Anthony Bourdain's grit will leave a lasting influence
When I interviewed Anthony Bourdain in 2016, I called him a "punk rock chef" in the headline. A couple punk music fans on my timeline took issue with that. I get it: how could someone so mainstream as 2016 Bourdain be "punk?"
He was, though. Not only did he ooze the tenants of punk rock — pro-working class, anti-sexism, anti-racism — but the late chef and television host was a trailblazer for aspiring cooks who didn't feel they fit the mold of what a chef should be.
In the days after his death by suicide on Saturday, just weeks before his 62nd birthday, tributes to Bourdain poured from every media outlet, from Time to Vice Magazine.
The latter published an article headlined "Anthony Bourdain Made Us All Proud to Be Line Cooks." Author Brian McManus explained how he felt "less lost" in the kitchen after reading "Kitchen Confidential," Bourdain's 2000 memoir, which has been flying off the shelves since his Friday death and this week was the No. 1 best-seller on Amazon.com.
In it, he gets candid and raw about the realities of working in a kitchen, like drug use (including his own), and revealed some tricks that restaurants use. Bourdain told the truth about what it's like to work in a high-pressure kitchen.
His outspoken book came up more than once when I was interviewing local chefs on Friday. One Detroit-area chef, Mabel Gray's James Rigato, credited Bourdain with making it acceptable to be a "dirtbag," and a "normal-person chef," one who wasn't perfectly trained or maybe had blemishes on their record (or tattoos on their knuckles). They could still be edgy and employed.
Adding to his bad-boy image, Bourdain was open about what he hated, or things he took issue with. He has publicly spoken out against everything from pumpkin spice - he said in a Reddit interview that he'd like to see the trend "drowned in its own blood" - to Kobe sliders, karaoke, Rachael Ray and other celebrity chefs.
Another thing he thought was stupid was Instagram and the practice of sharing photos of food, in spite of his contributions to travel and food culture, as Wired pointed out Friday. The three million people who follow Bourdain on Instagram may notice he mostly posted photos of people and places, and not a lot of perfectly-plated dishes.
Bourdain may not have given a rat's behind about Starbucks' unicorn frappuccinos, but he did care about things that affected humanity. The New Yorker spoke in support of the #MeToo movement, and championed the rights of immigrant workers in America.
He slammed President Donald Trump's stance on immigration and felt in his own experiences that the availability and worth ethic of immigrants where essential to making restaurants run. He once called the United States' attitudes toward immigration "ridiculously hypocritical." He put his money where is mouth was, too, and hired and promoted immigrants in his restaurants.
Using your power and who-gives-a-crap attitude to help others who have less of a voice ... sounds pretty punk rock to me.