What I Learned from Anthony Bourdain

Bourdain and Obama having a beer in HanoiBourdain and Obama having a beer in Hanoi

As a kid, I remember the first time watching Anthony Bourdain on TV. It was past my bedtime on a Sunday evening when I stumbled upon his show, No Reservations. I don’t recall which episode I first watched, but I was instantly hooked. Bourdain had a magnetic way of speaking and his authenticity captivated me. From then on, No Reservations was one of my favorite shows. Later, when he moved to CNN, his new show, Parts Unknown, became a favorite too.

Bourdain and Masa Takayama in JapanBourdain and Masa Takayama in Japan

On this day, five years ago, I was an Engineering student at the University of Waterloo, eating lunch in South Campus Hall’s 2nd-floor concourse, when I saw news of Anthony Bourdain’s death by suicide on my phone.

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Tony was an inspiration for me growing up. He lived life to the fullest. By conventional measures, he was extremely successful. He had a life that many, including myself, dreamed of. The news of his death was the first celebrity death to truly impact me - I felt like I had lost a role model, a hero, a friend.

Bourdain playing drinking games in KoreaBourdain playing drinking games in Korea

I learned a great deal from Tony. I’ve written frequently about him, which those familiar with my blog will know.

He taught me how to connect with others. Bourdain had an uncanny ability to connect with people regardless of language or cultural differences. He could make them laugh, cry, and open up over meals.

He taught me to be genuine. Bourdain inspired me with his unfiltered, flawed, and no-nonsense attitude. I was attracted to this as a child and now, as I get older, I come to appreciate how special his influence is. I told a friend once that even if I can have just a fraction of the impact that Bourdain had, I’d be happy.

He’s just that good.

Bourdain posing in the BronxBourdain posing in the Bronx

June 8, 2023

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