Anthony Michael Bourdain (25 June 1956 – 8 June 2018) was an American celebrity chef, author, travel documentarian, and television personality who starred in programs focusing on the exploration of international culture, cuisine, and the human condition. He was also host of the Travel Channel's culinary and cultural adventure program Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations and CNN's Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.
- I do a lot of speaking engagements and sometimes I feel like I’m being paid to curse in front of people who haven’t heard it in a while.
- Bad food is made without pride, by cooks who have no pride, and no love. Bad food is made by chefs who are indifferent, or who are trying to be everything to everybody, who are trying to please everyone … Bad food is fake food … food that shows fear and lack of confidence in people’s ability to discern or to make decisions about their lives. Food that’s too safe, too pasteurized, too healthy – it’s bad! There should be some risk, like unpasteurized cheese. Food is about rot, and decay, and fermentation….as much as it is also about freshness.
- I don't like to see animals in pain. That was very uncomfortable to me. I don't like factory farming. I'm not an advocate for the meat industry.
- I have exactly the same work ethic. I don't see writing as anything more important than cooking. In fact, I'm a little queasier on the writing. There's an element of shame, because it's so easy. I can't believe that people give me money for this shit. The TV, too. It's not work. At the end of the day, the TV show is the best job in the world. I get to go anywhere I want, eat and drink whatever I want. As long as I just babble at the camera, other people will pay for it. It's a gift. A few months ago, I was sitting cross-legged in the mountains of Vietnam with a bunch of Thai tribesman as a guest of honor drinking rice whiskey. Three years ago I never, ever in a million years thought that I would ever live to see any of that. So I know that I'm a lucky man.
- 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.
- Alden Mudge, "On tour with a guerrilla gourmet", interview, BookPage.com, accessed June 17, 2007.
- The room smelled like a gust of wind from Satan's anus.
- No Reservations - Iceland.
- It seems that the more places I see and experience, the bigger I realize the world to be. The more I become aware of, the more I realize how relatively little I know of it, how many places I have still to go, how much more there is to learn. Maybe that's enlightenment enough - to know that there is no final resting place of the mind, no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom, at least for me, means realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.
- No Reservations - Machu Picchu
- You know what’s great about New York? The threshold for citizenship as a New Yorker is actually pretty short. If you come to New York and you still like it two years after you arrived here, and you still think it’s great and you’re having a good time and you haven’t been just totally ground down and go limping back to wherever the fuck you came from, you know what? You’re in!
- The Layover - New York City
- Anyone who refuses to let you eat your burger at a temperature less than medium is on the side of the terrorists.
- The Layover - New York City
- Life is complicated. It's filled with nuance. It's unsatisfying. If I believe in anything, it is doubt.
Kitchen Confidential (2000)
- Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, and an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. The body, these waterheads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein. It's healthier, they insist, though every vegetarian waiter I've worked with is brought down by any rumor of a cold. Oh, I'll accommodate them, I'll rummage around for something to feed them, for a 'vegetarian plate', if called on to do so. Fourteen dollars for a few slices of grilled eggplant and zucchini suits my food cost fine. (p. 70).
- Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screwtop jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don't deserve to eat garlic.
- Good food and good eating are about risk. Every once in a while an oyster, for instance, will make you sick to your stomach. Does this mean you should stop eating oysters? No way. The more exotic the food, the more adventurous the serious eater, the higher the likelihood of later discomfort. I’m not going to deny myself the pleasures of morcilla sausage, or sashimi, or even ropa vieja at the local Cuban joint just because sometimes I feel bad a few hours after I’ve eaten them.
- Margarine? That’s not food. I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter? I can. If you’re planning on using margarine in anything, you can stop reading now, because I won’t be able to help you.
- I wanted to write in Kitchenese, the secret language of cooks, instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever dunked french fries for a summer job or suffered under the despotic rule of a tyrannical chef or boobish owner.
- An ounce of sauce covers a multitude of sins.
