Sure, he wrote Kitchen Confidential, and exposed stories of life in the kitchen that do not exist at the same level today than in the 70’s and 80’s, and his persona is pretty much take it or leave it, but these are only a means to an end. Kitchen Confidential gave Bourdain the flexibility to contribute, to advocate for the importance of food, in much more significant ways.
Bourdain is a cultural guide, an ambassador for the importance of food, a voice of reason and authenticity in a world where those things are not so common. I cannot attest to his level of skill in the kitchen, however, he must have had some pretty decent chops to work in the quality and volume operations that dot his resume. I can, however, state unequivocally, that he can write, he can tell a story, he is intelligent and well read, and he knows how to connect with people. These skills in addition to his street cred as a chef, have allowed him to rise up from the range and the pass, to a major voice for many world cultures that few of us have had the opportunity to explore.
We cannot judge what we don’t understand, yet as a society we oftentimes fail to appreciate this fact. Many tend to confuse an understanding of a region’s people by the persona of the politicians and vocal minority. Bourdain cuts through many of the stereotypes that cloud our ability to understand the real people who make up a country, city, or ethnic group. His use of food as the portal to understanding, ties in with the knowledge that food is something that serves as a common denominator, the great equalizer, and the most universal language.
When you cut through the politics, the media, the rhetoric of dissent, what remains is an appreciation of tradition, a commitment to family, and a relationship with food that goes beyond nourishment. Food is something that defines a culture as much as language, history, art, music and religion. This is where Bourdain lives, this is his turf, and a place where he is at home and can communicate freely with anyone and everyone.
“Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.”
― Anthony Bourdain
Bourdain is the vehicle for demonstrating what those of us who have worked in kitchens have always known: in the heat of the kitchen, we are all equal. In the kitchen, people of all types and backgrounds are less different than they are interesting, and over a plate of great food we can always find common ground.
From the open markets of the Middle East, the hidden clubs of Russia, the fishing communities of Mediterranean Spain, the neighborhoods of New Orleans or Buffalo – Bourdain listens, laughs, toasts and shows us how to appreciate just how interesting people are. Differences melt away with a perfect curry, a bowl of Thai Pho, a taste of New Orleans Etouffee, the excitement from eating a warm beignet on Bourbon Street, or a chicken wing from the Anchor Bar.
Anthony Bourdain is John Steinbeck, C.K. Fisher, and Hemingway all wrapped with the colorful paper of an ambassador and purist diplomat. He may still call himself a chef, but he has become much more. He is everyman’s storyteller, a person who is now charged with bringing the world a little closer.
If you scrape away the crust of over-consumption and tales of his drug induced past, Bourdain is a prolific writer. He has inspired many young cook’s who avoided reading, to pick up a book. The doors that he opened allowed dozens of other cooks and chefs to tell their stories and create a literary segment: the kitchen novel. He has found a home now with CNN and as a result, in my opinion, has built the most important show on television. I look forward to watching each episode and opening my eyes to the people and cultures of parts of the world that I may never physically visit.
Anthony Bourdain’s books in print:
A Cook’s Tour
The Nasty Bits
Bone in the Throat
Les Halles Cookbook
The Bobby Gold Stories
PLAN BETTER – TRAIN HARDER
Harvest America Ventures, LLC
COMING SOON: “The Event That Changed Everything”
A novel by: Paul Sorgule
Available in early 2015