Tortured Gastronome

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Jim Smeal/REX/Shutterstock (5895871s)

EVERY TIME ANTHONY BOURDAIN MAKES a reference on one of his TV shows to hanging himself in a shower stall, Ann and I swap meaningful looks.

After all, that’s exactly how the 61-year-old chef, traveler, writer and raconteur ended up this past June: found dead by his best friend in a French hotel bathroom. It’s now jarring to see him make such an apparently-then glib, ultimately prophetic remark. But it’s typical of chronic depression, and likewise typical of Bourdain’s mordant candor and fierce honesty. He was a straight-up, follow-the-story-wherever-it-goes kind of showmaker. And as he is one of many people who inspire my own literary honesty, he’s also one of my cultural heroes.

Bourdain’s TV shows, especially No Reservations and particularly Parts Unknown (available to stream respectively on Amazon and Netfilx), shatter the Fourth Wall to take us behind the world’s culinary scenes both rich and poor (and sometimes in the middle). Although a bit snarkier than I like, he had a keen knack for getting people (and peoples) to reveal themselves through their cuisine — and show us how universal is the concept of simply sitting down to a meal together. He is, and will be, terribly missed. Requiescat in pace.

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