A little over a year ago, Anthony Bourdain tragically took his own life while filming an episode of Parts Unknown in France. So, today, on what would’ve been his 63rd birthday, we celebrate him. I’m doing so by remembering Anthony Bourdain and his impact on my life.
I never met Anthony Bourdain personally, nor have I had the pleasure of interacting with him at all. But I’ve been watching his shows and reading his books since his A Cook’s Tour days. And while I already had a different view of the world than most in my home state of Hawaii at the time, Bourdain dramatically influenced and shaped my perception as it stands today.
A Cook’s Tour
From the very beginning, Bourdain’s ethos of eating what’s good where it’s good is something I took to heart. This means, while traveling, eating what locals eat, not what you’re comfortable eating. But Bourdain also opened my eyes to another world of eating.
A Cook’s Tour debuted on the Food Network in 2002. Back then, I was still in high school and had not heard of the Michelin Guide. But through his episode, The French Laundry Experience, I learned of the Michelin Guide, Michelin Stars, and Chef Thomas Keller for the first time. That episode left a sizeable impression on me, while also instilling the goal of dining at The French Laundry in me.
Of course, I recently had the opportunity to treat Mrs. Island Miler to a dinner at The French Laundry for her milestone birthday. But, two years ago, we also went to Le Bernardin, again because of the above episode of A Cook’s Tour, which introduced me to Eric Ripert.
A Cook’s Tour was a, sadly, a short-lived program. But, thankfully, after a five-year hiatus, Anthony Bourdain made his return to TV. This time he appeared on the Travel Channel on a new show, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.
No Reservations is probably the show that had the most significant impact on me — debuting in 2008; before I began traveling on my own. This show opened my eyes to even more places and more cuisine types. As a result, I found myself wanting to travel to more places than before and got me to try cuisines I never thought I’d want to try, such as authentic Mexican and Lebanese. And while I already ate things like bone marrow at that point, Bourdain opened my mind to trying other less desirable cuts and to give other foods a try (or a second chance) like oysters, uni, etc.
By the way, I also watched and loved his other Travel Channel Show, The Layover, which had a similar impact on me too.
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, launching on CNN in 2012, was a significant departure from No Reservations. The show focused less on food and more on places and people. Food was still a factor for sure, and the show once again opened my eyes to new places and new experiences. But it was an excellent window into how others live and why they believe and do what they do.
I think the thing Parts Unknown accomplished best was showing the world that, despite our differences, most of us are more alike than we think. This is something I’ve learned first-hand through the people I met from around the world in college, as well as the people I’ve met via Marriott’s Insider community.
Remembering Anthony Bourdain, Final Thoughts
Despite what some described as an abrasive personality, I’d argue that Bourdain simply spoke his mind. It was a refreshing change from travel hosts that said everything is good, even when it isn’t. Yeah, he was a sarcastic, sassy ass at times, but that’s just entertaining, in my opinion.
The bigger picture, in my opinion, is all the education Bourdain provided all of us. He was a massive proponent of regional and indigenous cuisine. But, perhaps even more importantly, in his later years, he often showed us how similar we all are. How, despite our difference, we can all find common ground and have an understanding and compassion for one another.
Beyond his travels, connecting people, and adventurous eating, I also believe Bourdain encouraged many to get into the kitchen and cook. He certainly did this for me. While I already liked to cook, it’s partly due to his influence that I taught myself more and further honed my skills.