Storytelling Magic: Anthony Bourdain Tribute
The power of storytelling is one of our tools that sets us apart from the animal kingdom.
It’s a medium of expression, documentation, and discovery. Everyone has the ability to write his or her own story and everyone seems to be a part of one. We can recreate moments or make something up completely. We can share experiences with one another or help narrate our own life. We’ve all grown up listening to stories that intrigued us and we’ve all told stories in one way or another. Storytelling has been a big part of my life and this past summer really shook me up when one of the world’s best storytellers exited our lives—Anthony Bourdain.
Bourdain did many things in his lifetime. He worked in kitchens, wrote books, had a daughter, hosted TV shows, and was an admirer. Looking closer, he explored cultures, shared his view on life, and opened up the world to those who watched. However, I believe Bourdain, at the core, was an epic storyteller. As much as he did, and moved for that matter, Bourdain told stories through his persona, his eyes. People attribute him to many trades like celebrity chef or cultural savant.
Removing the camera between him and us, he was a funny, well-spoken, always-moving enthusiast who asked all the right questions while carrying his dark demons.
Some may say that he epitomized everything anyone ever wanted: freedom, travel, great taste, inspiration, and funny humor. I could also argue that all those things can make a person spiral any which way, while the intake of knowledge showed him what he thought his life was. Not enough to live, or too much to handle. But let’s leave that for the professionals or for those who think they know.
It’s going to be hard to write this journal entry for many reasons but I think that a little appreciation is due for the stories Bourdain has given viewers, the food world, chefs, cultures, and myself.
I grew up reading, watching, and talking about Bourdain. As a young lad, we would retell his tales of exploration and discuss topics that we would otherwise not know about. It wouldn’t be until after his suicide that I would notice how much of an impact he actually had on me. A void lies within many of his fans as we continue to reference his work and personality after his departure.
I’ve always thought of myself as an avid enthusiast who wants to experience it all. I haven’t always been like this, but as I grow, I find that my ability to tell stories at home or abroad is a passion of mine that helps me connect with the world around me. And more common, I find myself telling others’ stories that I admire. It makes me feel big and small all at the same time.
I’ve always jumped around. Back and forth, new and old. Always constantly on the move. As I get older and have more freedom, financially and logistically, I get thirstier for exploration. I try new things and try to understand things I don’t know. I have the ability to appreciate new experiences that help me understand the people around me. Their culture, their attitude, their problems, their love, their passions, their work, and their view on life. I went as far as starting a food brand that focuses on sharing cultures through the art of food.
I think Bourdain nailed it by showing viewers and telling readers what he saw through his eyes. Specifically by throwing the lens over cultures and doing it through what we humans must do to survive—eat.
This desire to share the world with the people who consume it is rather mystical. Maybe this idea of exploring cultures and wanting to see the world was made even more grandiose and transformed by Bourdain’s style. At the end of the day, he didn’t show us the impossible or blew our minds with innovation.
And for someone who moved around all the time, it’s funny how he stopped us from moving and zoned our attention to specific encounters he had.
Grasping our attention while we cozied up in front of the television as if we were about to embark on a journey. Maybe that was the magic he held. I’m sure the debate can go on for hours about what he did and for who, but for me, it was all eye-opening. He inspired me to keeping moving and he reassured me that what I do can captivate and inspire others.
My father, brother and I were in the beginning stages of our 2018 European excursion when we heard the news of Bourdain having hung himself in a French hotel. We were all catching up in Lisbon, before meeting my mother’s mother for her 80th birthday in England. We decided to have a Brave Boys trip and indulge in some Portuguese architecture and cuisine. After the celebration we’d take our separate ways. My father heading to France with Mama, and my brother and I heading to Russia afterwards. All this being said, there was some providence to us being abroad while details of Bourdain suicide unraveled.
As we sat at a bar in disbelief, anger, a little confusion and a dash of sympathy, we stared at the symbolic empty seat at our table that he left us.
I never had the chance to meet him in person, but I know his spirit is a little bit in all of us. When we travel, when we try something new, when we share a meal with someone, or even when sit down by ourselves and absorb what’s around us; a little bit of him will be with us as we write our own stories.