- If there was any justice in this world, I would have been a dead man at least two times over. By this, I mean simply that many times in my life the statistical probabilities of a fatal outcome have been overwhelming – thanks to my sins of excess and poor judgment and my inability to say no to anything that sounded as if it might have been fun. … [When I die], I will decidedly not be regretting missed opportunities for a good time. My regrets will be more along the lines of a sad list of people hurt, people let down, assets wasted and advantages squandered.
- I've long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we're talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime 'associates,' food, for me, has always been an adventure.
- Don't touch my dick, don't touch my knife.
- Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don't have.
- For a moment, or a second, the pinched expressions of the cynical, world-weary, throat-cutting, miserable bastards we've all had to become disappears, when we're confronted with something as simple as a plate of food.
A Cook's Tour (2001)
- They're professionals at this in Russia, so no matter how many Jell-O shots or Jager shooters you might have downed at college mixers, no matter how good a drinker you might think you are, don't forget that the Russians - any Russian - can drink you under the table.
- I wanted adventures. I wanted to go up the Nung river to the heart of darkness in Cambodia. I wanted to ride out into a desert on camelback, sand and dunes in every direction, eat whole roasted lamb with my fingers. I wanted to kick snow off my boots in a Mafiya nightclub in Russia. I wanted to play with automatic weapons in Phnom Penh, recapture the past in a small oyster village in France, step into a seedy neon-lit pulqueria in rural Mexico. I wanted to run roadblocks in the middle of the night, blowing past angry militia with a handful of hurled Marlboro packs, experience fear, excitement, wonder. I wanted kicks – the kind of melodramatic thrills and chills I’d yearned for since childhood, the kind of adventure I’d found as a little boy in the pages of my Tintin comic books. I wanted to see the world – and I wanted the world to be just like the movies.
- Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands. 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. 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. While Henry continues to nibble nori rolls & temaki at A-list parties, Cambodia, the neutral nation he secretly and illegally bombed, invaded, undermined, and then threw to the dogs, is still trying to raise itself up on its one remaining leg.
- The journey is part of the experience - an expression of the seriousness of one's intent. One doesn't take the A train to Mecca.
- I am in no way supportive of hunting for trophies or sport - would never do it and don't like it that others do. But if you kill it, then eat it, it's fine.
- Only desperation can account for what the Chinese do in the name of 'medicine.' That's something you might remind your New Age friends who've gone gaga over 'holistic medicine' and 'alternative Chinese cures.
The Nasty Bits (2006)
- Travel changes you. 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. Often, though, they hurt.
- America's most dangerous export was never nuclear weapons or Jerry Lewis—or even Baywatch reruns. It was, is, and probably always will be our fast-food outlets.
- Given a choice between being trapped on a desert island with a group of writers or a family of howler monkeys, I think I'd pick the monkeys. At least I could eat them.
- For their own good, vegetarians should never be allowed near fine beers and ales. It will only make them loud and belligerent, and they lack the physical strength and aggressive nature to back up any drunken assertions.
- You have to love a town where you can both smoke and gamble in a pharmacy.
- It’s an irritating reality that many places and events defy description. Angkor Wat and Machu Picchu, for instance, seem to demand silence, like a love affair you can never talk about. For a while after, you fumble for words, trying vainly to assemble a private narrative, an explanation, a comfortable way to frame where you’ve been and whats happened. In the end, you’re just happy you were there — with your eyes open — and lived to see it.
- Good food does lead to sex. As it should.
- Cooking professionally is a dominant act, at all times about control. Eating well, on the other hand, is about submission. It’s about giving up all vestiges of control, about entrusting your fate entirely to someone else. It’s about turning off the mean, manipulative, calculating, and shrewd person inside you, and slipping heedlessly into a new experience as if it were a warm bath. It’s about shutting down the radar and letting good things happen. Let it happen to you.
- Naturally, I'm misanthropic. But the Negronis are helping considerably.
