- Mike Coppola/Getty Images
- Anthony Bourdain died a year ago in an apparent suicide, which triggered an outpouring of grief around the world.
- His friends are celebrating his birthday, June 25, as Bourdain Day to celebrate his legacy.
- Bourdain began his path to fame as a writer, and is known for his storytelling and wit.
- Here are 16 unforgettable quotes about food and life from his writings and interviews.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
A year ago, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain was found dead in an apparent suicide at the age of 61. His death triggered an outpouring of love and tribute from his many fans and the people who knew him.
In celebration of his life and legacy, June 25 – his birthday – is being celebrated as Bourdain Day.
“The idea was to create, on his birthday, an event that anyone can contribute to, something that is low-production,” his friend and fellow chef Eric Ripert told the Washington Post. “We will make sure that Anthony is being remembered on his birthday, and not when he left. We will keep this tradition year after year.”
Bourdain began his path to international fame as a writer, and throughout his career he’s been known for his wit and storytelling abilities. His writing is filled with rich tales of kitchen life in his New York City restaurants, his thoughts on the places he’d visited, and the pleasures of opening your mind to new experiences. Bourdain’s work articulated a way of life that celebrated food, travel, and cultural exchange.
Here are 16 quotes from Bourdain’s writing and interviews over the past decades.
“In America, the professional kitchen is the last refuge of the misfit. It’s a place for people with bad pasts to find a new family.”
Bourdain began his path to international fame after publishing an essay in a 1999 issue of New Yorker about his life as a chef in New York City. The essay evolved into the critically acclaimed and bestselling book “Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly” the next year.
“I love the sheer weirdness of the kitchen life: the dreamers, the crackpots, the refugees, and the sociopaths with whom I continue to work,” he wrote in the essay. “The ever-present smells of roasting bones, searing fish, and simmering liquids; the noise and clatter, the hiss and spray, the flames, the smoke, and the steam.”
“Even more despised than the Brunch People are the vegetarians. Serious cooks regard these members of the dining public — and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans — as enemies of everything that’s good and decent in the human spirit.”
- Lawrence Lucier/Getty Images
In “Kitchen Confidential,” Bourdain enthused about his vision of the ideal cuisine. Not surprisingly, it involved a lot of meat. He was unafraid to dig into the unsavory-if-you-think-about-it parts of food. “To live life without veal or chicken stock, fish cheeks, sausages, cheese, or organ meats is treasonous,” he wrote.
“Do we really want to travel in hermetically sealed popemobiles through the rural provinces of France, Mexico and the Far East, eating only in Hard Rock Cafes and McDonald’s? Or do we want to eat without fear, tearing into the local stew, the humble taqueria’s mystery meat, the sincerely offered gift of a lightly grilled fish head?”
One of Bourdain’s life missions was to advocate for new experiences. As he wrote in “Kitchen Confidential, “I know what I want. I want it all. I want to try everything once.”
“I travel around the world, eat a lot of s—, and basically do whatever the f— I want.”
For a 2017 profile in the New Yorker, Bourdain talked about his original pitch for his CNN show “Parts Unknown.” It was modest, but successful.
“I’d put aside my psychotic rage, after many years being awful to line cooks, abusive to waiters, bullying to dishwashers. It’s terrible — and counter-productive — to make people feel like idiots for working hard for you.”
- Larry French/Getty Images for DC Central Kitchen
Bourdain admitted in a 2017 interview with The Guardian that, for a time, he acted like a stereotypical tyrranical chef. But he made progress to break apart the ill will that environment created. He suggested his bad attitude came from the drug issues he openly dealt with.
“Nowadays I still have a rather withering ability to be sarcastic and displeased but I’m not screaming at anyone,” he said. “I was an unhappy soul, with a huge heroin and then crack problem. I hurt, disappointed and offended many, many, many people and I regret a lot. It’s a shame I have to live with.”
“I should’ve died in my 20s. I became successful in my 40s. I became a dad in my 50s. I feel like I’ve stolen a car — a really nice car — and I keep looking in the rearview mirror for flashing lights. But there’s been nothing yet.”
