Why Anthony Bourdain Was Just So Special


David Scott Holloway

NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 31: Anthony Bourdain films Parts Unknown Queens in New York, New York on November 11, 2016. (photo by David Scott Holloway / 2016 Cable News Network. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.)

Sam Bisno, Editor-in-Chief

Earlier this year, I organized a focus group of 25 freshmen and sophomores at Obama to watch an episode of acclaimed chef Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown that centered around Pittsburgh. True to the premise of the show, Bourdain used Pittsburgh’s rich and diverse food scene as a lens to look at the state of the city as a whole. At the time, his portrayal was controversial amongst the students in the room, as he implied that a new obsession with modernization and entertainment is alienating long-time residents.

Two days ago, my phone buzzed at around 6:30 in the morning, startling me awake. What was at first mild annoyance at my first morning of summer sleep being ruined quickly subsided, giving way to shock and disbelief as I read the alert that flashed across the screen: “Anthony Bourdain dead at age 61 after apparent suicide.”

I never knew Anthony Bourdain, and, admittedly, I have never been one to mourn the loss of celebrities to whom I have no relation – which is why I found the deep feeling of sadness that took hold of me following my reading of the notification just a little bit odd. But as I’ve reflected over these past 48 hours, I think I’ve come to a conclusion as to why the television icon’s death was just so devastating.

You see, we’re currently living in a time where seemingly nothing is safe from criticism and scrutiny; be it from coworkers, news pundits, or, indeed, our President, everyone has something negative to say about, well, everything – from trivial matters like your outfit to more loaded subjects, such as political views. Even others in Bourdain’s profession make a career out of lambasting honest culinary endeavors (I’m looking at you, Gordon Ramsay).

But Anthony Bourdain was an exception. Not once throughout the duration of the countless episodes of Parts Unknown that I sunk hours upon hours of my life into did I ever witness him criticize a dish he was eating. That just wasn’t his thing.

His thing was indulging in and appreciating the many different cultures and cuisines of the world, with an almost childish wonder, free of judgment or condescension. That’s not to say that he avoided the tough issues; on the contrary, his study of Pittsburgh serves as evidence enough to debunk that notion. But he went about addressing the pressing concerns of the world with class, with respect, and only after enjoying a steaming hot plate of whatever the local delicacy was.

Humanity needs more of Anthony Bourdain’s strain. May he never stop exploring.