- "Monkfish liver! Can you sell them? How many people order them?" one chef will say. "I herda them," says another. "The fucking burger…" groans another, "I can’t get it off the menu. I tried, but they scream." "Give them the damn burger," says another, "and fucking salmon if they want it too. Just slip them the good stuff slowly, when they're not looking. A little here, a little there, as a special. Choke them with burgers but slide them tuna rare. Give them their salmon, but make it ceviche. They’ll come around. They’re coming around".
Medium Raw (2010)
- There’s something wonderful about drinking in the afternoon. A not-too-cold pint, absolutely alone at the bar – even in this fake-ass Irish pub.
- If you’re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.
- We know, for instance, that there is a direct, inverse relationship between frequency of family meals and social problems. Bluntly stated, members of families who eat together regularly are statistically less likely to stick up liquor stores, blow up meth labs, give birth to crack babies, commit suicide, or make donkey porn. If Little Timmy had just had more meatloaf, he might not have grown up to fill chest freezers with Cub Scout parts.
- I am not a fan of people who abuse service staff. In fact, I find it intolerable. It’s an unpardonable sin as far as I’m concerned, taking out personal business or some other kind of dissatisfaction on a waiter or busboy.
- I do think the idea that basic cooking skills are a virtue, that the ability to feed yourself and a few others with proficiency should be taught to every young man and woman as a fundamental skill, should become as vital to growing up as learning to wipe one's own ass, cross the street by oneself, or be trusted with money.
- No kid really wants a cool parent. "Cool" parents, when I was a kid, meant parents who let you smoke weed in the house – or allowed boyfriends to sleep over with their daughters. That would make Sarah Palin “cool.” But, as I remember, we thought those parents were kind of creepy. They were useful, sure, but what was wrong with them that they found us so entertaining? Didn’t they have their own friends?
- You have to be a romantic to invest yourself, your money, and your time in cheese.
- I believe that, as an American, I should be able to walk into any restaurant in America and order my hamburger – that most American of foods – medium fucking rare. I don’t believe my hamburger should have to come with a warning to cook it well done to kill off any potential contaminants or bacteria. … I believe I should be able to treat my hamburger like food, not like infectious fucking medical waste. I believe the words “meat” and "treated with ammonia" should never occur in the same paragraph – much less the same sentence.
- PETA doesn't want stressed animals to be cruelly crowded into sheds, ankle-deep in their own crap, because they don't want any animals to die-ever-and basically think chickens should, in time, gain the right to vote. I don't want animals stressed or crowded or treated cruelly or inhumanely because that makes them probably less delicious.
- I have long believed that it is only right and appropriate that before one sleeps with someone, one should be able – if called upon to do so – to make them a proper omelet in the morning. Surely that kind of civility and selflessness would be both good manners and good for the world.
- The lazy and the foolish compare him to Hemingway, which is a terrible injustice as Jim is both a better writer and a better man.
- On novelist and poet Jim Harrison
Quotes about Bourdain
- Anthony Bourdain received plenty of love for the unconventional Houston episode of his popular CNN TV series Parts Unknown. The episode's diversity was particularly praised. It turns out the bad boy chef turned travel savant achieved that with one simple edict.
"No white people," Bourdain told producers about his vision for highlighting Houston according to a recent New Yorker magazine profile.
As PaperCity's own Jailyn Marcel pointed out when the Houston Parts Unknown first aired, none of the city's celebrity chefs even sniffed a bit of air time. It turns out most of them never had a chance to get on. Foodie power players such as Chris Shepherd, Bryan Caswell and Ronnie Killen were out from the moment Bourdain issued his "no white people" command.
It's hard to argue with the results (though when it comes to race, someone is always going to object). Bourdain's Houston show is one of the most critically-acclaimed episodes of Parts Unknown ever. Bourdain tells the New Yorker that he wanted to look at Houston "as a Vietnamese and Central American and African and Indian place."
There is little doubt Bourdain accomplished his mission — no matter his methods. The episode provided a fascinating look at the Houston that many of the residents populating all the mid-rises and high-rises popping up don't even know.