Bourdain felt fortunate to survive his drug addiction. He didn’t take his unlikely success for granted, as he told Biography.com.
“Food may not be the answer to world peace, but it’s a start.”
Bourdain saw “Parts Unknown” as a way to connect the world over shared cultural traditions. Pretty much everyone, he pointed out in a 2016 PBS News interview, likes food and can talk about food.
“Who does not like barbecue? They sure like ’em here.”
He emphasized the world’s shared love of food in a “Parts Unknown” episode set in Libya, which has a hostile history with the United States. Despite their geopolitical differences, he noted, Libyans still like barbecue.
On Batali: “Retire and count yourself lucky. I say that without malice, or without much malice. I am not forgiving. I can’t get past it. I just cannot and that’s me, someone who really admired him and thought the world of him.”
- Noam Galai/Getty Images
Bourdain was an outspoken against sexual assault. He dated Asia Argento, one of the women who first spoke about alleged sexual assault by Harvey Weinstein. When several alleged victims accused Mario Batali, Bourdain’s on the celebrity chef circuit, with sexual misconduct in late 2017 and early 2018, Bourdain wasn’t soft on him.
“It was absolutely fearless to walk right into the lion’s den and say what she said, the way she said it.”
- REUTERS/Danny Moloshok
Since the Weinstein allegations broke, Argento has been involved in the Time’s Up movement, which aims to chance the sexual misconduct-ridden culture in the entertainment industry. She gave a searing speech at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, which previously screened many of Weinstein’s movies.
In an interview with Indiewire shortly before his death, Bourdain talked about his support for Argento and her work.
“From the second she said she’d been invited to present an award, I knew it would be a nuclear bomb,” he said. “I was so proud of her. It was absolutely fearless to walk right into the lion’s den and say what she said, the way she said it. It was an incredibly powerful moment, I thought. I am honored to know someone who has the strength and fearlessness to do something like that.”
“I’ve had to ask myself, and I have been for some time, ‘To what extent in [“Kitchen Confidential”] did I provide validation to meatheads?'”
When the national conversation about sexual misconduct began, Bourdain openly reckoned with his past work. “Kitchen Confidential” presented an image of macho life, which he called “meathead culture,” that he thought may have made him seen insensitive to workplace issues.
“I’ve known some of these women and I’ve known women who’ve had stories like this for years and they’ve said nothing to me,” he told Slate. “What is wrong with me? What have I, how have I presented myself in such a way as to not give confidence, or why was I not the sort of person people would see as a natural ally here? So I started looking at that.”
“As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful.”
- Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
On “Parts Unknown,” Bourdain was an advocate for travel and its ability to change lives.
“Meals make the society, hold the fabric together in lots of ways that were charming and interesting and intoxicating to me. The perfect meal, or the best meals, occur in a context that frequently has very little to do with the food itself.”
- Mike Coppola/Getty Images
Bourdain was a strong believer in meals being a central part of community, as he told Bookpage.
“Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands.”
Bourdain’s world travels gave him a strong perspective on international affairs. Discussing a visit to Cambodia in his 2001 book “A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines,” Bourdain criticized former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger for the US bombing Cambodia in 1969 and 1970.
“You will never again be able to open a newspaper and read about that treacherous, prevaricating, murderous scumbag sitting down for a nice chat with Charlie Rose or attending some black-tie affair for a new glossy magazine without choking,” he continued. “Witness what Henry did in Cambodia – the fruits of his genius for statesmanship – and you will never understand why he’s not sitting in the dock at The Hague next to Milošević.”
“If you’re a writer, particularly if you’re a writer or a storyteller of any kind, there is something already kind of monstrously wrong with you.”
One of Bourdain’s charms was that he was self-aware of the vanity required to be a memoirist and make shows about your own travels. As he told Men’s Journal in one of his final interviews: “Let’s face it, it is an unreasonable attitude to look in the mirror in the morning and think, ‘You know, there are people out there who would really like to hear my story.'”
“Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.”
Bourdain’s most direct message to the world, as he wrote in “Kitchen Confidential,” was that food should be fun.