Honesty, death and Anthony Bourdain

There have been some touching tributes to Anthony Bourdain in the last few days, but I need to point out that he was never a “celebrity chef.” Bourdain was a memoirist who lifted himself from poverty by channeling raw, naked honesty onto the page.

As the years went on, and Bourdain became an inspiring documentarian for millions, he continued to think of himself mainly as a storyteller. He wielded that conviction with great impact in popular culture, too. Who else put novelists like Jim Harrison and Leonardo Padura on national television, or talked with such passion about James Joyce and George Orwell to millennial viewers?

Like countless people, the effect of reading Bourdain’s books and watching his beautifully shot productions tempted me out into the wider world. It also convinced me to step out of my comfort zone as a career crime reporter and try my hand at travel journalism, a move that soon brought new balance to my life, leaving me eternally grateful.

In April, I published a story in SN&R about the recent film Bourdain produced, Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent. In my piece, I wrote that Bourdain had given us “a seesaw yarn about endless ambition, quietly sprinkled with deep meditations on originality and death.” In the wake of Bourdain’s reported suicide, I can’t stop thinking about writing those lines. That doesn’t mean I’m judging his departure—it just means I’m more aware of some dark patina of pain this creative soul fought through in hopes of bringing the world a little closer together. And it means I feel even more indebted for what he gave us.