What Anthony Bourdain Meant to Me

What Anthony Bourdain Meant to Me

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Ariel Knutson
Jun 8, 2018
(Image credit: Ariel Knutson)

I remember working at Jean-Georges restaurant when I was 22 and someone asking me what my ideal job would be. I had failed to get any kind of real writing career out of college, and most nights I stayed out late with my coworkers spending what little money I did have on food I couldn't afford. So of course, without hesitation, I said I wanted to be Anthony Bourdain.

Could there have been a different answer? For a writer obsessed with food, Anthony Bourdain represented the very best life. He did everything: He was at one point a chef, a writer, a public speaker, and a host of one of the best travel and food shows that ever existed. And, damn, was he good at all of this. He was a storyteller that made the world feel a little bit smaller. He gave voices to people and cultures that otherwise might not get that voice, and he did it in such a way that never felt gross or appropriative.

Anthony Bourdain lived life so hard and so well it doesn't really make sense that he's dead. I can't stop thinking about the stories that won't be told now that he's gone. His death will leave a hole in food media that can't be filled.

When I heard the news this morning, I also thought about the one time I did get to meet him. I was 25 and an intern at BuzzFeed and somehow got invited to the launch party for CNN's Parts Unknown. It was exactly how you think it would be: overflowing with food and free drinks and packed with all the people you'd want talk to. I tried to build up the courage to say something—anything—to him all night. And then, as I saw him trying to leave the party early with his then-wife Ottavia, I asked him for a photo (the most un-Bourdain thing you could possibly do). Instead of being annoyed or brushing me off, he was genuinely nice about the whole interaction—and I think my face kind of says it all (that whole deer-in- headlights look kinda gives everything away).

It was a small encounter, but it's stayed with me in the way things stay with you when you meet someone you've long admired. I stayed out until 4 a.m. that night and closed down the bar with some of the producers from Zero Point Zero (the production company for Parts Unknown). It sounds corny, but it really was one of the best nights of my life.

So tonight I'm going to live. I'm going to buy a bottle of something delicious that I definitely can't afford, and eat too much meat. I'm going to stay out really late and make friends with the restaurant staff. I'm going to pretend I'm 22 years old again and try to remember that the world is still full of great stories to tell.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

This post originally ran on Kitchn. See it there: What Anthony Bourdain Meant to Me

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