Every generation there’s a cook who comes along and changes everything—one who teaches whole generations, elevates humble vegetables to new heights, translates cuisines for an audience a continent away, or instructs the world on how to cook a wolf.
Then the wolf comes along and says you had it all wrong.
When he punched out of the New York dining scene in 1999, Anthony Bourdain tore the wool off all the white hats and aprons and redefined what a cook could be. His rise from chef to Kitchen Confidential empowered a whole host of chefs to write about their experiences in the kitchen, and infused cooking with an undeniable sense of cool. A Cook’s Tour, No Reservations, and later, Parts Unknown, redefined what a television show about food could be—introducing mass audiences to cuisines either unknown or dismissed in American kitchens. Watching Bourdain weave through a Cambodian night market, picking out the best noodle stands with an expert eye, you sensed that he really cared—not just about discovering explosive flavors, or ferreting out the next big dish, but also about the people who made that dish and the stories they were telling with every slurp.
Above all, Bourdain was honest—about life on the line, his past addictions, his passing ability in the kitchen—and outspoken, whether it was about sexual abuse and harassment or the misdeeds of American politicians in the foreign lands he walked in his hit shows. Bourdain was a rare bird—tattooed and badass, unafraid to put anything in his mouth—who embraced elements of tough-guy culture without espousing any of its more loathsome views. He only disrespected those worthy of his disrespect: those who abuse women, abused whole countries on the sly, and refused to truly engage a world overflowing with rich and interesting food and people.
And for that, we owe him.