Ode to Anthony Bourdain

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When I think about Anthony Bourdain, I think about sardines (he has a great episode about canned fish on the NW coast of France). I think about how I quit smoking before him, but seeing his struggle to quit play out after mine helped keep me strong and off those calamity sticks.

Anthony taught me to travel hard. He taught me there might be a better glass of wine or a more savory pot of stew if I was willing to venture into that darkened ally. He put the cool in food, and helped guide me to give up cheeseburgers and instead switch to street food and to accept invitations into strangers’ homes for a meal, and boy have I eaten well.

Though I never met him, he was a mentor for my travels and on how to be thoughtful with experiences of food, people, and place.

Tweet from one of his last Parts Unknown episodes:

Being inspired to travel hard, but eat well led to some of my all time greatest travel experiences. Anthony, I will always think of you when I think of these meals:

  • Spicy Hotpot – Chongqing, China. – It was a hot and humid summer night, my mom and I ventured away from our Holiday Inn, and found a hole in the wall restaurant. Our bubbling hotpot was served outside, we sat on plastic stools, while locals chatted us up and drank beer with us. 干杯! (Gānbēi!)

  • Paella – Campomar, Spain. Jan, Andy and I, had a week staying on a friend’s sailboat in small harbor a 30 minute bus ride outside of Alicante. One afternoon (our first mistake) we walked through the small town searching for paella. Everyone was closed due to siesta. But in an alleyway a woman offered to serve us. She told us to come back in a few hours and everything would be ready. When we arrived, there was table adorned with a white table cloth in the ally. Cold pitchers of sangria were packed with fresh fruit and poured endlessly, and the paella was served in the pan it was cooked in, right at our table.
  • Three young men sitting around a pot of paella. Each holds up a glass of red wine.
  • Night Club, Harlem, New York, my dad has always been my favorite cook, and I’ve been fortunate to have some epic travel experiences with him. About ten years ago we stayed for a few nights in an Air bnb at 126th and Malcom X Blvd. One night we went to a night club with live music, and talked and listened until the early hours of the next day.
  • My Wedding – Las Vegas, Nevada. To this day, my wedding is the best party I have ever been to. Though Anthony was not on my mind that day, the lessons he taught me were. Culture doesn’t start at the US border, it’s in everyone’s hearts. Lean into it, and embrace it. This party had so much love, the food was pretty good, but the toasts and the connections our families made on that day are infinite. It was an apex of expression for my culture.

These are just a few of my top food journeys, but my whole life is guided by sense of wonder, desire to see more, and to be taken on curated journeys by locals. I’m so glad I’ve had a companion like Anthony (in spirit). He will be sorely missed.

It was announced today that Anthony, age 61, died at his hotel in France.

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1 comments on “Ode to Anthony Bourdain”

  1. Hi Nathan, thanks for sharing your appreciation of Anthony Bourdain. It’s good to think of how he influenced many lives in his too-short time on earth. I hope you and Sarah are well and happy in your Portland life.

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