What We Learned from Anthony Bourdain

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It's with a heavy heart that I write this blog post.

This morning, I woke up to the news that Anthony Bourdain had killed himself in a hotel room in Alsace. One of the most intriguing writers of my time killed himself in what is one of the most intriguing parts of the world I've ever visited.

In the entire Alsace-Lorraine regions of France, there's a dichotomy between the French influence and the German influence. And now, in Anthony Bourdain, we must live with a different kind of dichotomy.

How can someone who gets to see so many amazing places be ready to end the journey? How can someone with the power and influence to create change decide to throw it away? How can someone who was loved by so many for so many different reasons turn his back on that?

I don't want to make this a dictation on suicide -- we all know it, have likely been affected by it personally, and should do what we can to prevent it (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1.800.273.8255) -- but it's a sad fact of life today. Bourdain has joined the 61 club with another one of my favorite writers, Ernest Hemingway.

Thinking about his life, though, what did we all learn from Anthony Bourdain? How can we take his legacy and move forward in our own ways? How can best explore the people in our own worlds.

Be authentic.

There is no doubt Anthony Bourdain was about as real as it gets. There was no fluff or pretense, just an unmatched ability to be who he really was. With passion. And when you're passionate about just being yourself...

People trust you.

His audience trusted him to go to places most of us will never see. We trusted his perspective that that's the way things really are in those places. And even more important, the people he interviewed trusted him enough to be themselves, as well. He had an ability to get the truth out of people, out of a place, out of an ingredient, out of an entire cuisine, and because of that, we all believed his stories because we knew, at the heart of them, was the truth.

Be confident.

Imagine starting as a line cook. Working your way up through the hot and humid kitchens of summertime in the northeast. Toughing it out. Learning every day. Working your way to sous and eventually executive chef. Then trusting the experiences you had were worth telling to others, writing about them. Then, finally, at the age of 44, really getting a chance to travel the world and see all the places you only thought about in your dreams.

Anthony Bourdain was confident in his abilities, and those abilities eventually led him to the places he always wanted to go.

Let's hope we can all do the same.

RIP, Anthony Bourdain. Thanks for being such an inspiring force in foodservice, in journalism, and in life.

* The photo above is courtesy of the Peabody Awards.

Topics: food and beverage

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