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What Made Anthony Bourdain a Unique Figure in Culinary Culture

There is an entire industry of celebrity chefs that run their own show on cable and streaming services, but Anthony Bourdain would standout as a unique figure in this world. The New York City native would use his expertize to become a travel documentarian, an author, journalist and explorer of exotic cuisines and dining culture.

The book Kitchen Confidential would be a revelatory tell-all account from Anthony Bourdain that really did break the mold for figures of his type in the cooking world. The New York Times best seller would launch the cook’s public career in 2000, giving a warts-and-all revelation about the excesses of this underground lifestyle. It would detail sex, drug use and an extreme approach to the profession of being a chef in a cutthroat environment.

One of the key elements that made Anthony Bourdain a unique figure in this industry was his passion for street food and culinary delights from hard to find locations. While many of his peers would focus on the Michelin star restaurants and extol the virtues of these high-end boutique premises, the American would be far more intrigued finding a low key kebab seller or a Turkish cook in the nearby markets. That salt of the earth, authentic cuisine was the type of food that really brought about his love for food, removing much of the pageantry that can be identified with chefs and the food industry at large.

Anthony Bourdain was very much of the opinion that the standard celebrity chef television show was not his cup of tea. Rather than remaining with the same format year after year, he would venture from one broadcaster to the next to try and experiment with the genre. It would begin with A Cook’s Tour in 2002 before the program No Reservations would take off in 2005, a series that would be sustained until 2012.

To push the envelope even further to exotic food locations around the globe, he would be the face of The Layover from 2011 to 2013, giving people a chance to taste the culinary delights of a layover location inside 24 hours. Parts Unknown would be his final journey, celebrating diverse cultures through their passion for food, cooking and dining.

Celebrity feuds were part of Anthony Bourdain’s makeup that made him a cherished and despised figure depending on the individual. He would call Paula Deen the most dangerous person in America, he would fiercely criticize Guy Fieri and his Times Square restaurant, took aim at Wolfgang Puck and his pizza style, targeted Alice Waters and late night talk show host Bill Maher among others. He was not in the game of making friends and smiling for the camera, but giving an honest opinion from those who were willing to ask.

Unfortunately Anthony Bourdain and depression were subjects that were tragically linked for years. It was well known that the celebrity chef battled depression, but rather than tuning out viewers and losing a following, it would be a feature that separated him from his peers who would always present a self-confident and energetic disposition.

There was only ever one Anthony Bourdain and sadly the world would lose him to suicide in 2018 at the age of 61. Filming on location in France for Parts Unknown, it would be a tragic end for a man who gave viewers so much pleasure. His ability to break with convention, ask questions, explore new territories and offer an unfiltered opinion is where Bourdain would really make his mark on the industry. As far as he was concerned – if the food tasted good, then nothing else mattered.


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