Anthony Bourdain, An Inspiration and Puzzle


My heart ached when I woke up on Friday morning to news of Anthony Bourdain's death by suicide. In my shock, I woke up my husband to share the news and he couldn't believe it.

Why would such a "happy" guy commit suicide? It's so out of character!

We proceeded to theorize on a reasonable explanation for his suicide and we settled on either an accidental overdose on prescription pills or suicide due to diagnosis of a terminable illness.

As of this writing, it is known that he hung himself. No suicide note was found, nor was there evidence of foul play. Interesting.

Like many, I was stunned that he decided to end his life. His job was literally my dream job.

But Bourdain was special to me and to so many other people. Like Garance Dore, he was an icon of mine and my favorite celebrity.

He had an uncanny ability to intertwine storytelling, food, and filmmaking with remarkable dexterity and engage his audience with the people he interviewed. I discovered him when I was just a kid who loved to watch the Travel Channel and Food Network (before they exploded in popularity and every show turned into a reality tv competition). It was way back when people used to have cable TV. That was when I fell in love with food and travel. But sometimes Bourdain puzzled me. I often wondered, why wasn't he cooking more often if he claimed to be a chef?

After reading many articles on him (in the New Yorker) over the weekend I soon found out that although he was a decent chef, his most salient characteristic was his impeccable work ethic. And like Garance Dore, he was multitalented, a factor I believe plays a crucial role in becoming a monumental success in life, if life smiles at you.

He was just good enough at 3 or 4 things that made him stand out and with a bit of luck, he shined.

First, he had in-depth knowledge of food after years spent in kitchens going from dishwasher to executive chef. But he was also organized and systematic and probably had very good attention to detail, all characteristics that you need to succeed. He was also a natural storyteller and that gave him the edge to become a great entertainer.

His curiosity and sense of wonder were also evident. Sure, it all came wrapped in a suit of "bad-assery" but that was simply his signature style. Underneath it, laid a well-disciplined, organized, and systematic guy who was just like everyone else--in search of meaning and significance.

Anyway, Bourdain impacted my life in a positive way and leaves behind an impressive body of work. I hope his daughter and all those who loved him are able to move forward in a healthy way and remember him fondly.

Here are 15 things I learned from Bourdain over the years:

15. A writer's life is lonely. Writers can't always be out there living life. Afterall, writing is a solitary endeavor.

14. Always be writing. Bourdain started writing very early on. He first published two mystery novels before his book, Kitchen Confidential, became popular.

13. Focus on the storytelling. Storytelling is everything. A writer who can write a good story can be a captivating entertainer.

12. Be curious. Always follow your curiosity. It might lead you to unexpected places.

11. Be knowledgeable. Sometimes you have just got to be informed. Ignorance isn't an excuse.

10. It's not too late to succeed. Bourdain became famous in his 40s.

9. It's not too late to start something new. Bourdain started a passionate affair with Jiu-Jitsu in his 50s.

8. Always tell the truth even if it's your own version of the truth. People respect people who tell the truth especially when it's hard.

7. The gritty side of life can be romantic. Most authors are a romantic bunch. They can't help it.

6. Observation of human behavior is important if you're a romantic.

5. Vietnamese food is bomb.

4. Tokyo is cool.

3. Not everything you see on television is what it seems. I checked out a few of the places he recommended across two cities, Chicago and the High Desert, and I was not impressed.

2. You're the life of the party i.e. you carry the fun within you. If you are charming others will have a good time and so will you.

1. Always be organized. It can take you places. 

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