, Tony. And he simply replied, ‘I’m just calling out good food like it is, that’s all.'”
Today, to honor Bourdain, Xi’an Famous Foods will donate its net sales receipts to a suicide prevention hotline.
Bourdain was famous for eating like a local all over the world, and that included the US. His love of a diner, of classics from the griddle, had as much to do with the kind of conversations you have in a diner booth at 2am as with the casual mastery a short order cook at a place like Waffle House displays. If eggs over easy just don’t feel like a fitting tribute, or you find yourself many miles, or continents, from a Waffle House, honor his late-night ethos at a night market, a street cart, or whatever the most delicious option for dining in the wee hours might be in your locale.
What’s really remarkable about Bourdain’s death is how many people are sharing their gratitude that this man came to their country, ate their food and shared it with the world. It’s a reminder of how powerfully connected food is to identity, and how hungry many people are to be seen.
The best tribute, today and going forward, is to take the curiosity that Bourdain strode the world with and apply it wherever you live. Eat something new, whether that’s Korean barbecue, Lebanese fattoush, or a trip to Jollibee, place he called “the wackiest, jolliest place on earth.” Sounds like heaven.