- Chris Baldwin, in "Anthony Bourdain Bans White People from His Houston Show", PaperCity (11 April 2017)
- What really interested him about food was the sensual pleasure of eating it and the hard reality of the labor that went into it, and he never lost sight of either. His mission was to affirm the value of life, even as he saw it devalued all around him.
- Possessing a restless intelligence and curiosity like his can be exhausting. Bourdain was a natural writer because he was constantly observing everything around him, recording the best and the worst, processing, contextualizing, drawing out meaning.
- Better than most traditional journalists, Bourdain understood that the point of journalism is to tell the truth, to challenge the powerful, to expose wrongdoing. But his unique gift was to make doing all that look fun rather than grim or tedious. Very few storytellers offering honest portrayals of the world can still find it full of joy as well as sorrow.
- A lot of people will tell you that on meeting Tony – despite how extraordinary a being he was – they somehow felt as if they’d known him for years. In part, this was the natural result of having so much of his wit and intellect bleed across our television screens. But just as elemental, I believe, was the man’s almost unlimited capacity for empathy, for feeling the lives and loves and hopes of others. He listened as few listen. And when he spoke, it was often to deliver some precise personal recollection that was an echo or simile on what was still in his ear. He abhorred a non sequitur; for him, human communication — much like his core ideas about food and travel and being – was about finding the sacred middle between people.
- David Simon, in a eulogy on his blog
- He was always that funny – either dry in his rhetorical savagery, or over-the-top hyperbolic in his foaming rage at vegetarians or micro-beer experts or elitist social or political orders. Everything built to a moment of careful, thoughtful wit. He often spoke as well as he wrote, and given the stylistic command of his prose work, this is saying something. I know a lot of writers. Only a few of us speak as we write. Shit, on a bad day, we can’t even write as we are supposed to write. Tony was never arch or florid; his comic exaggerations and rhetorical provocations were always somehow perfectly measured. He said what he meant and he meant what he said and he landed all of it. As a conversationalist, he simply delivered, moment to moment.
- David Simon, in a eulogy on his blog
- For Bourdain, a man of commanding and exceptional wit and talent, the greatest and most honorable fight was to stand with ordinary men – whether a New York busboy or a vendor on a Ho Chi Minh City streetcorner, a production assistant in his crew or a fan who recognized him on a subway platform. I loved him for this. It was, perhaps, the most important predicate to the great achievement of his journalism: Wherever you go, whoever you meet – there we are, all of us, so different and so much the same. And he chose, I think, his close friends in some part for their talent, but in greater part for their ability, regardless of that talent, to be themselves with all others, in all other spaces.
- David Simon, in a eulogy on his blog
- ...with the focus on food and cooking [on Bourdain's No Reservations], we can see what it is that drives daily life among the Haitian multitudes. And what we find is surprising in so many ways.
In a scene early in the show set in this giant city after the  earthquake, Bourdain and his crew stop to eat some local food from a vendor. He discusses its ingredients and samples some items. Crowds of hungry people begin to gather. They are doing more than gawking at the camera crews. They are waiting in the hope of getting something to eat. Bourdain thinks of a way to do something nice for everyone. Realizing that in this one sitting, he is eating a quantity of food that would last most Haitians three days, he buys out the remaining food from the vendor and gives it away to locals.
Nice gesture! Except that something goes wrong. Once the word spreads about the free food—word-of-mouth in Haiti is faster than Facebook chat—people start pouring in. Lines form and get long. Disorder ensues. Some people step forward to keep order. They bring belts and start hitting. The entire scene becomes very unpleasant for everyone--and the viewer gets the sense that it is worse than we are shown.
Bourdain correctly draws the lesson that the solutions to the problem of poverty here are more complex than it would appear at first glance. Good intentions go awry. They were thinking with their hearts instead of their heads, and ended up causing more pain than was originally there in the first place. From this event forward, he begins to approach the problems of this country with a bit more sophistication.
- Jeffrey A Tucker (2011), It's A Jetson's World: Private Miracles and Public Crimes, The Ludwig von Mises Institute, pp. 157-158