I’ve never been a fan of Anthony Bourdain. He’s brash, and arrogant, quite frankly I think he’s an ass. You can imagine my surprise when I became so captivated by his show Parts Unknown, I ended up, on Netflix, binge watching almost every episode in a weekend.
My opinion of him didn’t really change from watching his show… he was still brash, and arrogant, and quite frankly an ass… what I did begin to see as I watched each episode was his passion. It was palpable. He genuinely loved what he was doing. He loved diving into foreign cultures, sharing them with the viewers, eating authentic food. His passion, his love, for what he was doing shone through, brightly.
I’m not one who dreams of travelling. I don’t want to go see exotic places, and eat exotic foods… I’m much more of a homebody. I do, however, absolutely love seeing people in their element. I love to see people doing what they love and sharing that with others. I love getting inside other people’s stories, whether it’s watching a show, or reading a book. I think at the crux of it all, that’s what I love so much about this show (and subsequently No Reservations, which I found when I was jonesing for more after I’d finished all of Parts Unknown lol), the stories being told.
Anthony always meets up with real people who actually live in the region. He eats with their family, food eaten by locals… not necessarily the cuisine made for tourist or visitors. The stories of how people live, survive, even thrive in the situations they’re in… that’s really interesting to me.
As the shows moved on I started hearing bits and pieces about Anthony himself. He’d drop a little bit of information about his past, his history and I began to wonder…. how did this drug addict become who he is today?
I finished all of No Reservations and was incredibly curious to answer that question… who is Anthony Bourdain, and how did he pull himself out of a troubled past, to become who he is today. What’s his story. He’d done such a fantastic job inspiring me with other people’s stories, I was ready to hear his.
I picked up his book Kitchen Confidential, his memoir. I was excited to see it in the Amazon Unlimited Library… so I borrowed it and dug in.
Let me tell you now, I lived a few miles away from the Culinary Institute after college. I dated a couple chefs in training. I followed one of said chefs to NYC, and lived in NYC for quite a few years after that. I’ve been around chefs, the restaurant industry, and have always been fascinated by it, so there were a couple ways this book grabbed me and dragged me in.
Anthony is incredibly honest in this book. He talks about his past, his mistakes, his imperfections. He tells you he’s an asshole (see I wasn’t so far off the mark lol). Through sharing stories of his life, and the kitchens he’s worked in, he shows you why it was almost necessary for him to become that. You also find out it’s not all of who he is, and in some parts of his life is truly sentimental.
I really enjoyed this book. What I learned most, as a writer was about honesty. How to be honest, up front, and open about all the “not so beautiful” parts of your life and who you are. I found it incredibly liberating to see how he told the good, the bad and the super ugly without guilt, shame, or remorse… it is what it is. There’s nothing that can be changed about the past, but it is part of the story, and part of what made him who he is today.
The other thing I learned is this: I could easily have missed it all. All the pleasure, the learning, I could have missed it. I had an opinion, a judgement, about Anthony Bourdain. I easily could have let that judgement get in the way. In fact, I did. I started Parts Unknown a couple times and turned it off before I finally dove in. It would have been easy for me to say, I have nothing to learn from this asshole. I would have been sorely mistaken, and it would have been my loss. I now find myself, when I run into situations where I hear my inner voice saying “I’ve got nothing to learn from this person” for whatever reason, saying… “Yeah, but that’s what you said about Tony.”
It helps me soften my judgement. Open my mind, and my heart and allow a little light to come in. It allows me to see what might be underneath, and helps me open up to the fact that everyone has a story, which means, I have something learn from everyone I meet. Thank you Anthony, for that lesson, and all the inspiration, and wonder you’ve given me through your shows and your book.
If you haven’t guessed it yet, I highly recommend Kitchen Confidential, especially if you’re intrigued by what makes people (and kitchens) tick.
This post is part of a little “challenge”, for lack of a better word, I set up for myself at the beginning of the year. I’m diving into 25 Memoirs, and 25 works of Fiction this year. If you have book suggestions I’m happy to hear them! Please share them in the comments. If you are doing a reading “challenge” yourself, tell me all about it!
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